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Permies Poll: Do you utilize Grey Water on your homestead?

 
master gardener
Posts: 2854
Location: Upstate NY, Zone 5, 43 inch Avg. Rainfall
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It might not be the sexiest thing to talk about but it is a resource for some! Grey water is best described as the waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances. In 'traditional' homes this effluence is usually sent to a sewer or localized septic system for processing. What I am asking is if you utilize this relatively clean water for other purposes other than what is previously described.





Tell us why or why not below! How have you adapted in your lifestyle and how much of an impact does it have for you?
 
Timothy Norton
master gardener
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I currently do not utilize my grey water other than sending it to a septic. In my list of plans and conversions it is lower on my list at the moment.
 
pollinator
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Someday...
 
gardener
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I grew up in a drought and watched my mother use our dish and bath water on her garden, and now a gazillion later I do the same thing.
Right now we are flush with water, but I still use the soapy water from my washing machine to wash the dog kennel patio area.
Washing machine rinse water is saved to become the soapy water in the next cycle, if we'll wash another machine within 24 hours (more than 24 and the water starts to stink). Or it it hasn't rained, I'll let it all drain out into the garden.
I do this with large dedicated trash barrels and buckets for the washing machine, and for the yard I siphon the water with garden hoses.

When it's dry, we use buckets and basins to catch all water, from dishes, showers, etc and use it to flush toilets and water plants. About 3 years ago we had a very severe drought with rationing, but we did just fine.
 
Posts: 72
Location: Central AZ
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Timely poll, Tim!

Last weekend I completed a back porch sink which drains to graywater (and submitted it for a badge bit, wink-wink-nudge-nudge ). Just today, the kids were putting a cob layer on their earthbag wall at their fort, and afterwards the 2y.o. climbed in the sink to clean up - perfect! The graywater has a diverter elbow on the end now, to feed either a pine or a citrus. We rammed the berms to both trees during the eclipse, and the water gets to the basins - the citrus berm is pictured.

That's the first, and currently the only, graywater drain. There are other projects waiting in the wings, When I have time (ha), I plan to pull out both tub drains to an underground drain pipe I laid back when I put down the back porch. I knew I didn't want to cut concrete for graywater, so I pulled a 3in ABS line with proper cleanouts through the block wall under the mobile foundation, and led it out to daylight at a line of trees. No flow yet, but it's there for when I get to it.

Brad Lancaster has some great books (his webstore is here: , I am not an affiliate, just an appreciator, and though you can get his books from other sites, this one is just him, so no overhead). He is rainwater-focused, but has good chapters on graywater, too. He provides a detailed how-to on kitchen drains, which in AZ are default-categorized as blackwater. Maybe that's true at most houses, but not at ours. His plans are copacetic with (though not necessarily endorsed by) the state water quality people, as they involve a settling basin & strainer outflow. It's a more complicated system than a pipe to daylight, but would capture one of our highest water use fixtures... hopefully someday.

Happy homesteading!
Mark
20240408_110619.jpg
berm to citrus
berm to citrus
 
master steward
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Location: Pacific Wet Coast
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Yes/no just doesn't work for me...

We use dehumidifiers due to our incredibly high humidity which was leading to mould issues. We put the water from that into buckets which we use to fill the washing machine, so it's re-use, but not really grey water.

I would love to have an outdoor washing machine for summer use, but that project's way too low on Hubby's ToDo list.

If you consider animal water to be grey water, we reuse that a lot for watering plants.

I also capture the cold water that comes out while waiting for the hot water and use that for watering plants. Unfortunately, our kitchen is on the upper floor of the house, and the house is down hill from the gardens and trees, so extensive grey water use isn't going to happen. However, we're required to wash our eggs for sale in Hubby's little farm business, and since that's done on the first floor, it regularly goes to the plants outside, particularly the peach tree which really appreciates it. That's strictly a bucket system.
 
gardener
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We have a distributed system where our grey water runs off to a variety of mulch or gravel basins uphill from trees.
 
master steward
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Yes, we do - our house was built with it, and was a big selling point, when we bought this place. I also catch rain water for both animal and garden use, and (like Jay), take old water from the animals to the gardens - when I can. Our graywater empties to the back of the house, from an above-ground pipe, and I'll often harvest water from that for the deck garden. Otherwise, I've planted willows in the water's path to the pond, about 200 yards away, over rocky clay, and with many wild plants, trees, that naturally filter it, on the way. We're careful not to use detergents, and primarily use my homemade soaps, plus vinegar, baking soda, and occasionally normal strength peroxide, for cleaning, so nothing goes into the gray water or the septic, that will cause harm to the environment.
 
master steward
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We use our gray water a little differently from most folks.

Dear hubby and I made a French drain that goes from the front of the house to the back of the house.

These catch all the water we use (kitchen and washer) except for the bath.

This water protects my concrete foundation from cracking during extreme dry weather.
 
pollinator
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I live in a cold humid climate.  I have no use for grey water during the 8 months when its either winter or too wet anyways.  Adequate rain or ground water during the summer.  Using grey water and swales are some of the great ideas permaculture has for the majority of the worlds climate that are hot and dry but don't make sense for me in my location.
 
Carla Burke
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For those on a septic system, there is another great benefit of a graywater system; the diversion of the excess water. The more water going into a septic system, the more frequently it will be likely to need to be pumped out. With all the household water emptying into the septic, it tends to dilute & flood out the bacteria that is needed to break down the solid contents of the tank, so the solids build up, and can't be leached out into the field.
 
pollinator
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We don't have a "proper" greywater system, but we use a washing up bowl in the kitchen sink and the contents are used for watering plants, as well as a bucket to catch the first cold shower water. We use only safe natural cleaners, so water in the cleaning bucket or clothes washing bowl all goes out into the garden, too.

Summers are very dry, so my goal is to set up an outdoor kitchen sink and shower for summer use, which will drain into a garden area.
 
software bot
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Last vote in apple poll was on May 19, 2024
 
gardener
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In the high desert, at the school I lived and worked at for over 20 years and at the house I made, we use greywater. Since there are no rules preventing us, and our buildings are uphill from the green area, and trees always need irrigation anyway here, we just buried the outflow pipe deep enough to not (usually) freeze, and daylight at a canal going past trees, preferably willow trees. At the school we didn't try to control the type of laundry detergent or hair products etc that the residential teenage students used, and it seemed fine for the trees.

As Art Ludwig points out, the richest and most diverse soil ecosystem is right near the top. Greywater to a surface canal or mulch basin will break down much faster and easily than buried systems. That's my experience too. It's skanky and sometimes smelly right at the outlet especially if it pools there, but overall the system is pretty trouble free and unobjectionable. And certainly willow trees love it. Other trees too but the willows just love it for sure.
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