Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gray Water Dilemma

I live in the Los Angeles basin. They call this a desert but you can see all the green lawns and beautiful flowers. About twenty years ago I started my rose garden and at the time I didn't know that roses love lots and lots of water. I did find out how they thrive with frequent deep waterings. At that time I was also moving things around in my house. I had the back porch enclosed and moved the washing machine and dryer to the back porch. This allowed me to use the "Gray Water"* from the washing machine and funnel it out to my rose garden.
This was a good thing but then I was doing a lot more laundry. Both my parents were still with me as well as my son. This made for frequent use of the washing machine and frequent distribution of the gray water*.
Time has moved forward and the frequent use of the washing machine has gone done to maybe two a week. That means less water for my garden.
I received my water bill last month (we are billed for two months at a time) and I was stunned. We were warned that we were in "conservation mode" but until we are faced with reality, it is hard to confront.
This led me to think about how much useless use of water we as a society do every day. A hundred years ago, many people did not have in house water but had to go out to the pump. I am sure that they did not waste water to brush their teeth or wash their hands. I don't know what they did but I am sure it was with a lot more respect than we give it.
With these ponderings I came to this experiment. I am using basins in my sinks to see how much water, that could be termed "gray water"*, I use in a day. Since I am not working, I am at home more and that means more water use. But this is the part that I found very interesting. I carry out to the garden four buckets containing 3 gallons each a day. That is 12 gallons of water that my garden drinks. All that was going down the drain when it could have been put to better use.
I am only using water that I have washed my hands, dishes, fruits and vegetables in, using a mild "earth friendly" soap.
It does take more work but it is also a lot more thoughtful about the planet, our current life, the future children and more efficient with our resources.
I think that we need to make a more thoughtful use of our resouces and I feel that I should continue with my little "experiment".

*This is WikiPedia discussing of recycled water:

Water recycling systems without purification

[edit] Water diversion systems

The simplest greywater system is to simply divert the water directly to the garden. Regulations change by country and region, but common guidelines for safe usage include not storing the greywater for more than 24 hours, ensuring it cannot pool or run off, and depositing it with subsurface irrigation.

Greywater diversion systems can be both designed-in to new homes, or retrofitted to many existing homes. When systems are fully designed, manufactured and installed to relevant standards such as the Australian Watermark standards. Water diversion systems tend to be highly efficient, effective and safe for simple applications where potable water is not required.

Diversion systems can be as basic as running the outlet hose from a washing machine out a window to the garden, or can be designed as a permanent part of the home plumbing. Fully engineered systems incorporate a sump pump and surge tanks and deliver the water through sub-surface irrigation.

Greywater from the shower or bath is generally good quality water for the garden. The soap levels at the dilutions typical are actually good for the garden as they are a wetting agent. When laundry greywater is diverted to the garden, the laundry products used must be chosen carefully to ensure phosphate and salt levels are low, and that pH balance is neutral.

Basic guidelines are also available from system suppliers. It is essential that greywater is diverted to sewer when garden-unfriendly products are being used.


Phyllis said...

Thank you for the inspiration as well as the deep thinking on this very important issue. Now I am going to try and be more frugal and less wasteful, as I can see how it really does not take too much to try and be more conscious and conservative at the same time.

beadbabe49 said...

Bravo, pat!
I read Juniper Time by Kate Wilhelm years ago and have been more appreciative of our water since then.