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What is the simplest, cheapest greywater setup you can think of?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 19
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I have little funds, as a single mom. I plan to live in a yurt and would like to divert grey water from the sinks to a reed bed. What is the simplest and cheapest setup that would work? I often see most men telling you how to make systems that just seem like an excuse to use lots of tools and make something that should be simple into something difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. I don't have the time, money or experience for that. Help me out here?
 
pollinator
Posts: 288
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 5b
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The simplest way is to store a five gallon bucket under the sink and empty whenever it is full. I've done this quite a lot. The best way in the long run is to build a branched greywater system as demonstrated by Art Ludwig. You can find his book at http://oasisdesign.net/greywater/brancheddrain/ or purchase it from amazon https://www.amazon.com/New-Create-Oasis-Greywater-6th/dp/0964343339/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531510171&sr=8-1&keywords=art+ludwig.


Branched greywater is the best because it is very minimal to set up and extremely cost effective.

here is also a link to a blog that has a very well documented system if you are not wanting to purchase the book, but I suggest doing so because it is very informative. https://www.energyvanguard.com/blog/38249/How-to-Install-a-Branched-Drain-Greywater-System-in-a-Green-Home
 
Posts: 248
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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We did the 5 gallon bucket thing for a while, but it didn't work for us because our water usage isn't high enough.  Our "running" water system for the kitchen is a hose coming out of a 3 gallon bucket on a shelf just under the ceiling.  Three gallons is about the limit of what I want to be lifting over my head while standing on a chair.  We use this water for washing hands and dishes.  We go through that amount of water in anywhere from three to eight days.  With such a minimal amount of water going through, the sink drain gets really gross and needs a lot of cleaning or it gets slimy and smelly.  The 5 gallon bucket under the sink needs to be emptied at least every couple days to avoid it smelling.  After emptying, the bucket needs to be cleaned and dried before using again or it will stink.  We found it ended up easier to just use a big, wide stainless steel bowl as a sink and empty the bowl after each use.  We have a lot of houseplants, so it doesn't mean a trip outside every time, though.  Some houseplants don't handle the soap in the water well, so watch for that if you end up using your greywater that way.
 
pollinator
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I bought an old farmhouse and the kitchen sink was a piece of pvc pipe buried into the ground  with some rocks and gravel at the open end. I bought it in 2006 ish, the house was built like 1906.

When they added a commode they did an add on. The toilet was mounted to a homebuilt septic tank made from concrete. It was literally bolted to it. Sewage went straight down into it. No piping. Nothing else went into it. How things have changed.....
 
Posts: 22
Location: Utah
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I second Daniel's idea of a branched greywater system.  PVC pipe and fittings can be attached to drains with virtually no tools and run outside to your reed bed easily.  Then you don't have to worry about hauling stinky buckets outside every few days.
 
author
Posts: 236
Location: Ireland
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Hi Lakota, If you want to use the branched drain system you may be interested in a very effective splitter system from www.ribbit.ie developed by a friend of mine Christ Spoorenberg (Dutchman living in Ireland). It splits the effluent or grey water 12 ways very easily, then follow Art Ludwig's design proposals from there.

Another approach if you don't want to do that digging in of PVC into your lawn is to put in a constructed wetland below your house, and simply pipe the grey water into it. For very little water use you may be able to have a trench of c.500mm wide, 100mm deep, and c.5-10m long. Plant with local wetland plants - preferably tall vigorous ones with good broad flat leaves like cat-tail (bulrush, Typha, reed mace), common reed (Phragmites), yellow flag (Iris pseudacorus) etc. Simply let the grey water flow overground along the trench and it will become filtered as it goes. Typically such systems are meant to be 10m from a dwelling, so if that applies in your area you may want to pipe it out a bit to comply.

Hope you get it sorted out satisfactorily. :-)

FĂ©idhlim
 
Jan White
Posts: 248
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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I was thinking about this last night.  If you go through a small enough amount of water that you can do the bowl for a sink thing that we do, I thought you might be able to do something similar to what Feidhlim describes.  I was thinking a wetland garden right outside your house so you can just dump the water out a kitchen window or sploosh it out the door.  You'd want to make sure everything drains away from the yurt so you don't get wet spots underneath, of course.

