Greywater is Great Water

by Kellen Watson, Daily Acts

I think we can all agree that we are thankful for advancements in plumbing and sewage treatment since the germ-laden Middle Ages. However, many are recognizing that with our current plumbing systems, we are shorting ourselves on a great garden resource…graywater.

Graywater is the gently used water from your laundry machine, shower/bath, and bathroom sinks. For the last 150 years or so, since the recognition of germs and the advent of common indoor plumbing, graywater has been mixed with and treated the same as blackwater, which is the water from toilets, kitchen sinks, and dishwashing machines. However, these water types are not created equal! Graywater is in fact quite clean, and should be viewed as a valuable resource for irrigation. Not only can this water-reuse method save you money, but it is an excellent way to reconnect urban residents and our backyard gardens to the natural water cycle while increasing the productivity of our plants.

There are two main types of graywater system retrofits: the Laundry-to-Landscape system (coined by the grandfather of the graywater movement, Art Ludwig, of Oasis Designs) and the Showers-to-Flowers or branched drain system. In California, no permit is needed for the Laundry-to-Landscape (L2L) system, and it is a cheap and easy DIY project. Most of the time, L2L systems only cost $100-150 to install. Depending on how often you wash laundry and whether you have a top-or front-loader machine, this system can divert 1,000-10,000 gallons of water to your thirstiest trees, shrubs, and perennials.

How do you know if graywater is right for you?
The ideal homes for graywater will…


• Have a laundry machine located just about anywhere, but not:

On a second floor, interior-only wall (the upstairs wall with the machine does not face outside at all)

On a first floor interior-only wall, if there is a slab foundation with no crawlspace

• Have, or plan to have, a perennial landscape (not lawn) that is level with or from your washing machine

• Have approval from the home’s owner, if renting

• Be willing to use soaps that are sodium, boron, and chlorine free (such as Ecos or Oasis)

• Not have concrete completely surrounding the outside area near the wall where the machine is located (ie. if your laundry outlets next to your driveway or patio, and there is not space between that concrete and the house, you would have to remove concrete to get the pipe out to the yard).

To learn more, attend one of Daily Acts’ graywater and garden design workshops this summer! In Petaluma, on June 4th from 6-8pm Daily Acts will be hosting a Water-Wise Habitat Gardening Talk at the Petaluma Library

great opportunity to learn about various habitat providing and pollinator attracting plants that can be supported by graywater. On June 7th from 6-7:30pm, a talk on Graywater for your Garden will be presented at the Windsor Senior Center. This will be a great opportunity to learn more about the steps it takes to install a Laundry to Landscape system, and the multitude of benefits that follow. Stay up to date with Daily Acts skill building workshops by visiting  Take Heart, Take Part, Take Action!

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