Grey Water Systems

March 08, 2016

If you have read our plan or have heard of us before, you may have also read we are going to create a grey water system for our 16'x20' cabin. When my husband first introduced me to what a grey water system was, I was not on board. The thought of our stinky waste water sticking around appalled me, but now that I have done some research, I want a grey water system on our land!

In this post, I'll describe what a grey water system is, why we want one, and give you an idea as to what ours will look like! Ducks and all!

What is Grey Water?

All of the waste water that leaves your sink, dishwasher, washing machine and shower is grey water. It is water that has NOT been in contact with human fecal matter, that waste water is what is appropriately called, black water, go figure... Typically, all your grey water leaves your home through city sewers or a septic tank.

A Grey Water System diverts this reusable water to nearby flower beds, yummy vegetable gardens, tasty fruit trees, or which ever you decide. When this is done, we are not only are we reducing our footprint by using less water, but we are providing nutrients to plants or trees in our yard.

There are a few things to take into consideration though when designing your grey water system. For instance, you will want to switch all your household products and cleaners to more earth-friendly bio-degradable options because, what plant wants to be watered with chemicals?! Your grey water should be distributed directly in soil without coming in contact with your fruits or vegetables in the garden, the micro-organisms in the soil filter the grey water before watering your plant.

Also, the grey water system should be gravity feed, meaning everything continuously slopes down and away from your home without stopping, this is especially important if you live in a cold climate where things could get a little icy! Lastly, be sure to check with your local Health Department Guidelines and place a diverter valve that can allow you choose whether your water goes to your grey water system or to the sewer/septic system.

There are many ways to reuse your grey water, you can plug in a simple submersible pump in your used bathwater with a garden hose attached to water your garden or your lawn.

Or, add a diverter where your washing machine drains to use the water through an irrigation system. Even more simple, is to add a bucket under your kitchen sink or wash your clothes by hand in a bucket of water!

Although I do not have any sketches for our grey water system because we will need to see what our land actually looks like before we can start, I do have a solid idea of what it will look like. All of the plumbing in our cabin is in one interior wall, so collecting the grey water has become very simple! It will all travel through tubing on the south facing side of the home to avoid freezing, and slope underground to drop 10 inches or so from the tube into a large reed bed. This will stop the pipe from icing up or freezing solid because water in motion shouldn't freeze.

The reed bed will be lined with a pond liner and filled with layers of sand, gravel and rocks to allow the reeds and tall grasses to filter our waste water. The clean and filtered water will then spill over into a large beautiful pond. We will fill the pond with fish to eat mosquito larvae and allow the ducks to make the water nitrogen rich to use in the vegetable garden and water our fruit trees, thus nourishing us! That's Permaculture baby!

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