Holy-Mother-of-God! Can this really happen in Seattle? Is it legal? Will my future bathroom, with it's intended upstairs laundry, really be able to be a place where the washing machine and shower water are recycled into landscape irrigation? Will I really be able to brag that I have a grey-water bathroom in Ballard?
"Huh?", I hear some of you in the back row thinking, "um...what the heck is 'grey-water'? Sounds nasty! Why on earth is Deb so hopeful?"
Greywater may contain traces of dirt, food, grease, hair, and certain household cleaning products. While greywater may look “dirty,” it is a safe and even beneficial source of irrigation water in a yard. Keep in mind that if greywater is released into rivers, lakes, or estuaries, its nutrients become pollutants, but to plants, they are valuable fertilizer.
Aside from the obvious benefits of saving water (and money on your water bill), reusing your greywater keeps it out of the sewer or septic system, thereby reducing the chance that it will pollute local water bodies. Reusing greywater for irrigation reconnects urban residents and our backyard gardens to the natural water cycle."
-From Greywater Action
One cycle of laundry in a top-loading machine uses 30-50 gallons of water, water that you pay for, that literally goes down the drain after only one use. Even a more efficient front-loading washing machine, while using only half the amount of a top loader (15-30 gallons) is still water semi-wasted when, after only one use, it literally goes down the drain.
Is this fair? Is this even sane? It has bothered my to no end for years now, thinking of how that water could have been pumped into my garden (non-edible plants only) I can see the huge savings in my summer water bill if I could only reuse that water for my camellias and hydrangeas.
And don't get me started on toilets: while used toilet water is blackwater that must go directly tot he sewer pant to be treated, that used to flush your toilet is potable! In a perfect grey-water system, used grey water from your sink/washing machine is what gets used to flush the toilet.
In Seattle, there are at least two public buildings that have legal grey-water systems: the Bertschi School and the Bullitt Center. Both use the waste water from hand washing in their sinks to water a living wall and a roof garden, respectively. In the Bullitt Center, the living roof acts as a filter for the grey-water, before returning it to the ground,
What would happen if all households had grey-water systems? What water conservation efforts do you use in your home?