If water may once have been a resource people were inclined to take for granted, we are now learning that isn’t at all the case in many parts of the world, including significant parts of Australia and Africa. Recycling grey water will become an increasingly popular method of smart water conservation. The following guest post from Jim Duer at 21st Century Gardener provides some useful information on this topic, including a link to his AquaLoop grey water recycling system.
Grey water recycling is not a common practice in the US but trends are leaning in this direction. In countries like Australia all new homes are equipped with grey water recycling systems. The amount of fresh water available in Australia is not much different than the Southwestern United States. In fact, some cities are encouraging residents to be more aware of the issue of clean water. Tax incentives are also available for homes that build these systems into the plumbing system. It is likely that homes located in areas of scarce fresh water supply will be required to recycle grey water.
Since this may be a new concept please allow me to explain. Every home or building has at least two types of wastewater. Black water is sewage water that requires treatment at a sewage plant; this water comes from the kitchen sink and water closets. Grey water is water that is produced primarily from the washing machine, lavatory sinks, and showers or bathtubs. This water is contaminated but can be processed and then reused in places such as outdoor irrigation, cloths washing, and toilet flushing. The amounts of water used for toilet flushing and showering nearly equal each other in the average household in the US. That means grey water from laundry and lavatories will cover outdoor water use such as gardening and landscape, washing automobiles, and filling the swimming pool.
The initial costs of these systems are like any other household equipment that will take time to pay off. In comparison please consider the on-demand water heater that has become so popular. The difference in cost between the standard storage tank water heater and the on demand is roughly $1200 dollars. At this rate it will take 10 to 12 years for the on-demand to pay for itself using efficiency ratings and average usage. Unfortunately the payoff happens right around the lifespan of the product.
Now consider the grey water collection systems cost and payoff. The household using 150 gallons per person per day spends approximately $120 per month depending on the region. If the grey water were reclaimed conservatively the water bill could be reduced by one third. The payoff on the grey water collection system is on the high side eight years. Of course this all depends on where the residence is located but you can see the payoff is significantly less than the water heater example. To guarantee a quicker payoff I suggest collecting rainwater and adding it to the recycling system. For people living in Santa Fe, NM the payoff could be as low as four years with a bonus of having water for outdoor use.
The cost of recycling grey water and the investment payoff is much more attractive than most people think. There are also significant benefits to the environment and the community. If you are building a new home you should take into consideration the cost of water and how you can recycle what you use. If your existing home offers access to drain lines please consider a greywater recycling system. The Aqua Loop system, sold exclusively by 21st Century Gardener, is the most inexpensive, easy to use, and highest quality water treatment system on the market.
Graphic credit: 21st Century Gardener