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Greywater - What is it???

In my Friday, June 22 column, I made suggestions of how to recycle water from several areas of the home. Later I read where some communities had written and legalized rules about using greywater in the landscape for environmental reasons - so I made calls to our local city officials who handle environmental issues regarding groundwater and sewer systems in Fort Wayne. I discovered that there is no policy on greywater in our area - at least for now. My inquiry may have stirred them into setting policy but at the moment there is none. But - and there is always a "but" you know? I was given several good suggestions (see bulleted items below) from officials to share with readers so if we begin recycling water and it becomes popular, we can all be responsible citizens of our city and of our neighborhoods. 

  • In Indiana harvesting water is a personal choice and no one has to do this unless you would like to. 
  • Always be mindful of public health issues when doing this.
  • Do not allow greywater to pool or go into a pond or runoff and mix with groundwater that eventually will feed into our rivers.
  • This can attract mosquitoes and also cause more rapid growth of algae.
  • Pour it directly on the area around the plant and make sure that it soaks into the soil where it is used. 
  • It is important to use environmentally safe detergents for washing clothes and dishwashing when thinking about recycling greywater onto our landscapes. After reading the quoted item below, I realized that we should probably be using different laundry detergent anyway. Water from our washers is flushed into the sewers and has to be dealt with by our water treatment plant to make it safe for us to use again: "Laundry detergent can contain enzymes and bleaches as well as phosphates and other unfriendly particles slow to break down in the environment. The water treatment companies have a tough job filtering all this toxic waste out of that water heading for rivers and the sea." 

Now to answer the titled question, and it is a direct quote from the web site greywateraction.org. (This is my blog so I can ramble on a bit before finally getting to the point. You are welcome to go there and read all about how-to set up your household utilities so you could harvest greywater. I think of it as another step in preparedness, like installing a generator in case the lights go out or learning to raise vegetables and how to preserve food for the future in case of food shortages, etc. Many people have continued to garden and can their produce but we city dwellers have become grocery-store-complacent, not thinking we might need the know-how someday. Now on to the greywateraction.org quote.):

"Greywater is water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines. It is not water that has come into contact with feces, either from the toilet or from washing diapers. Greywater may contain traces of dirt, food, grease, hair, and certain household cleaning products. While greywater may look “dirty,” it is a safe and even beneficial source of irrigation water in a yard. There are many simple, economical ways to reuse greywater in the landscape. If released into rivers, lakes, or estuaries, the nutrients in greywater become pollutants, but to plants, they are valuable fertilizer. Aside from the obvious benefits of saving water (and money on your water bill), reusing your greywater keeps it out of the sewer or septic system, thereby reducing the chance that it will pollute local water bodies. Reusing greywater for irrigation reconnects urban residents and our backyard gardens to the natural water cycle."

There you have it. It does make sense to recycle - even our water.

Happy gardens everyone!