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Greywater- from Laundry to Landscape  RSS feed

 
Susan Monroe
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Most permies lament watching the greywater from their bathtubs and showers, sinks and washing machines drain uselessly down the drain.  That's a LOT of wasted water that could be reused.

I was recently reading Art Ludwig's book Branched Drain Greywater Systems, which gives detailed information on do-it-yourself changes to your plumbing so you can run your greywater to your garden or landscaping. 

Art Ludwig is the King of Greywater, just in case you're not familiar with his name.

Looking at his website at http://oasisdesign.net
, I see that the info in that book has been included in his The NEW Create an Oasis with Greywater book.

Then I saw an article on his site titled "Laundry to Landscape Grey Water System" http://oasisdesign.net/greywater/laundry/index.php  which shows and tells you how to create a diversion from your washer drain hose to the outdoors.  The article has descriptive text and some good drawings.  It looks quite simple and cheap, and is suitable for existing homes and even rented properties.  It tells what you should do and not do to get the best use out of the system and not cause problems.

Ludwig's site also offers books and downloads on ecological design, rainwater harvesting and water storage, edible landscaping and bicycles.

If you don't have too much money to invest in books, some of these should be on that short list.

Sue
 
paul wheaton
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The whole site is excellent.  I wish they still offered classes on all this stuff.

 
Leah Sattler
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excellent! now we need to get counties and states to allow them! I was pretty ticked off when looking into renovating our septic system at the old house. I figured the old one could probably hold up just fine for black water use only and I could simply install a grey water system  and pump it to water the garden , but I was told it was illegal! I can't believe that the county wouldn't back up a most simple water conservation method!
 
paul wheaton
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His greywater book is excellent and I think goes into some detail about legality.

 
Susan Monroe
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Yes, the legality thing kind of falls into a gray area.

For instance, California LAWS say you can't do it.  But there are classes in how to do it.

The basic idea is like the law that says you can only have three dogs on your property.  If you have five dogs, they're all well-mannered, you keep them home, they don't bark excessively and you clean up after them regularly so there's no smell, neither the neighbors nor the law really care if you have five dogs.

Greywater seems to be the same.  Do it right, don't trash the existing plumbing so you're producing a problem for the owner (if you're renting) or a future buyer.  Don't cause a health problem by creating a mosquito breeding area.  Don't create something that is smelly and obnoxious.  Don't let any of the water drain onto any neighbor's property.  Be discreet.  Be smart.

And don't blab to everyone you meet (like that anal-retentive city councilman) about what you're doing.  You can talk about it, but be selective -- don't try to change the minds of everyone you meet.

The secret seems to be VALVES.  You place a diverter valve so you have the choice of directing the greywater to a fruit tree basin or to the septic.  You get 45" of rain in winter?  Then you would probably want to send the shower water to the sewer, depending on what type of soil you have.  "Overload" is not a word you want associated with what you're doing.

Use some basic common sense.

Sue
 
Karen Briggs
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Thanks Sue,

I have been thinking today of all the water that I use for laundry and wondering what/if there is someway that I could recycle the greywater from it.

Just peaked at the site. I think I am going to have fun looking around and gaining more knowledge.

 
Izzy Vale
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If you use grey water to water your garden you can't wash diapers, as the waste matter will contaminate your crops. Just thought I'd throw that out there in case anyone stumbles on this thread and also uses cloth diapers, which seems likely on this forum.
 
Rusty Bowman
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Actually, you can legally do a "Laundry to Landscape" greywater system in California....and with no permit. http://greywateraction.org/content/requirements-no-permit-systems-california (take a look around that site. Lots of excellent info.)

These are the easiest and least expensive greywater retrofits there are.

 
Jeremiah wales
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As I read this. I think of when I was a Kid and when my friends mom would dump the soapy washing machine water. We would collect all the worms and go fishing.
I will be working on a water system in Northern Wisconsin. There is a lot of rainfall there and I plan on Catching the rainfall from the roof. I can not see running out of water.
I would consider using Grey water back into the Toilet tank and flushing it again.
But.. There comes the problem of the smell of Grey water, Even in a garden or Toilet. There is always an odor, even if I would pump it back into the toilet tank.
Has anyone thought about this. How do you get around this. Or does it work out?
 
