American households waste thousands of gallons of greywater per year. Using it in gardens is a great way to take pressure off our water sources.
As climate change leads to hotter and drier summers, many wonder what to do about their water-starved gardens. Unfortunately, their concern is warranted, as localities often resort to water restrictions as temperatures rise. However, people have options for keeping their plants alive. Greywater is one of them. This article explains what greywater is, why you might consider using it, and how to get started immediately.
Greywater Is Used, But Not Dangerous
We call domestic wastewater from washing machines, sinks, showers, and bathtubs "gray" since it is only mildly contaminated and does not provide a significant risk to human health. Therefore, greywater is acceptable for plant irrigation, provided you're simply flushing biodegradable goods down the drain.
Although it is technically greywater, kitchen sink water frequently needs further processing due to oil and grease content before it is fit for irrigation. Therefore, many people refrain from using it on their plants.
As a side note, blackwater, which you flush down the toilet, requires extensive treatment before it is fit for irrigation, making it impossible (or illegal) to use it for home gardens.
A Large Proportion of Greywater Is Wasted
Perhaps the main reason to consider upcycling greywater is that much of it is wasted, to begin with. According to the EPA, the average American uses 82 gallons of water daily. However, they waste 8 gallons per day brushing their teeth, 10 gallons shaving, and 10 gallons doing the dishes.
Added to the water required to wash clothes, bathe people, and do dishes, greywater is a huge source of valuable water that people can safely use for irrigation. It is also easy to use. All that you need is mindfulness and some dedication. Buckets also help.
Greywater is perfect for all your aesthetic plants, including shrubs, bushes, and trees.
There Are Many Sources of Greywater in the Home
Collecting greywater in buckets is simple and free. However, with some creativity, you might also devise innovative ways to recycle water on your own. Here are some do-it-yourself strategies for saving greywater to get you started.
Warm-Up Water: If you need to run the faucet for a minute to get hot water, capture that minute in a bucket or watering can.
Veggie Water: Use a large bowl to capture the water you use to rinse produce from the grocery store or farm.
Boiled Water: Let the water you use to boil vegetables cool, then use it in your garden.
Bottle Rinse: When you rinse out bottles before recycling them, use the water on your house plants.
Bathing: Use a bucket in the tub or shower as the water warms up. You can also keep it there as you bathe.
AC Condensation: ACs cause condensation. You can either capture it with a bucket or run a hose from the condensation spouts to your garden plants.
Black Gold – Coffee is nitrogen-rich. It's also acidic, which some plants like azaleas love. Feel free to dump leftover black coffee into acid-loving plants. (Pro-tip: You should also be using coffee grounds as fertilizer from time to time)
The Best Use for Greywater is Irrigating Aesthetic Plants
Greywater is perfect for all your aesthetic plants, including shrubs, bushes, and trees. Use it whenever possible, even if there is some food, oil, or hair in the water from sinks and showers. You can also use greywater on berries, fruit trees, and other vegetable plants; however, the water should not contact any edible sections. A good rule of thumb: don't use greywater on root crops or anything where the edible portion touches the dirt.
Some people are concerned that something in the greywater might harm their plants. The best way to mitigate these fears is to use eco-friendly detergents, soaps, shampoos, hair products, etc. Just beware that boron, which is essential to plants and appears in many environmentally safe cleaners, becomes toxic in excess. Therefore, it may be best to ensure you dilute greywater that contains cleaners.
Reusing Domestic Water Comes with Certain Risks
While gently used water is an excellent source of hydration for many domestic plants, several practices can harm gardens, people, or the wider environment. Here are a few things to avoid when using greywater to irrigate your plants.
Swimming pool water contains high levels of sodium and chlorine. Both chemicals can lessen a plant's ability to absorb water, potentially killing it.
Don't use blackwater, ever. Sewage plants must treat water from a toilet or washing cloth diapers. Therefore, using blackwater is illegal in most jurisdictions.
Don't use greywater to irrigate root crops or low-lying leafy greens like lettuce. It can have harmful bacteria to humans but not the plants themselves.
Do not allow greywater to drain into ponds, streams, or other natural water sources. The nutrient runoff can disrupt the ecosystem of the waterway. If the greywater starts to pool or run off, use less.
Don't store greywater. Use it immediately or within a few hours. It can become septic within a couple of days.
Recycling Greywater Is An Excellent Way To Conserve
Americans waste too much water, especially in the hot summer months. Fortunately, we can capture and repurpose wasted and slightly used greywater to help irrigate domestic plants. While this method works great for aesthetic plants, people must be careful with edibles. Nevertheless, despite several things to avoid, using greywater can help keep our gardens healthy and conserve our water supply.
Get Systematic – Capturing greywater in a bucket is one thing. But some people install entire home irrigation systems that capture, treat, and distribute water to gardens and plants. They can be expensive to install but save a bundle on water bills in the long run.
Not Too Much – There can be too much of a good thing. If your soil is already saturated, refrain from using greywater. The best time to use it is in the summer and during droughts. Otherwise, it is more likely to run off into natural waterways and disrupt the environment.
Integrate – Irrigating with greywater should be one way among many to set up your eco-friendly household. As mentioned above, consider switching to environmentally safe cleaners. Furthermore, washing whole foods fresh off the farm produces greywater with fewer contaminants.