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The Green Life: Greywater for a Green Yard

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September 28, 2009

Greywater for a Green Yard

Water.down.the.drain

Good news for water-wise Californians: the state is relaxing its standards governing greywater recycling systems. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the new codes allow residents to install basic greywater systems themselves with no permits. Under the state’s old laws, a greywater system could cost as much as $10,000; now one can be installed for as little as $200.

For the uninitiated, greywater is wastewater from household sinks, showers, and washing machines, but not toilets. You can’t drink it, but greywater can be used to irrigate your yard via a pipe system that drains the water outside where your plants can use it.

This makes sense in California and other arid Western states where every drop of water is precious. If it isn't reused, all that water from your shower gets flushed down the drain and mixed with sewage. Gallons of usable water are needlessly wasted every day.


Installing a greywater system requires a bit more than new plumbing. You'll have to cut out harsh household cleaners that could kill plants and use biodegradable soaps. Greywater Action recommends using no bleach, dye, boron, bath salts, nor shampoo with unpronounceable ingredients. The group’s Web site is a good source of information about greywater recycling.

Of course, you can always recycle water the low-tech way: leave a bucket in the shower, and empty it on thirsty plants.

--Année Tousseau

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