Rusty Bowman
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Jeremiah wales wrote: There is always an odor, even if I would pump it back into the toilet tank.
Has anyone thought about this. How do you get around this. Or does it work out?



Hi Jeremiah,

The only time I have noticed a smell coming from greywater is when it sat in a collection area, like a bucket. It goes fetid, fast! This is one of the reasons direct systems are recommended. The greywater goes straight to the ground...preferably in mulch basins. It's not even seen then, let alone smelled.

rusty
 
Glenn Underhill
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Jeremiah wales wrote:I would consider using Grey water back into the Toilet tank and flushing it again....



I have the Art Ludwig book. According to him, any greywater that sits in ANY kind of tank turns into blackwater quickly. I would not use it for flushing toilets.

I would use the rainwater for flushing.
 
Jeremiah wales
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Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your input on Grewater turning bad if you store it.
 
Mary Ann Asbill
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http://greywateraction.org/


Did you look at the Gray Water Action site yet? They have good ideas too.
 
tom grimley
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Location: Deer Lodge Park, California
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hello enthusiasts,
seeing as though i work in los angeles and was happy that the Department of Building and Safety actually issued an information bulletin delineating what types of graywater systems need permitted and which do not, including detail drawings and sample plot plans, i thought i would share it here. it is not dissimilar to oasis designs 'laundry to landscape' documentation and what i consider to be a giant step forward for a major metropolis like los angeles.
cheers,
tom
Filename: IB-P-PC2011-012Graywater.pdf
Description: LADBS graywater information bulletin
File size: 2 megabytes
 
Linda Sefcik
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IMO --
spilling "grey water" directly and repeatedly around a living area is less than hygienic.
Also, I wouldn't include urine in this category.

I have seen fish pond filters made of shelves of lava rock that last for years.
I have seen wilderness water purification using grass, sand, and charcoal.
I have seen aeration of water that clarifies algae.

And so... I picture a system where water gets filtered...
through an aerating screen, then sand, then through lava rock or charcoal...
instead of directly going into a garden. It would require just two buckets.

Urine -- would be treated as human waste, not as "wash water"
These are examples:

and






 
Dave Burton
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I think these are good videos about laundry to landscaoe systems:

How they work:



How to install a laundry to landscape system:



How to maintain a laundry to landscape system:




Here are a couple diagrams on hwo laundry to landscape greywater systems work:




 
Stacy Witscher
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What's a drain box? Our washing machine hose connects to a standpipe, which I can easily divert to garbage can. Is the use of a drain box a regional thing?
 
Greg Mamishian
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Susan Monroe wrote:Yes, the legality thing kind of falls into a gray area.

For instance, California LAWS say you can't do it.  But there are classes in how to do it.

The basic idea is like the law that says you can only have three dogs on your property.  If you have five dogs, they're all well-mannered, you keep them home, they don't bark excessively and you clean up after them regularly so there's no smell, neither the neighbors nor the law really care if you have five dogs.

Greywater seems to be the same.  Do it right, don't trash the existing plumbing so you're producing a problem for the owner (if you're renting) or a future buyer.  Don't cause a health problem by creating a mosquito breeding area.  Don't create something that is smelly and obnoxious.  Don't let any of the water drain onto any neighbor's property.  Be discreet.  Be smart.

And don't blab to everyone you meet (like that anal-retentive city councilman) about what you're doing.  You can talk about it, but be selective -- don't try to change the minds of everyone you meet.

The secret seems to be VALVES.  You place a diverter valve so you have the choice of directing the greywater to a fruit tree basin or to the septic.  You get 45" of rain in winter?  Then you would probably want to send the shower water to the sewer, depending on what type of soil you have.  "Overload" is not a word you want associated with what you're doing.

