Sunday, March 1, 2009

Low-Tech Grey Water

Please check out this post by Adam Shake at Twighlight Earth. I invite you to watch the short video linked from The It is an interview with Eric Corey Freed about grey water utilization in green building. You may find it educational and inspiring as I did.

Due to the critical water situation in California this year the governor is now calling upon all households to voluntarily reduce water usage by 20%. The biggest impact of the drought will undoubtedly be in agriculture, and the products and jobs dependent on the federal water project for irrigation. The official announcement came from federal water officials February 20th, zero allocation for farmers. But it’s now becoming incumbent upon every individual to search hard for ways to save even more water in our daily lives. My wife and I have been working on saving water for years, but we recently began getting a lot more serious about it. We have been collecting clean water for plants, but there are more effective ways to go about saving more.

One of the best ways to reduce water usage in the home is to install some sort of “grey water” system. Grey water is water that has been used once already, but is still relatively clean. Grey water can be used for tasks that do not require clean fresh water, like flushing the toilet. There are already “green-tech” companies that manufacture grey water systems. One example I’ve heard of is the Aqus system by Watersaver Technologies. Installing a complete system like this is an easy and convenient way to collect and recycle grey water. This seems expensive however, even though it might be considered a good investment in the future value of a home. Especially expensive for households who are watching their spending in these difficult economic times. I’ve also read about some green bloggers that they intend to build such a system, but that seems like a big hassle, and a potential headache if it leaks, or clogs, or if something breaks. And the pump uses electrical energy.

My wife and I have begun to use our own completely low-tech solution that works just at well, but cost mere pennies in comparison, uses no energy, and requires absolutely no installation. If this seems kind of gross, I apologize, but we have become very serious about saving water. We recycle grey water using a system consisting of two 5-gallon paint buckets and 2 plastic dish pans. These things can be obtained for less than 15 dollars, provided that you don’t already have them lying around in the garage like ours were. We keep one set downstairs in the kitchen, and the other set upstairs in our main bathroom. We have stopped using our downstairs bathroom. We use the dish pans to catch water while washing up, shaving, warming up water for a shower, cleaning dishes, or anything else we would normally have to run water for. We then pour the used grey water into the bucket for storage. The grey water is then poured directly into the toilet bowl to flush it. This does work even though it may seem like a strange way to do things. We have not flushed the toilet using fresh water for weeks. We don’t know exactly how much water this is saving, but I would estimate that 6 to 10 flushes a day for a water saving toilet is still about 24 to 40 gallons a day. For an older toilet make that about 36 to 60 gallons a day. If we can do it, I'm betting anyone can do it.


Anonymous said...

Toilets account for approx. 30% of water used indoors. By installing a Dual Flush toilet you can save between 40% and 70% of drinking water being flushed down the toilet, depending how old the toilet is you are going to replace.
If you are serious about saving water, want a toilet that really works and is affordable, I would highly recommend a Caroma Dual Flush toilet. Caroma toilets offer a patented dual flush technology consisting of a 0.8 Gal flush for liquid waste and a 1.6 Gal flush for solids. On an average of 5 uses a day (4 liquid/ 1 solid) a Caroma Dual Flush toilet uses an average of 0.96 gallons per flush. The new Sydney Smart uses only 1.28 and 0.8 gpf, that is an average of 0.89 gallons per flush. This is the lowest water consumption of any toilet available in the US. Caroma, an Australian company set the standard by giving the world its first successful two button dual flush system in the nineteen eighties and has since perfected the technology. Also, with a full 3.5″ trapway, these toilets virtually never clog. All of Caroma’s toilets are on the list of WaterSense labeled HET’s and also qualify for several toilet rebate programs available in the US. Please visit my blog to learn more or go to to learn where you can find Caroma toilets locally. Visit to see how we flush potatoes with 0.8 gallons of water, meant for liquids only. Best regards, Andrea Paulinelli

Andrew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BeWaterWise Rep said...

There are dozens of little things we can all do to save water and combat the water shortage situation we are facing in Southern California. If you go to you will see a water saving tips page that lists Indoor and Outdoor tips and how much water is saved with each one. You would be amazed at how simple these actions are yet how impactful they can be. Things like turning off the water when you brush your teeth can save 3 gallons per day, taking shorter showers saves 5 gallons a day, and installing a smart sprinkler controller saves 40 gallons per day! Check out all the tips on the site and pass it on to fellow Southern Californians!