Greywater: What is it, and Why is it Awesome?

Confession: I'm kind of a simpleton when it comes to plumbing. Only in recent years has it occurred to me to ask questions like, where does toilet water go when I flush? And how is it suddenly replaced with clean water? And sinks, and washing machines, and showers for that matter- what happens to all my own waste water?

Is it magic? 

Since that first realization of my ignorance regarding all things waste water, I've tried my best to learn a little more about plumbing. At times, it can be hard to remember how wasteful flush toilets and long showers are. 

Enter off-grid water recycling systems! Designing a Tumbleweed that doesn't require regular hook-ups is a great opportunity to get to know your personal water usage. Here's a bit about how you can use greywater to minimize waste and take advantage of a great resource. 

What is greywater?

Greywater refers to waste water that is relatively harmless and can thus be reused for a variety of purposes. It gets the name "grey" for being somewhere between fresh water and sewage water. 

Usually, the term encompasses dishwater, laundry water and shower water. However, it is important that you don't put ANYTHING remotely toxic in your sink, shower or laundry machine if you're planning on reusing the water. It's pretty easy to avoid-just make sure you're using biodegradable soaps, laundry detergents, etc.

I got some great biodegradable soaps for Christmas, and am excited to eventually set up my own grey water irrigation system! 

How is it reused?

Greywater is typically used for irrigation- most people direct their grey water into gardens or mulch pits. Grey water can also be recycled inside. Water from showers and dishes can be used in toilets, house plants, and greenhouses.

Greywater reuse in a garden (Source) 

You can get pretty creative- there's no one way to use greywater! 

Remember, of course that greywater is never safe to drink. Filtration processes can render it safe to use for toilet water and washing water. 

What's the difference between greywater and blackwater?

Blackwater contains human waste, and cannot safely be used- generally, this refers to the water flushed in toilets. It contains pathogens that must decompose before they can be safely released into the environment. One way to avoid dealing with blackwater? Composting toilets! 


Do you have a unique way of reusing greywater? Tell us about it! 

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