Water used for washing, showering, laundry and cleaning in most cases can be captured and recycled for various landscaping needs, reducing use of fresh water out of your well or the public water supply. No matter where you live, whether you have a private well or rely on a public water supply, conserving water and using it wisely make good sense.
Water is one of our planet’s rapidly decreasing and most valuable resources. Topsoil runs a close second. Only ONE percent of the earth’s water is fresh (non-saline) and potable, considered safe for washing, consumption, food crop irrigation or other uses.
Grey water is the term for waste water from sinks, bathing (wash stalls), laundry machines and dishwashers. Brown water is water resulting from flushing the toilet. Most builders comingle grey and brown waste water into one septic system, or if you are on public sewage, it all goes down the same drain.
Grey water cannot be cost effectively reclaimed for use as drinking water again, but in most municipalities across the country, it is approved for use in landscaping of non-food plant life. Recycling and re-use of grey water is environmentally smart and will reduce water drawn from your well or, if using public water, save on expenses.
Whether your horse wash stall areas are indoor, outdoor, or both, diverting grey water for landscaping will help control excessive water loads into your septic or drainage systems. An elevated outdoor wash area will facilitate gravity flow of water into a holding tank and grey water system. The same holds true if you have washing machines for equine laundry. Numerous pump systems are available that will easily push water uphill, allowing gravity flow back downhill. Ask your plumber about these.
If you are planning new construction, definitely inform your contractor that you want a grey water system installed. This will include a holding tank to which grey water is diverted and from which water can be pumped.
Is it Legal? Because grey water systems are illegal in certain areas, be sure to check with your local municipalities for regulations.
If you live in a temperate climate where landscape watering needs are seasonal, you may want to have a zone valve control attached that allows grey water to be separated or comingled from your brown water. If you install a separate holding tank and leach field for grey water, it can be used year-round and pumped from as needed. This will increase the efficiency and longevity of your main septic tank system, because it won’t have all that extra water to handle on a daily basis.
If you don’t have a grey water system currently, you can cost-effectively build your own small-scale system using commonly available materials such as a 55-gallon drum, gravel, sand and landscape fabric. www.DIY.com is a great place to learn the basics.
Two factors to consider for a grey water system:
1. You will need to start using environmentally friendly soaps, shampoos and detergents. These are readily available at supermarkets, co-ops and online, and will do just as good a job and cost very little extra.
2. It is best to use grey water on a daily or more frequent basis, reducing the potential for water to become stagnant and stale, which leads to potential odors.
Healthy soil is loaded with beneficial organisms and microbes that will attack, break down and clean the grey water further while it is helping you create a healthier, greener landscape.
Joshua Nelson started Beaver River Associates in 1987, shifting his focus from livestock production to waste management and composting technology. He is a partner of AgriLab Technologies, LLP, specializing in heat recovery from aerobic composting. He also develops and manufactures products for the horse and pet industry. Contact Josh at Agrilabtech@aol.com