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crazy grey water idea

 
Marie Meglic
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As I look at land and research how to live more sustainably on it.  I keep getting tripped up around the idea of recycling greywater.  Much of what I read about elaborate systems seem to come out that it costs more than it is worth unless you really have a water shortage.  A bucket catchment system below the sinks, like in a cabin seems like the easiest frugal approach.

So, easy enough below a kitchen or bathroom sink.  But what about the shower?  And, how can I make sure I don't overdose plants with too much soap, etc? 

I thought of the sand filtering demonstrations I've seen to make your own water filters.  It seems easy enough.  So, what about a very natural shower where you have a deep basin that is actually a layered self-made filter and covered with small polished rocks to stand on.  The water would slowly filter through as you shower and slowly drain out to a rain garden. 

So, now that the idea is out, would anyone who has consistently used a self-made filter know what problems might arise, or be able to add to the design.  I guess, if I build a very small abode (probably cabin-like for most people), what would be the most practical, inexpensive grey-water set-up that would work both in the winter and summer?



 
Chris Fitt
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Location: Eastern Shore VA
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freespirit wrote:

I thought of the sand filtering demonstrations I've seen to make your own water filters.  It seems easy enough.  So, what about a very natural shower where you have a deep basin that is actually a layered self-made filter and covered with small polished rocks to stand on.  The water would slowly filter through as you shower and slowly drain out to a rain garden. 

So, now that the idea is out, would anyone who has consistently used a self-made filter know what problems might arise, or be able to add to the design.  I guess, if I build a very small abode (probably cabin-like for most people), what would be the most practical, inexpensive grey-water set-up that would work both in the winter and summer?




I don't have any advice, just encourage meant.  I have been thinking about similar designs/ideas but we don't own our place or live somewhere to make it work.  But I have seen this in practice and wish I asked more questions when I did.  My understanding was it was just a simple system that drained under their elevated house.  They used non toxic soaps.  It had a rock floor, like you are talking about.  This was in NY so it must have been functional in winter. 
 
Marie Meglic
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As I think about it, while small pebbles would look great to stand on, it would be good to have a hair collection deterrent.  I suppose a screen could be placed over the rocks and then a nice cedar mat with slats to stand on.  Then, you could just pick the cedar mat up and clean the screen, leaving only the water to go through the filter and then out to the garden. 

I only use Dr. Bronner's soap, so it is pretty non-toxic, but I wonder about it disturbing the ph level of the soil if it is constantly going into one area.

I also wonder if the filter would keep up with the shower, but I would think there would be ways to get around this with the design.
 
T. Joy
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You could collect the water to your rain barrel, it would be diluted that way and not end up in one single area all the time.
My gran used to take the dish water out to the garden, the plants loved something in the sunlight soap and all the teensy food bits.
 
Marie Meglic
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I'm a little leery about storing water with organic material in it, thinking it would create too much bio growth in the tank.  Perhaps, if it is filtered first, it might work okay though. 

There is still the issue of freezing weather in the winter.  I wouldn't think that you would want a lot of moisture going directly below the house.  (Mobile home owners often put a moisture barrier on the ground underneath the trailer for this reason, to avoid moisture and rot underneath the floor.)  But, if I'm routing the water to another area, wouldn't it freeze in the winter?  Or, do you have to dig below the frost level and pipe the water even deeper then.  I'm not talking about a high water use household, it would be more minimal, but I wouldn't want to run into problems.

Also, this is just theoretical at this point as I don't have a house yet!  I'm just curious.
 
T. Joy
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If you've got a garden chances are in summer you'd be using that water daily, no? You can always add a little MMS or food grade peroxide or some such to keep bacteria down.
In winter if you don't have an outhouse you could use it for flushing. We don't shower every day and I put the little ones into a bath together, use a basin for dishes wash and rinse. Bet we don't even use that much water here... a flushable amount, maybe a bit more... those kids are poop factories, even with not flushing the pee the toilet is the major source of water use.
 
Marie Meglic
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Oh, I think you are mis-understanding my full-picture.  I'm thinking of a small house with a compost toilet.  I'm not too worried about the dishwater or water from the bathroom sink.  That is pretty easy to collect and take outside.  I think I would even have a separate pee bucket and combine all the water at the end of the day to take out. 

I'm more concerned about what to do with such a simple grey-water system with the shower in the winter.  I can see how to deal with it in the summer, but am worried about the pipe getting clogged up with ice in the winter.  I just don't have experience with this type of thing.
 
Robert Ray
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I've toyed with the idea of a shower in my greenhouse. Solar heated water.
 
Marie Meglic
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That has come across my mind as well.  Actually, I would really like to have a little sauna with a shower drain in it. 

