Grey Water Re-Use – Your Plants Will Love It.
You’ve decided you want to grow your own fruits and vegetables, or maybe you want to try your hand at growinng flowers and other ornamental plants. You know that gardens need regular watering, but you’re concerned about limited rainfall, restricted water usage, or a desire to keep the water bill down. Maybe you are simply conservation minded and want to extend resources as far as they will go. In any case, using gray water is a practical solution.
Grey water refers to the water drained from your bathtub, bathroom sink, and washing machine. It does not include water from your toilet, dishwasher or kitchen sink. Sometimes also called twice-used water, gray water can be recycled to irrigate your lawn and garden.
So how do you collect and use gray water? You can collect grey water by using buckets or a simple garden hose. You can attach the hose to the drain hose of your washer and run it outside to your garden through an open window. You can also carry buckets from your cooled bath water out to your garden. Removing the drain trap from your bathroom sink, and placing a bucket beneath is another way to collect grey water. Just remember to replace the drain trap when you are finished. There are other, more complicated ways to create a grey water irrigation system, which includes some re-plumbing of your house and health inspections. You can find out more about those options by contacting your local health department.
Once you decide how you are going to collect it, you’ll need to figure out how much grey water you need. A half gallon per square foot per week should be plenty. That means, if your garden is 16 square feet, it will need about eight gallons of water per week. Because of the contaminants in the water, such as hair, soap, etc., you don’t really want to store grey water. Therefore, any remaining grey water needs to be disposed of properly. In other words, send it down the drain. If your soil does not drain well, which means water has a tendency to pool on the surface of the soil instead of soaking in, you will want to use less water.
Make sure the water is only applied to the soil surrounding the plants, not the plants themselves. You also need to pay attention to the kinds of cleaning agents that go into the water, such as laundry soaps and other household cleansers. Do not use laundry detergent that includes boron because it is poisonous to plants. In addition, watch for detergents with added softener because they often use sodium-based materials. Too much sodium can cause a pH imbalance in the ground, which is unhealthy for plants as well. On the other hand, plants love the phosphates that are often found in laundry detergents. Use ammonia based cleaning products as opposed to chlorine. To make sure your soil doesn’t get a chemical overload, you may want to alternate grey water use with fresh water or use what fresh water is available on edible plants, and reserve the grey water for ornamental plants, such as flowers and shrubs.
If you enjoy gardening, but are concerned about the amount of water you need to care for your plants, try using grey water. Collecting and using it is relatively simple, you will save money, and natural resources and your plants will love you for it.