Greywater Conservation and Filtration Systems for Irrigation

Greywater is simply any water draining from your shower, washing machine, or hand sinks. Since rainwater is only seasonally available in many climates, greywater becomes valuable because it's available every time you shower or wash. Although it may have traces of dirt, soap, or grease, greywater is safe to use for irrigation and other purposes. The remaining water in your home, coming from the toilet and kitchen, is considered blackwater and cannot be treated by home methods.

Greywater Treatment Flow Diagram

The small amount of nitrates and phosphates existing in greywater are actually valuable nutrients to plants. This makes it safe to use for irrigation. Gravity-fed greywater lines can be connected as simple flow diversion fittings that lead right out to the home garden. This is the easiest and most direct of greywater systems because it involves no treatment of the water. In dry climates where water conservation is enforced and lawn and garden watering is often prohibited or limited, this water becomes a valuable asset to have. In addition to helping the water table through conservation, keeping this additional water out of your existing septic or cesspool system will also save money on maintenance costs.

Irrigating with large quantities of drinking water is wasteful, especially when plants thrive on greywater just as easily. Ecologically, greywater reuse is a green solution to many environmental problems found in communities with an overtaxed water table. Some of the major benefits of greywater recycling include highly composted topsoil, the ability to build in areas where traditional water treatment options are not available, and substantial recharge of the groundwater table.

Additionally, the use of a greywater system causes much less strain on existing septic and sewer systems. Septic tanks that must be drained periodically will see significant improvements as they are not flooded primarily with laundry and wash water, saving time and money in cesspool maintenance costs.

Energy Saving Tips - Green Landscaping Methods Greywater makes up approximately 60% of all domestic household wastewater. With most homes using up to 400 gallons of water per day, this translates to a savings of nearly 88,000 gallons of water per year!

Greywater Treatment Techniques and Available Greywater Systems

Currently, systems exist to treat, store, and de-contaminate greywater. While this water will not be safe for cooking or drinking, it can be used to provide water for flushing toilets and washing machines. It can also be run to an outdoor sink or faucet used strictly for gardening. The purification process for greywater involves three stages: screening, pre-treatment, and treatment.

The overall greywater treatment consists of many stages. First, greywater is filtered and stored in tanks. These storage containers are designed to allow dirt and larger particles to settle to the bottom, while allowing grease and oils to rise to the surface. The remaining water is pumped through an aerobic process and chemicals are added to aid in microbial digestion. For the most part, chlorine and iodine are used. Disinfection occurs here, with these chemicals killing off any existing pathogens still present in the water. The screening processes for greywater consists mostly of filtration through sand or multi-media filters made from gravel or small layers or stones. Once treated, the water can be re-routed to fill toilet tanks, for washing machine use, and pumped through your garden's sprinkler system.

Composting Toilets with Greywater Systems

By combining the use of composting toilets with greywater systems, a homeowner can eliminate the need for a septic or cesspool system entirely. This is idea for remote cabins and homes located upon rocky or impermeable soil, or even houses built too close to lakes or rivers where conventional septic systems are not permitted. These self-contained toilets are proven to reduce the volume of on-site organic materials through mesophilic composting. Advances in these systems now include completely odorless units, making the composting toilet an acceptable alternative in homes and even commercial buildings.

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