I would still have a cold weather green house in my climate, however, so the water might still freeze unless I did focus on using only the amount that the plants could use.  Then again, if I filtered it and kept it in a freezable container, it should be okay until it melted in the spring when I could use it.  Is there a type of container material that would withstand freezing without cracking? 
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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And how exactly would you clean the stones you stand on?  It's enough work cleaning the tub as it is. 

I would opt for the filter somewhere after the tub. 

Which brings up an idea had in the shower this morning.  Heating water makes up a big part of energy consumption.  Water temperature might be 30 - 50 degrees F above room temperatures.  What happens to that energy once it goes down the drain other than keeping the urban legend alligators warm?  What might be some ways to recapture the heat? 

Simplest way, just leave the water in the tub til it goes cold, but I'd prefer to drain into a secondary tub, where it could also be filtered. 

 
T. Joy
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Oh, yes, that does put a different set of needs in place. Well, a cold weather green house still needs water. Not sure what could take freezing though, have you looked at ferrocement? I've read of it being used for water storage but am uncertain of the freezing bit.
 
Marie Meglic
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yukkuri_kame wrote:
And how exactly would you clean the stones you stand on?  It's enough work cleaning the tub as it is. 

I would opt for the filter somewhere after the tub. 

Which brings up an idea had in the shower this morning.  Heating water makes up a big part of energy consumption.  Water temperature might be 30 - 50 degrees F above room temperatures.  What happens to that energy once it goes down the drain other than keeping the urban legend alligators warm?  What might be some ways to recapture the heat? 

Simplest way, just leave the water in the tub til it goes cold, but I'd prefer to drain into a secondary tub, where it could also be filtered.   


Yes, I thought of the stone cleaning as well.  Perhaps the sauna idea at the back of the green house is the best bet.  I could then set it up to drain directly into a simple bio-filter below the sauna and then into a container for the green house plants. 

CrazyMonkey, I've never heard of ferrocement.  Perhaps I'll look it up and read about it.

Thank you!
 
Marie Meglic
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yukkuri_kame wrote:
Which brings up an idea had in the shower this morning.  Heating water makes up a big part of energy consumption.  Water temperature might be 30 - 50 degrees F above room temperatures.  What happens to that energy once it goes down the drain other than keeping the urban legend alligators warm?  What might be some ways to recapture the heat? 

Simplest way, just leave the water in the tub til it goes cold, but I'd prefer to drain into a secondary tub, where it could also be filtered.   


With the set-up I'm thinking of the sauna would be at the back of the green house and any unused water could be left to provide heat for the greenhouse as well.  Daily use of the sauna might even keep temperatures above freezing.  hm....
 
marty reed
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well i think it is a good idea if you put the filter in after the shower this will help with not have to stand on stones and sand and could make the shower a little more comfortable you could still make your filter the same way you planed but with less material most shower drains are 2inch pipe make a filter out of 2inch pcv and run to a hose and move it where you want it to drain you might want to make the filter where you can change it out just in case it gets cloged up.

im not sure if thay make them for 2inch dwv pipe but if thay do it would be called a inline filter. most of the time these filters are on fresh(potable) water and are alote smaller and im not sure it it will work the way you want it to 
 
Marie Meglic
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hm....thank you "thecheapguy."  I'll have to look into this when it gets closer to build time possibility.  I can really see how filtering it after the shower drain in a very simple way could be set up in a pretty basic manner, rather than need to be a costly investment.
 
Len Ovens
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If you are using buckets under the sinks... and you are wondering about letting water drop under the house... wouldn't there be room for a bucket under the house as well? If you were thinking of building, set the shower a bit high so you can access the bucket from inside and it doesn't freeze. Some RV showers have a switch to turn the water off and on at the shower head to conserve water... that would also keep the bucket from filling too fast. Shower later in the day after things have had a chance to thaw or only shower when it's not frozen out    If the soap is bad for your garden... is it good from your skin? And your insides too as a fair amount of things migrate from the outside of your skin in.... This might say something about the dreaded blond moment. Basicly, whats good for the sink is good for the shower.... a bucket can be dumped on frozen ground.
 
Roger Merry
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I'd agree with the coments above - definitely easier to filter outside than in.

Shower/bath waste is only light grey - doesn't take much filtering a piece of nylon stocking over the end of the pipe takes out hair etc.

Until the bathroom here got moved, I used to take the water (first floor bathroom) into a big plastic barrel in the greenhouse. Soap residue settles out. the main benefit was heat  from the water warming the greenhouse in Winter / Spring - the barrel just over flowed via a pipe to the drain.
if your bathroom is on the ground floor then you'd have to bury the  barrels which would be hard work but still probably worth it for heat gain as much as water.

