In many communities, using gray water to water lawns and gardens is acceptable. In some communities however, code inspectors haven’t quite caught up with the idea of reusing water wisely.
If your local codes allow, have a gray water system separate from the sewer line installed. The expense isn’t cheap. The goal is for long-term reuse of the gray water, thereby reducing the overall water bill.
Gray water isn’t sent down the main sewer line. Instead, it’s directed into a rain barrel system. From there, simple pumps (solar is nice) distribute the water to your garden or lawn.
For those who don’t know, there are three basic types of water. Fresh, or drinking (potable) water, gray water- from sinks, laundry and bath, and black water- toilet water. No black water goes in the gray water catch system. That goes exclusively down the main sewer drain.
In my former community, gray water reuse is against code. After trying to educate the compliance office staff (politely, I might add), on the advantages of using gray water, I was told no. I could get petitions together and try to bring it up at a future election, or try to get a vote in city council. Both turned out to be futile efforts. That community just isn’t ready yet.
Even in a severe drought, some folks still want to use fresh water for lawns and shrubs that don’t produce food. These same folks do complain about their water bills, but their cries fall on my deaf ears.
If your local ordinance board won’t permit a gray water catch system installation in your home, you’re not entirely out of luck. With a little planning, you can still use gray water on your lawn and garden.
Start with the easiest and biggest water user- the washing machine. Buy a wheeled trash can, one large enough to catch the water. Hold the drain tube so the water goes into the trash can. Take the can outside and let the water settle overnight. All the lint, hair, etc. falls to the bottom. Insert a pump or use buckets to remove the water and give to the plants. A solar pump hooked up to a drip system is perfect for this use.
Bath water is also easy. Don’t let the water drain from baths or showers- catch it in the tub and scoop into the trash can or buckets. Again, let the water sit overnight. This also allows the chlorine in the water to dissipate, so the water is better for the plants.
In the front yard, don’t show the trash can. Use a watering can instead- no one notices. I did this for many years; I was never caught. No one stops and asks how you filled the watering can or from what.
For dishwater, I used that to keep the compost pile moist. The food bits composted, and the bugs hated the soap.
Your water bill will be lower, because you’re getting two uses from water you’ve already paid for.
Use biodegradable soaps, and biodegradable bleach. If you have to use chlorine bleach, drain that water into the main drain system. It will kill the bacteria in the soil and take your plants with it- alerting your neighbors to “something’s happening” at your house.
Source: The author of this article has over 40 years of experience in diverse forms of DIY, home improvement and repair, crafting, designing, and building furniture, outdoor projects and more.