Save Money by Reusing Greywater

••• Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Reusing greywater- it's touted as being environmentally-friendly, but it's actually wallet-friendly, too. Learn how to reuse the greywater that your household generates, so you can start saving big on your water bill.

What is Greywater?

Greywater is the wastewater that's generated from activities such as dish washing, clothes washing and bathing. This water may contain dirt, cleaning agents, food or hair, but it does not contain fecal matter. While no longer safe for people or animals to drink, greywater is still deemed safe for many other household uses. But unfortunately– unless you take measures to capture and reuse it – it just goes out to the sewer or your septic tank after one use. What a waste!

Simple Ways to Collect Greywater

While you could install a fancy greywater collection system in your home, there are plenty of ways to collect greywater without going to the hassle and expense. Here are some things you can do to start collecting greywater:

  • Place a bucket under your shower head and faucets while you're waiting for the water to warm up. Since this water is straight from the tap, you can safely use it in any manner you choose.
  • Save unused drinking water
  • Wash your dishes inside a dishpan instead of directly in the sink, so the water doesn't go down the drain
  • Wash fruits and vegetables in a bowl of water, instead of under running water
  • Capture the rinse water from your washing machine. One way to do this is to disconnect the discharge hose from your home's plumbing, and to then hook it up to a larger hose which feeds outside to your garden beds.
  • Use a bucket to scoop out your water after a bath
  • Save the water from dehumidifiers
  • Remove the trap from your bathroom sink, and place a bucket under the drain to capture the water you use when washing your hands. Obviously, this require regular emptying of the bucket to prevent overflow.

Ways to Use Greywater

Greywater can be used to water your indoor and outdoor plants. It can also be used to flush newer toilets. Just pour a bucket of greywater into the bowl, and the toilet will flush without the use of any fresh water. This will save you up to 1.6 gallons of water per flush.

Greywater Safety Tips

  1.  Water from toilets and dishwashers should never be reused due to contamination from fecal matter, grease and oils.
  2.  Do not use water that is contaminated with fecal matter (the rinse water from a load of dirty diapers, for example).
  3. Water that is contaminated with bleach and other harsh chemicals, like salt and boron should not be used on plants.
  4. Do not reuse excessively dirty dishwater.
  5. Do not use greywater on edible plants. Set up a rain barrel to water anything you plan to eat.
  6. Do not apply greywater to plants with a sprayer, sprinkler or hose, as this could spread any bacteria or chemicals present in the water.
  7. Keep open water containers out of the reach of children and pets.
  8. Use water within 24 hours of collection to avoid the spread of bacteria.

More Considerations

  1. To eliminate concerns about the presence of chemicals in your greywater, switch to plant-based, phosphate-free cleaners and shampoos for all of your household needs.
  2. Some areas have rules about how greywater can be collected and used. Check with your local government before using greywater outdoors, or before setting up a greywater system. Some towns consider kitchen sink water to be blackwater, and prohibit its use.

Why Bother with Greywater Collection?

According to OasisDesign, greywater makes up 50-80% of the waste water that leaves our homes. Just think how much your water bill would shrink, if you were to start using that water twice.

Economic considerations aside, if you live in an area with frequent droughts or outdoor watering restrictions, reusing greywater offers a simple way to keep your lawn and outdoor plants watered when fresh water can't be used.

Reusing greywater also helps to keep a lot of harmful cleaners and contaminants out of our waterways. When greywater is used to water outdoor plants, the soil helps to filter those things out, just like Mother Nature intended. When we allow greywater to go down the drain, those chemicals get released directly into our rivers, oceans and lakes, where they could harm aquatic life, including fish, animals and plants.