Greywater, sometimes spelled graywater, is lightly used drain water from sinks, showers/bathtubs, drinking fountains, and washing machines, but NOT toilet drain water, which is called “blackwater.”
Greywater harvesting is the practice of directing greywater to the primary root/life zone (top 1 to 2 feet, or 0.3 to 0.6m, of the soil) to freely irrigate and help grow beautiful and productive landscapes while achieving “waste” water treatment without using chemicals or energy. Plants and microorganisms in the soil consume and filter the organic nutrients and bacteria found in greywater, treating it naturally and returning clean water to the water cycle. The number and diversity of these beneficial microorganisms and plant roots increase the closer you get to the surface of the soil, so typically—the higher you distribute the greywater in, or atop, the uppermost layers of the soil—the better.
The practices I advocate have no stinky tanks, costly mechanical pumps, nor their maintenance headaches. Instead, the systems I advocate use gravity and living pumps of perennial vegetation and other life to freely distribute that greywater.
Greywater harvesting turns a free, on-site “waste” water into a safe and productive resource water available for irrigation in times of no rain as long as you are home using water. And there is typically a significant amount of greywater available.
What about my water needs not met by greywater, or when I’m not home?
The remaining outdoor water needs—not met by harvested greywater—can typically be met with the harvest of other free on-site waters such as rainwater, stormwater, dark greywater, snow, and/or AC condensate or dew.
Additional benefits of harvesting greywater as I advocate
Reduce your potable water-use, power-use, and utility bills
Grow a more vibrant and beautiful greywater-irrigated landscape producing food; passively shading/cooling home and landscape in summer; and passively heating home and landscape in winter with sun access, solar arcs of vegetation, and living windbreaks/shelterbelts
Extend the life and reduce the maintenance costs of your septic system or the community’s sewer system.
Help improve the health of your local groundwaters, springs, creeks, and rivers by reducing the extraction of those waters in the first place; then improving their natural filtration and recharge with the living sponge you grow with your harvested on-site greywater.
For more information on various gravity-fed greywater-harvesting systems; and how to place, design, size, implement, and plant them in balance with your soil’s percolation rate for maximum positive effect:
• Read this book’s greywater chapter and the dark greywater harvesting appendix (3)