Feidhlim Harty wrote:
Another approach if you don't want to do that digging in of PVC into your lawn is to put in a constructed wetland below your house, and simply pipe the grey water into it. For very little water use you may be able to have a trench of c.500mm wide, 100mm deep, and c.5-10m long. Plant with local wetland plants - preferably tall vigorous ones with good broad flat leaves like cat-tail (bulrush, Typha, reed mace), common reed (Phragmites), yellow flag (Iris pseudacorus) etc.  


 
Posts: 626
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Mine was pretty cheap because I wanted to test it first, and five years later it's still in good shape.  I bought some large black plastic containers that have yellow lids from a local DIY store.  They are about 2 feet long and 18" wide.  I don't use the lids, but this might let you know the type of container.   They have held up well in the sun.  I think I will spray black paint on the top edges of them to protect them even further from the sun.  

I filled them with half bark chips and half 3/4" gravel.  I put pond plants in them, reeds and a couple things that look like ferns, haven't looked them up yet, local native plants.  The rodents don't eat them.

They are on a slight slope, one below the other.   I linked them with 1" PVC pipe, a hole drilled 1 1/2" down from the top edge of the container,  the other end of the pipe rests on the top edge of the next lower container, and has a 90 degree angle piece on the end.  The lowest container has an overflow PVC pipe 1 1/2" from the top edge that goes down to a bark chip bed that is surrounded by landscape plants.  I do not put this water on food plants.  

The first pipe that goes into the first container is 1" wide PVC, made smaller by a few lengths of pipe in graduating smaller sizes, down from the original 4" pipe coming out of the house, and reducer couplings because I don't want rodents/bugs/snakes to go up the pipe.  It also has a 90 degree angle piece on the end to keep it in the box, but also to discourage anything crawling up the pipe.

I don't have any kind of grease trap because I really, really try not to put any grease down the sink.  I've spent way too many hours crawling around under the sink and digging up pipes trying to unclog grease in a line.  It all gets wiped away with paper towel before being washed, or if there is a container of soap and grease, I pour it out on the driveway.  

This arrangement has handled shampoo, biodegradable soaps, hand soaps, washing soda, borax, dish soap, sometimes even deoderant soap.  I know we're not supposed to use deoderant soap, but there's a couple of months where there's some kind of biting little bug that gets through the socks and makes the worst itchy bites ever, and the deoderant soap helps calm that down.
 
Lakota Myers
Posts: 19
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I like that idea of the containers with mini reed beds in them, staggered on a slope. The water gets double filtered, but it requires very little plumbing! Love it.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1167
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I've created grey water "systems" for our washing machine, for the kitchen sink, and for the dishwasher.

My "system" for the washing machine was burying a 6 inch perforated pipe about 8 inches below grade.  A 1" pvc pipe runs out from the house and then down into the perc pipe, which was buried in a trench that runs for 12 feet and is covered with 4 inches of aggregate, weed cloth, and then buried with the fill-dirt that came out of the trench.  The whole thing took me 2 hours to dig, an hour or so to configure the plumbing, and an hour to backfill and tidy things up.  Cost of the pvc pipe, the perc pipe, the landscape cloth and a yard of big aggregate way about $150.

Water from that "system" feeds my almond tree and my passion fruit vines.

I did the same thing for the dishwasher, punching a hole through the wall and snaking the drain hose out to the garden, where it drains into an 8 foot length of buried perc pipe.  It cost me nothing, as I had leftovers from the first project (the washing machine).

For the kitchen sink, my system is 3 blue plastic barrels, cut down to about 24" tall.  Water flows from the sink through the kitchen wall and out to the first barrel.  I've got water lettuce growing in that barrel.  Water then flows to the second and third barrels via 2 inch pipe, connected with bulkhead fittings.  The second barrel has reeds, and the third barrel has duckweed.  My chickens eat the water lettuce and duckweed.  From there, the third barrel has a hose bib at the bottom with a garden hose attached.  I can drain that barrel (about 25 gal.) in about 2 minutes, running the hose anywhere I want in the garden.  Total cost of that system was about $100, most of which was for the PVC fittings.

The cheapest possible set-up would be simply to run a hose directly to your trees or orchard and not treat the water whatsoever --- just run it out there and let it flow on the ground.  For machines like a washer or a dish-washer, they have a pump that push the water out.  As long as you're not trying to pump that water uphill, it would push water a long way through a garden hose.  You could dig a shallow trench and lay the hose into it, and then cover it with a few inches of wood chips.  
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 626
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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One of the reasons to send grey water through plant roots is because they create an environment that breaks down the soaps.  Hopefully permies are not using detergent in washing machines and dish washers, but whatever soap gets used anywhere in the house, it's not good for the soil or the plants to just eject it onto the soil. It will build up in heavy, layered, waxy alkaline deposits.   Bark chips alone cannot do anything to soap, so it's the reed/pond plant roots that are doing the work.  

