Recycling Grey Water
There is no doubt that weather conditions around the world have become less predictable in recent years. There are many areas that have experienced drought conditions recently that have rarely experienced them before. Even in the UK, which is not known as being a dry country, homeowners have been asked to regulate water consumption through such things as hosepipe bans on a regular basis.
The Need to Conserve Water
For homeowners, conserving water is just one component that they face. The cost of piping clean water into homes and dealing with waste water and sewage has risen year on year until for some people, it has become an extra burden on the household budget.
Introducing systems into the home of not only harvesting rainwater, but also processing and reusing waste has become something of a hot topic as people consider capital investments they can make to reduce long-term costs and combat rising utility bills.
Reports suggest that grey water makes up the largest portion of wastewater. In the average home, up to 40 gallons is produced per person, per day. Homeowners can reduce this by installing on-site sewage systems, which treat and reuse some grey water.
Classifications and Treatment
Grey water can contain varying levels of chemicals, toxins or bacteria depending on where the water originated from in the house. For this reason, it is categorized into different types. For example, light grey water contains smaller amounts of chemicals, grease and pathogens. Sources include bathroom sinks, bathtubs and washing machines. The level of treatment needed before this can be reused is much less than the dark variety. Dark grey water contains higher amounts of toxins, food particles or oils. Dark grey sources include kitchen sinks and dishwashers. Water from toilets or urinals is not suitable for treating within the home for reuse and is directed into the sewage system for special treatment is sewage plants.
On-Site Sewage Systems
Using grey water in the home requires an underground sewage system and connected plumbing. The system consists of a tank that collects wastewater from different areas of the house and then filters it. Once filtered, solid particles, chemicals, oils, fats and grease are directed toward the drain or sewer system and the redirected into a storage tank for reuse.
Reuse has a number of different classifications according to the level of filtering that takes place. It usually depends on state laws and the treatment system itself, but in general, water filtered in this way can be diverted back into toilet flushing, irrigation in the garden and other purposes where the water is not being directly consumed.
With one of these systems you are in effect, dividing the household plumbing into three different and completely seperate systems. The first system is bringing clean water into the house, the second taking unusable waste out and the third is your filtering and processing system. The importance of designing these in such a way that cross contamination is not possible cannot be over-stated.
Building a Simpler Grey Water System
Keeping your system as simple as possible is the first rule and one way that the average homeowner can make a start on recycling household water to cut costs. There are many situations where the grey water can be diverted directly outside and used for irrigation. If possible avoid pumps and filters that are going to require servicing. Simple systems will be longer lasting, will use less energy and not cost as much.
More complex treatment systems require additional plumbing and equipment. This means that the ideal time to install them is during new home construction.
Always bear in mind that grey water is different from the fresh variety you have on tap and as such, your approach to it needs to be different.
- In order to avoid the chance of the nutrients in it breaking down and causing bad odors, grey water should not be stored for more than 24 hours. Using a 3 way valve to regulate supply only to the level that you need and diverting the rest to your main waste water disposal system is a good way of doing this
- You also need to consider that greywater has the potential to contain pathogens, so your system should be designed so that people or animals are not able to drink it.
Recycling household water is a great way to cut ongoing costs and contribute to conservation efforts. With care, attention and planning, grey water can be put to further use safely and without the need for complex installation. For the homeowner who wants to take the process a lot further, the potential is there to introduce filtering and diversion processes that increase the levels of reuse and represent higher long-term savings.
Simple Water Filtration
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(price as of Oct 14, 2013)