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Grey water Recycling in your Home


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We all know we need to be saving water but there's sometimes confusion about what sorts of water we should save and how to make the best use of it. Collecting rainwater is one thing, another possibility is to make use of grey water in your home.

What Grey Water Is...

This is water that's been used once. Anything that hasn't been used to flush a toilet counts as grey water. So that's water from your:

  • Sinks
  • Showers
  • Bathtubs
  • Washing machines
  • Dishwashers

All of this water can be reused in your home or garden. We'll look at the best ways of doing so in a moment.

The Best Ways to use Grey Water

Most experts agree that for the average household it's best to keep things simple. If you don't use a pump it can't fail. When there are no filters involved, they can't block.
Working on this principal, you may well find that using your grey water within your home is impractical. This is a shame as it's estimated that doing so could reduce your household water usage by around 30-50%. But retrofitting your home to include grey water storage tanks designated for internal reuse will involve a degree of expense and often the space to put the storage tanks into simply isn't available.

If you happen to be building a new home or doing extensive renovations, especially in your bathroom, then thinking about water conservation is a must. In this case it certainly is worth thinking about reusing grey water, to flush toilets for example. In most instances however, the best use of grey water is to supplement rain water harvesting to supply your garden.

The simplest way to do this is to divert your 'gently used' grey water into a holding tank. Rely on gravity to get it into the tank, but make sure that there's a system in place to ensure your holding tank doesn't overflow.


Using Grey Water Safely

Grey water will have far less pathogens in it than 'black water', that's the water flushed down your toilet which is destined for the sewage system. But it would be unrealistic to assume that there are no hazards involved in grey water use and storage. Food scraps in washing up water will break down and bacteria will grow in it. Water used to wash clothes or for showers and baths may also have some bacterial or viral contamination. Then there's the issue of the chemicals you've used to wash yourself, your clothes, or your dishes with. When you're planning the reuse of your grey water you should:

  • Consider the soap and detergents you use in your water: You'll need to switch to eco-friendly products before starting to use grey water for your garden.
  • Use a competent plumber for any permanent installations: You don't want any leaks
  • Don't store grey water for more than 24 hours: This is especially important if you plan to use kitchen sink or dishwasher water. Food waste in the water will start to break down and smell.
  • Use grey water to irrigate garden landscaping or ornamental plants: Unless you're planing to install purification systems you shouldn't allow grey water to come into direct contact with edible parts of food crops.
  • Do check to find out what your local regulations are before installing any systems: You can find out more about the rules and standards that apply through the UK planing portal.

Grey Water Recycling versus Rainwater Harvesting

The great advantage to recycling grey water is that most homes have a year round steady supply of it. Rainwater in contrast tends to be most available when it's least needed. Sadly grey water recycling is still in it's infancy in the UK. This is a tragedy considering the potential for water conservation. Every drop of water that comes out of the mains supply has been treated to the point that it's fit to drink. Using it to flush the loo when there are other, better sources of water for that, represents a waste of cash and waste of a precious resource. But until grey water recycling systems become more popular and more widely used, the payback time and maintenance requirements for them may prove prohibitive for many households. Rainwater harvesting in contrast makes immediate economic and ecological sense. If your gutters are kept clean and water flows freely, capturing your rainwater is cheap, simple and safe. So for the present at least, it's absolutely the first thing you should be considering when you're thinking about how to save water.







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