More from Canadian, Stan Parker, on water management.

(If we wait for industry, we falter; if we become industrious and are satisfied with our efforts)

There was a lot of talk a few years ago about gray water irrigation, whereby a household could use water from kitchen, laundry and bath drains for watering lawns and gardens, and thus save using good potable water for such purposes. Another step in reducing one’s footprint on this earth. We thought we’d give it a try.

Our first attempt was a very simple system: the drain hose of the washing machine was led out the laundry room window into a rain barrel, via a length of 2 ½ inch black plastic pipe and a couple of elbow fittings (to go around corners).  We added a submersible sump-pump, a length of garden hose and a garden sprinkler to save having to carry a bucket full of water from the barrel around the garden, several times to empty it.. All this material came from the local hardware store, for a few bucks. When Fall came it was a simply matter to shift the discharge hose back to its original drain, and close the window.

The year we moved to a new house, was a particularly dry summer, and at the same time, there was an influx of new residents in the area. The Regional District imposed watering restrictions, and has since decided to keep them in place permanently. Our solution was simple; just re-install the Gray Water System, unfortunately the new house, didn’t have a window in the laundry! A new system had to be devised. We found that all the drains went into the crawl-space and came together into the main sewer line before exiting the house. It was easy to see which line drained which basin, toilet, bath or appliance.  Cutting the plastic pipes from the baths, shower, wash-basins and sinks (and of course the washing machine) then inserting a Diverter Valve in each was pretty straight-forward. The diverter valves were connected via short pieces of the same plastic pipe we had used before, to a cistern. To be on the safe side we had help from a plumber friend in making sure the connections were water-tight.

The Cistern was made up from two 200 litre plastic barrels connected in series, and the sump-pump placed in the lower of the two barrels.  Closely monitoring the water usage for the first few weeks, we found the cistern needed pumping out only once a week, so a switch was fitted inside the  laundry making it a simple matter of turning on the sump-pump each time the washing machine was used. The garden hose and sprinkler from the previous system were re-used in this new one. At the end of each watering season, one has to remember that the diverter valves must be changed over to the main drains, and the cistern drained and flushed out.

One thing we still avoid, is using Gray Water for fruits and vegetables. This is because we’re not sure if the soap and detergents we use are readily bio-degradable to the extent that they can be directly absorbed by the edible plants, without causing any unwanted side-effects to the food chain. Other than that, we have reduced our footprint, kept a green and flowering garden and saved money for more useful purposes. Oh! And one more thing; green plants absorb carbon-dioxide and produce oxygen.

Stan Parker, Victoria BC, Canada


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