Watering with Graywater

For a long time the greywater bin was hidden away behind perennials and was a family secret.  There were strict laws in California prohibiting its use without special building permits.  However, on August 4th, 2009, in response to growing concerns over our severe drought, the state Building Standards Commission voted to pass the new California greywater code (Chapter 16 in the CA Plumbing Code) which allows residents to dispel washing machine and shower greywater into their landscapes without needing a permit.  As of last summer, I am no longer a grey water guerilla and sneaking around about.

Here is a photo of my gray water trash can collector.  We have been using this primitive graywater system since summer 2007, Shhhh!

Our homemade grey water watering surge tank.  This temporary holding spot prevents the washer machine pump from getting damaged if there is a clog.

Grey water temporary holding for water from the laundry. A recycled trash can.


The bin is raised up on some cinder blocks to help with gravity feed the water out of the hose in to the mulched flower bed.  I don’t keep water in it over night, and typically it gets emptied immediately after each laundry load.  The only loads I wait a little on are the ones I use extra hot water in, then I wait for it to cool off before opening the hose valve.  The hose gets moved after each load. I have a scrap of screen that can be seen sticking out of the lid that serves as a lint collector. If I don’t use the link screen with the bin, the soil could end up with a thin mat of non biodegradable clothing debris (from synthetic fibers) or the lint could also block the hose and damage the washer machine pump.

a part of the homemade gray water system in our backyard.

This is one of the areas the water is used.  Water is also used in the mulched areas with some of the fruit trees in the yard.  The hose gets moved around the yard a lot.  However, Grey water doesn’t get used on my acid loving camellias or fushias very often.  The plants that get the grey water the most in my yard are asparagus fern, sedum, a variety of salvias, Japanese anemones, mother in law tongue, heliotrope, mimulus, amaryllis, nastursium, lavender, penstamon, campanula, limonium, osteospermum, aloe vera, candytuft, pittosporum, and nandina domestica.  The bed in the photos below never get flushed with potable water, only annually rainfall.

Flower bed irrigated entirely by graywater and annual limited rainfall

The area of the yard that gets the most gray water from our washing machine

The opposite side of the same area pictured above. Every thing in front of the arbor gets only gray water and rain fall for irrigation



What Brand of Detergent with GrayWater?

I have tried many different laundry detergents over the three or so years since I have been using gray water in the garden. Oasis Design recommends choosing a bio-compatible  detergent, unfortunately the shipping makes it very cost prohibited.  Therefore, instead  I stay away from detergents with sodium or salts (this rules out most powdered detergents,) boron or borax, softners, brightners, and bleach.  For price, convenience, and no fragrance, I eventually settled on Stater Bros. Ultra 2X Concentrated: Free and Clear Detergent for our family.  It is not rated HE for my front load washer, but it does not over-suds and the clothes come out clean.  They also make it in a High Efficiency formula, but it has a fragrance which we don’t usually buy.  I have seen no ill effects in any of my plants with either one.  It is about $0.12 a load when it isn’t on sale.

Other detergent brands I tried in the grey water and had no noticeable plant damage over the years:
Trader Joe’s Liquid
Seventh Generation

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