Use some basic common sense.

Sue



You're right about laws. They're designed to be discretionary so as to allow the government leeway to act upon complaint. I've been running a totally illegal black water system for years and there is nothing there for anyone to complain about so I'm totally free to process and reclaim every drop of our water for reuse outside.

You can store grey water indefnintely without it turning foul simply by aeration with a small air pump, hose, and air stone on the bottom.



This is aerated raw sewage. There's no smell.



 
Rusty Bowman
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Linda Sefcik wrote:IMO --
spilling "grey water" directly and repeatedly around a living area is less than hygienic.




Could possibly be, I suppose... if left to run out in the open on the same area without ever moving. However, if stationary, and the grey water goes to a sub-mulch basin, like Ludwig and others often speak of, the grey water is all covered... or, underground.

I use both types...but the above ground version is via two hoses which get moved around frequently. In other words, nothing builds up...and all the little micro-organisms take care of things... presumably (according to Ludwig, there's not a single documented case of an illness due to grey water). On my sub-mulch basin, I open it up to inspect on occasion... and it can smell fairly bad. But covered, I never notice and it's not something exposed and being spread about by vermin, stepped in, or otherwise in contact with me or anyone or anything else.
 
Greg Mamishian
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Linda Sefcik wrote:And so... I picture a system where water gets filtered...
through an aerating screen...



Aeration is magic.

It transforms smelly black sewage or foul grey water into odorless pond water. Aeration mimics what nature does to purify water when it tumbles it over rocks to kill off the smelly anaerobic bacteria by exposing them to both oxygen and aerobic bacteria which thrive in an oxygen rich environment as they consume anerobic bacteria.
 
Malcolm Thomas
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I happened upon this discussion .
Our grey water goes into a 100Litre rubbish bin outside our kitchen window , PVC pipe and couplings through the lid then through a dual homemade filter system made from more PVC pipe that sits tucked inside the lid wrapped with fine fine curtain mesh and cable tied and exits out from an water level T tube out the side of the bin , dirt cheap and works , basically a grease trap. Works really well but has to be cleaned every  few weeks / 8 weeks .
    So now there,s the thing about plastic / nylon microfibres on the land and in the sea all from clothing in the washing machine , how are we going to tackle that problem, seems like the more man invents the harder it is to clean it up. Looks like its landfill or burning .
  And on sewage , has anyone experimented / made an aerated sewage system with several rubbish bins ?.
 
Rusty Bowman
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Malcolm Thomas wrote:... seems like the more man invents the harder it is to clean it up.
 



And that's why, in my humble opinion, we as a society, should keep things simple rather than always look towards technology to build "new ways" to do things. I'm always leery of some new promise, some new invention, that's going to get us out of one pickle or another. I like what Albert Einstein said: “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

But I digress. I don't come here often these days due to having so many irons in the fire but...I always enjoy it when I do get here. Great links and thoughts. Thanks, everyone.
 
Malcolm Thomas
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Yes something has to change.
 
Dave Burton
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I think humanure would be a good use of fecal matter, and I think urine would be good for the garden. I'm thinking that it would be useful and productive to keep urine and humanure separated from greywater, because urine and humanure are concentrated sources of nutrients that could be applied with care to areas in your food system that need it the most.

I think that the greywater is would be good for plants that have trouble coping with droughts, and I think keeping urine and humanure out of greywater would also help the greywater system function better.
 
Malcolm Thomas
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I dont think i would want to chuck my back end waste on the vege plot, i chuck all my urine on the compost along with the wood ashes . My rhubarb plants are on the same mound as the compost .
If you want to see human waste problems look at some parts of india and even London UK has problems now due to the old sewers failing , and i cant understand how they keep packing them in and property prices keep going up living on top of a sewer.
 
Greg Mamishian
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Dave Burton wrote:I think humanure would be a good use of fecal matter, and I think urine would be good for the garden.



