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5 Elements of a Good Greywater System

Updated on August 30, 2010

A greywater system is a system that is set up in the home to recycle the home’s wash water. This type of system can be set up by someone living in the home or it can be installed by a professional. It can be a very simple system or one that is very complex. Regardless of who sets it up or how complex it is, the greywater system will be made up of five basic elements. Let’s take a closer look at those five elements in order to better understand how a greywater system works.

Element One: A Greywater Source

The first thing that you need for a greywater system is a source of greywater in the home. Actually, most greywater systems will draw their water from multiple sources in the home but a single source is sufficient for a small greywater system. Examples of common greywater sources are:

· Washing machines. The home’s washing machine is one of the most popular sources of greywater in the home. It uses a large amount of water. Additionally, it is usually situated in such a way that it is easy to reach the appliance’s drain and re-use the water that it produces.

· Tubs and showers. Another huge source of water in the home is the tub and/or shower. Most of us shower every day. In a home with four or five people this means that there is a lot of water going down the drain every day. A greywater system that relies on the tub or shower as its source will have a generous supply.

· Sinks. Sinks may not generally offer as much water as tubs or washing machines but they can still be a great source of greywater in the home. Every time that you wash the dishes and brush your teeth you’re letting water slip down the drain. Note that dirty dishwater that includes food scraps (such as that from the sink’s garbage disposal) is not considered greywater.

· Dishwasher. The dishwasher can be set up as a greywater source in the home. However, there is the problem of food scraps and grease in the water if you use this as a source. People may hand wash or scrape dishes prior to putting them in the dishwasher if they are using the dishwasher as a greywater source. Many people use these food scraps for home compost.

It’s important to note that not all sources of water in the home can be good sources of greywater. Toilets, for example, are sources of blackwater rather than greywater and aren’t a home greywater source.

Element Two: Collection Plumbing

The second element of a greywater system is the plumbing that is used to collect the water from the source. This can be as simple as just a little pipe that connects to the source and diverts the water outside instead of down a drain and into a septic tank. It may also be a pipe that leads to a water storage tank. This type of plumbing is located inside of the house where the appliance is. That’s how it differs from the distribution plumbing (see below) which is typically located outside of the house.

Element Three: Distribution Plumbing

Greywater systems are typically set up so that indoor water is re-used by distributing throughout the outdoor landscaping area of the home. This is done through distribution plumbing. Whereas collection plumbing merely makes sure that you divert the water away from the source into a place where you can collect and use it, the distribution plumbing actually diverts the water from the source to the area that will be receiving the water.

Distribution plumbing may make use of other optional elements as well. Those elements include pumps, tanks and surge filters. These are not necessarily included in every greywater system. Some people choose not to use them because they add more cost to the design of the system. However, they are common in larger greywater systems because they make the work of distribution a lot simpler.

Element Four: A Receiving Landscape

Just like you have a source of your greywater, you have a place where the greywater is ultimately being used. This spot is the receiving landscape. In many cases, this is a garden. However, it may just be a yard in general. The receiving landscape is typically made up of soil and mulch as well as plants (and their roots). The landscape utilizes the greywater to grow. The greywater adds nutrients to the soil and improves it for a lusher garden or yard.

Element Five: You!

A greywater system does not merely pop up on its own. It is something that is designed, created, maintained and improved upon by the people who are using it. You are an important element of the system. In addition to you, there may be other people who are important to the system. For example, the other people who use the water in your house that is turned into recycled greywater are important for the system. Additionally, anyone who is hired to help set up or maintain the system is important to the system. We often like to think of these systems as merely home additions but it’s important to realize that people are a crucial part of the system as well.

Source note

The source of this information is a book called Create an Oasis with Greywater: Choosing, Building and Using Greywater Systems by Art Ludwig. The information here is in my own words but reflects some general points about greywater systems that were made in the book.


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  • watergeek profile image

    watergeek 5 years ago from Pasadena CA

    Hi Kathryn - Found your hub interesting and useful . . . linked one of mine to it today. Hopefully you'll get some traffic from it.

  • LillyGrillzit profile image

    Lori J Latimer 7 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

    Thank you for teaching about Greywater

  • Christoph Reilly profile image

    Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

    Thanks for teaching me about greywater. This is a system I can set up in my home. Thanks!

  • Storytellersrus profile image

    Barbara 7 years ago from Stepping past clutter

    This sounds like something to aspire to when we climb out of our current financial hole. I like the concept and had not heard of it. I will put it on the wish list. Thanks.

  • EnergyAdvisor profile image

    EnergyAdvisor 7 years ago from The nearest planet to Venus

    This is very interesting. I live in surinam and most people only rely on rainwater. When we're in the dry season many people buy their water. If it's not too expensive to set up this could be a good solution for many people here.

    Thanks for sharing this;)