Easiest grey water filter I've seen was an old bath 3/4 filled with brick rubble , a layer of woven nylon mulch mat, charcoal layer then gritty soil. it was planted with blue berries in the top  Bath fills up with waste water and drains out slowly to a storage tank. The waste pipe went in at the charcoal layer. and drained out through the old plug hole. simple and productive 
 
Marie Meglic
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  I love the bathtub filtering idea.  That sounds great!  Also, I could see it working to have bucket built into the floor that I could lift out and take outside to filter or to the green house when it is built.  It would be difficult to raise the shower with ceiling height issues in a a smaller home, but if I kept the shower in the sauna at the back of a greenhouse, then I could build it up and just catch/filter it beneath.

I'm not worried about the soap that I use being unsafe as I'm careful about that.  I'm more worried of just getting the soil out of balance if it is always being watered with something where the pH is not neutral or something.    But thank you for all your suggestions.  It helps me muddle through the possibilities.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here's a wastewater processing system that might be of interest:  http://mtbest.net/worm_farm.html

similar to this:  http://www.solviva.com/wastewater.htm
 
Marie Meglic
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Thank you so much for sharing the links Ludi Ludi. I love the worm farm under the deck idea!  I expect, I would only be able to have a low deck and put the cistern into the earth so the worms can get below the frost level in the winter here.  I think the frost line is about 4 feet down, so I might have to dig about 6-8 feet down. 

I also liked the solviva website's approach with biofiltering.  I have a lot of research ahead of me, but it seems that I could easily implement a very basic system and improve it as I could afford it.
 
marty reed
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thanks for the link Ludi Ludi i have read some of it and will read the rest later but i love all the information
 
Lee Einer
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freespirit wrote:

I'm more concerned about what to do with such a simple grey-water system with the shower in the winter.  I can see how to deal with it in the summer, but am worried about the pipe getting clogged up with ice in the winter.  I just don't have experience with this type of thing.


A few simple precautions, like maintaining a downward slope throughout the pipes so that water cannot accumulate and freeze, should do it, unless you are living in the arctic.

Showers are warm, unless you are quite spartan. If they are not warm they are brief, infrequent, and accompanied at times by foul language.

But assuming they are warm, the water should stay above freezing until it makes its egress from the pipe, assuming again that the pipe is sloped downward at all points along the line so there is no opportunity for water to pool and freeze.
 
Philip Freddolino
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yukkuri_kame wrote:




Which brings up an idea had in the shower this morning.  Heating water makes up a big part of energy consumption.  Water temperature might be 30 - 50 degrees F above room temperatures.  What happens to that energy once it goes down the drain other than keeping the urban legend alligators warm?  What might be some ways to recapture the heat? 
   


Three years ago, I built a waste water heat exchanger that removes the heat from the shower drain water and preheats the cold water going into the water heater. I get about 10 degree rise on the cold water inlet. Also, we use a branched grey water system like the style that Art Ludwig uses, so we do not try to filter the water at all. It works fine even in our N. Idaho winters.
 
Steven Baxter
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Is fruit and vegetables grown with greywater safe to eat? I've heard both sides of the story, not sure what to believe.
 
Lee Einer
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oracle wrote:
Is fruit and vegetables grown with greywater safe to eat? I've heard both sides of the story, not sure what to believe.


Yes!

I would qualify that yes and say that the only chemical pollution those fruits and vegetables may face will come from those chemicals which you use in your home.

So, greywater users need to be conscious of what they are washing their clothes, their dishes, their bodies, their hair with, and keep it non-toxic. Which we should be doing anyway. Amazing how many people put chemicals on their bodies that they would not put on plants.

Some, particularly those bureaucrats who write greywater regulations, get fairly twitterpated over the idea that you wash your hinter parts with water that goes to your garden, and the hypotheticals of minute amounts of fecal matter and various microorganisms being transferred from someone's derriere to the garden veg and then back to a human eating the veg. Also about the idea that the plumbing running from kitchen sinks often has high amounts of  fecal coliform and other bacteria due to grease and other schmutz being rinsed down the drain.

Most of this IMO is a manifestation of our irrational fear of poo.

And poo is ubiquitous in the great outdoors, whether it is from birds, gophers, rabbits, cats, dogs, etc. It is fairly unrealistic to talk about it as if it were kryptonite.


Plants like poo.

Hundreds of thousands of households in the US alone use greywater, legally and illegally. Where is the body count? Where are all of those people who contracted a terrible illness or got food poisoning and were hospitalized because they watered their rutabagas with greywater?

I haven't heard of a one. I've heard of plenty of people being hospitalized from contaminated agribusiness fruits, veg and meats. And you can bet that if one poor soul got seriously ill from greywater the media would be trumpeting it as the Next Great Health Menace.

The one legitimate concern of which I am aware is the remote possibility of transmission of Hepatitis A, which can be transmitted through human feces and can survive a long time in soil. So, for the record, if someone in your household has active Hepatitis A, scrap the greywater idea.




 
Steven Baxter
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Thank you
 
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