Yesterday, my wife and I just spread ours on the garden to prepare it for Spring planting. We don't separate our urine, and use a combination of sawdust, peatmoss, and ashes from our wood stove as the composting medium to yield fluffy sweet earthy smelling humus. We allow nature to work for us. It does everything. We just give it the opportunity.
 
Kelly Beck
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Very good stuff! I'm hoping to do some grey water use this year. The washer is a great place to start. I'm sorry if this was already discussed in the thread and I missed it, but when using cleansers appropriate for eventual garden use, I need more info.

Does anyone have experience or info?

Here are some of my thoughts. Please let me know if I'm off base. I have used baking soda with essential oils for laundry in the past. I want to do this again. I'm also learning to make natural lye soap, but I haven't researched if its safe for the garden yet.

Also, how about grey water storage WITHOUT aeration? Would laundry water be nasty after awhile? Hmmmm....

Thanks!

Kelly B.
 
Rusty Bowman
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Kelly Beck wrote:Very good stuff! I'm hoping to do some grey water use this year. The washer is a great place to start. I'm sorry if this was already discussed in the thread and I missed it, but when using cleansers appropriate for eventual garden use, I need more info.

Does anyone have experience or info?

Here are some of my thoughts. Please let me know if I'm off base. I have used baking soda with essential oils for laundry in the past. I want to do this again. I'm also learning to make natural lye soap, but I haven't researched if its safe for the garden yet.

Also, how about grey water storage WITHOUT aeration? Would laundry water be nasty after awhile? Hmmmm....

Thanks!

Kelly B.



Kelly,

Yes, the "laundry to landscape" system is a great place to start. Very easy. As far as soaps, I don't know about the baking soda. I use a liquid detergent by ECOs that clearly states on the jug that it is greywater safe. Art Ludwig had a list of varying detergents that were good in one of his books and perhaps on his website too. I would check that out as he has or had a wealth of info there for free. Seems he even had a recipe for homemade stuff.

I'm not familiar with aeration but, can tell you from personal experience that greywater gets nasty smelling in a hurry. You want to get it on/in the ground as soon as you can so all those tiny creatures we can't see will deal with it.

On another note, not sure why the subject of crap and urine came up in this thread but for anyone that's apprehensive about its use...for anyone that cringes at the thought of it being called a "resource"... all I have to say is that the Humanure Handbook is a must read. Jenkins also has some good stuff on greywater in it and the philosophic aspect is excellent. In my humble opinion, it's one of the top books in the genre of eco, sustainable, etc living.
 
Greg Mamishian
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Kelly Beck wrote:Also, how about grey water storage WITHOUT aeration? Would laundry water be nasty after awhile? Hmmmm....

Thanks!

Kelly B.



Don't do it. Stored nonaerated grey water will turn foul because of the growth of anaerobic bacteria which metabolize hydrogen sulphide. That's what the stink is.
We store all of the reclaimed water from our raw sewage...



...and once it's been aerated and pumped up the hill into the tank, it doesn't revert to foul. It's exactly like pond water.

 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Malcolm Thomas wrote:... So now there,s the thing about plastic / nylon microfibres on the land and in the sea all from clothing in the washing machine , how are we going to tackle that problem, seems like the more man invents the harder it is to clean it up. Looks like its landfill or burning ....


Hi Malcolm. My way to tackle that problem is: don't have any plastic / nylon clothing! If your clothes are made of all natural fibres (cotton, linen, hemp, wool), you can wash them and use the 'waste' water for your garden. My advice is to use real soap, not a 'laundry detergent', to wash your clothes.
 
Malcolm Thomas
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Thanks for the reply
When you say real soap do you mean lye ?. Give me a name that you use for soap. I think it is going to be pretty hard to find that in Spain.
 
Mark Tudor
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https://www.drbronner.com/

Dr. Bronner's brand is a popular choice for safe use in greywater systems.
 
