Mother Earth faces new challenges every year, and we humans continue to devise ways to address them.
Recently, we have been looking at ways to reuse water from our showers, sinks, and laundry in a process known as grey water reuse, and we know that many people worldwide are doing the same.
It’s great that more of us are exploring ways to reuse grey water rather than simply allowing it to drain back into the environment.
But what are the potential uses of this valuable and mostly overlooked resource?
Grey water can provide several benefits if used properly. By enriching soil quality, reducing water and energy consumption, assisting in landscaping, and enhancing biofuel production, grey water reuse is genuinely an eco-friendly activity.
Throughout this article, I will go over the benefits of grey water in several circumstances and discuss a few simple ways you can start collecting grey water at home.
Grey water is essentially wastewater from our sinks, shower drains, washing machines, and other areas of the house, minus the toilet.
We exclude toilet water, also known as blackwater since it will be prone to pathogens due to fecal contamination and will be hard to reuse.
With droughts and water shortages becoming more common in many parts of the world, we need a mechanism that offers less strain on freshwater resources and sewage treatment facilities. Grey water reuse provides precisely that.
Here are a few ways grey water can be beneficial to the environment:
Only 3% of the world’s water is freshwater, and farmers in some regions find it increasingly difficult to rely on streams and rivers alone to provide irrigation water for the world’s growing demand for agricultural products.
Using grey water to irrigate farms is a brilliant mechanism that combats this problem.
Such a practice has long been prevalent in farms worldwide. It is estimated that 10% of the agricultural products we consume have been irrigated through grey water.
Its use in irrigation can have additional benefits in the form of nutrients and moisture it contains, which promotes good crop yields.
Regardless of the differences in cumulative grey water per town, nearly all grey water contains nitrogen and phosphorus, which is crucial to plant growth.
Using grey water allows farms to save on fertilizer and pumping costs. If a grey water system is in place, it reduces the pressure on local water resources and the emission of CO2 into the environment.
The benefits of grey water reuse are further supported by a study tracking water and energy savings under a simulated grey water reuse scheme in a domestic setting.
Hot water usage was reduced by nearly 60%, while cold water usage went down by up to 30%. The system also translated to hot water energy savings of up to 30%.
Farmers must be careful with using grey water as it can contain harmful impurities despite its beneficial nutrients, nitrogen, and phosphorus.
For example, a study analyzing grey water effects on crop yield showed that grey water affects spinach, carrots, and lettuce yields negatively.
The same study, however, claims that grey water can increase soil nutrients and, consequently, crop yield, but the type of plant and the irrigation water has to be studied thoroughly.
Another issue is the high number of pathogens that thrive in grey water. Bacteria such as E.coli could find their way onto grey water-irrigated crops and the food products we consume.
Fortunately, mechanisms such as solar radiation have been shown to inactivate E.coli and other microbes effectively. Antimicrobial agents such as artificial UV can kill bacteria, making grey water irrigation safer.
You already know that grey water is safe for soil absorption, so why not use it to water your shrubs and lawn?
Even your dehumidifier’s water can be of help in your gardening! Through grey water landscaping, you save money and help the environment simultaneously.
Just be careful, however, as not all grey water is plant-friendly. Often, we use shower and laundry products with chemical ingredients that pose threats to our plants.
Try to look for a “grey water-friendly” label on your favorite products to ensure that these do not have plant-damaging chemicals.
Furthermore, grey water helps to protect natural water resources from drought as less water is taken from rivers and aquifers.
True enough, some households have begun installing a laundry-to-landscape system in their yards to be more eco-friendly.
This increasingly popular and affordable system is relatively easy to install. Be guided by this FAQ sheet to know if laundry-to-landscape is for your household.
At this time, the world is urgently looking for alternatives to fossil fuels and among the most promising is biofuel.
First-generation biofuels lead to greenhouse gas emission reductions of up to 60%.
What is currently being explored to assist in biofuel production is biomass from microalgae. In particular, microalgal oils.
This is why the scientific community is looking for ways to accelerate lipid accumulation, which translates to higher oil volumes.
Where grey water comes into play is its ability to be a medium for microalgal biomass production. True enough, this study demonstrated how microalgae with respectable protein and lipid content grow in various types of grey water.
This means that if proper microalgae harvesting and extracting techniques are perfected, we may be collecting the fuel that drives our cars from the water that washes our clothes in the not-so-distant future.
Now that you know how excellent grey water is, let’s look for ways you can start collecting and reusing grey water at home.
A lot of the water we consume when we shower doesn’t touch our bodies, and we waste liters and liters of water every year.
To avoid this, get a reliable bucket and place it on the part of your shower floor where excess shower water would fall. However, set the bucket aside when using soap or shampoo that’s not grey water friendly.
If you have a bathtub instead of a shower at home, you can opt to block the drain after bathing and get a bucket to scoop out your bathwater.
Place a larger bucket outside your home to collect the grey water.
You can also direct the hoses connected to your washing machine to a basin or bucket to collect grey water.
For this method, try to get a bucket larger than you would often use, as the water inside a washing machine is often more than it looks.
If you aim to use the collected grey water to water your plants, you may need to get grey water fertilizer.
This type of product, mixed into the grey water, contains additional nutrients and removes harmful contaminants, thus optimizing the water your garden soil gets.
As mentioned earlier, a laundry-to-lawn grey water system makes your landscaping drought-resistant and can even save you some money.
Many system models are available on the Internet and are easy to follow if you want to self-install.
If haphazardly installed, however, this will create various problems for you and your neighbors.
It is crucial, therefore, to consult with plumbing technicians to see if your house can handle your grey water system plans.
The cost for grey water systems ranges from $100 to $4,000. Try to determine the goals you are attempting to achieve with your transition to grey water and consider your budget.
Also, check your local regulations, especially if grey water systems are not standard in your area.
Also, remember that you will have to shell out money for maintenance costs and damage repair.
Reusing grey water offers many environmental benefits.
As our world continues to evolve, we must grow alongside it.
Grey water reuse is one way to cope with the many changes.
You can easily reuse grey water in your home through cheap and simple steps.
Another great way to be efficient with water is by capturing rainwater and using it to water your plants, clean your car and so on. Read our article on this subject here.