The reason I put some bark chips in my grey water system was I thought the plant roots needed a little something organic, rather than just rocks, and that that was more like a marshy environment, plus they hold oxygen in a way that rocks cannot.

In the natural world a marsh zone between a river/creek and the ocean, or a river/creek and a lake has the same situation.  Marsh plants take in the water and clean it up.  Studies have shown that water coming out of a marsh area is cleaner than when it went it, and that's because of the plants.

Of course, it's always a good idea to test the water coming out of a grey water system before using it on food plants or trees.
 
                                        
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We have a hose from the sink through the floor ending in a slope. There we have a bucket and we empty the bucket in our garden when full. When the bucket is overfull the water ends up in a forest.
 
Posts: 17
Location: Nomadic
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Check out cheaprvliving.com and also follow people that live in their vans. There are some amazingly simple solutions for using the bathroom and showering. Sime people have modified pump sprayers to use as showers. There are also USB camping showers that just draw the water out of a bucket.
I have read  the Oasis greywater book and though it is quite good it too is somewhat complex. I have lived in a minivan for two years and upgraded to a 24 passenger shuttle bus a year ago. I currently use what is referred to as the "bucket system" to bath but am upgrading to a gas on demand water heater ($99 on Amazon) and a goat water trough ($139 on Amazon). The only reason I am upgrading is I have a dog grooming business that I am taking on the road. Otherwise I would still be using dishpans and a bucket for bathing and dishes.
 
garden master
Posts: 3131
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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This was brought up in The Permaculture City. The simplest method is to unscrew the pipes beneath a sink and drain it into a bucket. Then, empty the bucket by hand to the plants that need it. One of the things Toby Hemenway mentioned about this method was that it gets you more intimate with your garden and plants, because you will be visiting them with spot treatments every time the bucket is full. And the best way to save resources is to not use them, so, the bucket method improves awareness, because, well, you're gonna  know when the bucket is full, one way or another!
 
Posts: 75
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Simplest I can think of (and by simple, I don't just mean easy to construct, but also to maintain) is a single, large mulch basin fed by a single, underground pipe running from the home to the basin. Ideally, the pipe would go into a chamber (in my case an upside down, buried, 5-gallon bucket with the bottom chopped off and holes drilled in the sides) where the water can drain and slowly flow into the mulch. Another pipe connected on the opposite side of the bucket as the inlet could serve as an overflow mechanism so you don't get back-up. You can plant things in the basin, or not.

A bucket under the sink takes no time to construct. But after a few months of hauling out the greywater, or one time forgetting to do so and it going rancid or overflowing, it can be a pain to maintain.
 
Posts: 27
Location: Southeast Missouri
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I'm wondering how this would work with hugelkultur beds?  Currently we are renting a house on the edge of town while we build a home on our property.  We use Dawn for the sink and Cascade in the dishwasher, although I'm thinking of making our own dishwasher detergent.  Several months ago I started making laundry detergent using borax, washing soda, and Dawn.  A gallon at 1/3 cup per wash lasts the two of us a couple months and costs less than $2.  Big savings compared to Tide Pods!  And it gets clothes clean without artificial smells that aggravate my allergies.

I would be curious to find out if it would work to do a split system that fed into 50' of hugelkultur beds.  The toilet will go into the septic system, and probably also the shower.  From what I have picked up, if you put just the toilet to a septic system you may not get enough movement in it and end up with problems in the tank.
 
pollinator
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Location: Boudamasa, Chad
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Good solutions guys, but i think mine is simpler

Any sink or shower has a hose going through wall. Done. Seriously.

Plant whatever you want there. If you want reed bed there dig a pit, fill it with gravel and plant reeds. Experimenting with different plants will quickly indicate which one will do well with a little soap.

If the water flow out of the intended area, follow the shape of the flow and use a shovel to shape it to your desire. If your not using anything toxic in your water you should be able to grow all kinds of stuff there.

No special hose fittings, no plastic containers in the ground, no carrying buckets of messy sloshing water. You may need a shovel, depending on your soil type.
 
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