Malcolm Thomas
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Well thanks , i will look into that too.
 
geraint britton
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I use lye water in the washing machine instead of bought detergents, it works best with a pre soak. Sometimes I manage to include some soapwort towards the end of the lye cooking, it really makes a difference with fabrics, but I don't bother if I'm going to use it for the dishes or cleaning other surfaces.... Lye is really effective on raw wood.
Unfortunately I can't say what it's effect on plants/soil is like, as my washing machines in the basement in a very mediaeval hilltop village, plummed in to the sewage system, and any changes would certainly be noticed, like perforating walls a metre thick.... but most of my neighbours aren't plummed in at all.... bathrooms appeared here in the 60s, often as a closed in balcony stuck on the back of the house, with a tube sending black/grey water down the rockface. But I have a LOT of bamboo spreading below the drains.
Tried an experiment with lye, mixing it with vinegar to neutralizer the pH then using it as a fertiliser for some Musa /Japanese banana plants... they love the potassium.
I make lye with one part sifted HARDWOOD Ash and 5 parts water, in an old copper pan, mixing on a simmer for a couple of hours. This way I get to make my own copper sulphate (?), which forms on the rim, should I ever need it....
Here near Rome Lye water is/was known as Bucato, which literally means laundry (in Italian its officially called Lisciva). I also use it to cure green olives, or you can throw 'em directly into a pot or bucket of ashes...
15514361891746014627428621205001.jpg
[Thumbnail for 15514361891746014627428621205001.jpg]
Lye
 
Malcolm Thomas
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Very interesting , thanks for the info i will look into that and also on wood .
The copper sulphate looks good .
Almost the same situation here but were not on a hill top, just in the hills.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I have discovered the gray water system for me. Bananas consume lots of water and nutrient. I lived in a home where all grey water was channeled to a spot where bananas grow. Chickens and any other creature were welcome to consume bits of food that come down the pipe. The bananas were quite good and plentiful. The flexible pipe runs along the ground, so if it gets built up with too much stuff at the end, it can easily be moved sideways. Critters digging  clears a bit of it away . Requires a few minutes a year of maintenance.

Edit. I just realized this one is about laundry grey water. This same spot receives gray water from the laundry. We made our own soap while I was there, so I know it's not horrible poison. Other people in the home use various things ranging from tTde to Downey. I did not conduct any scientific studies on the breakdown of these products. The bananas were still quite good, and I don't think that's how I'm going to die.

I hope to create quite a large banana pit, meant to process the gray water from my future mother-in-law's laundry business. She currently makes money sometimes, doing wash in a plastic tub. I hope to get her on to using a washing machine and if business goes well I'll buy her a dozen of them. So then we'd really be looking at having to deal with some grey water. If customers aren't happy with my homemade soap, I will have to plant a bunch of non-edibles at the upper end of the grey water system, where laundry products can break down.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Malcolm Thomas wrote:Thanks for the reply
When you say real soap do you mean lye ?. Give me a name that you use for soap. I think it is going to be pretty hard to find that in Spain.


For the laundry I make my own liquid with soap (Aleppo soap, made of olive oil), washing soda (sodium carbonate) and water. Recipes can be found on the internet (and so I found out they call it 'laundry detergent' in English, even when it's made of soap).

Traditional Aleppo soap, probably it's sold in Spain too.
 
Malcolm Thomas
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That looks interesting and very easy too.
Thanks
 
Juanita Colucci
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We have been using soap nuts for the last few years.  Economical and biodegradable.
I wish I had found out about them earlier.  
 
William Bronson
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Inge Leonora-den Ouden wrote:

Malcolm Thomas wrote:Thanks for the reply
When you say real soap do you mean lye ?. Give me a name that you use for soap. I think it is going to be pretty hard to find that in Spain.


For the laundry I make my own liquid with soap (Aleppo soap, made of olive oil), washing soda (sodium carbonate) and water. Recipes can be found on the internet (and so I found out they call it 'laundry detergent' in English, even when it's made of soap).

Traditional Aleppo soap, probably it's sold in Spain too.




That stuff looks like delicious cheese!
 
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http://permaculture-design-course.com/
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