You can reycle graywater from sinks, showers, and washing machines to irrigate your garden. Take a peak at this graywater renegade's garden. A slide show from KQED QUEST, kqed.org/quest—Some rights reserved.
Mateo shows Amy how water flows from his clothes washer to a bucket sitting on a table behind the house. Elevating the bucket allows gravity to push water into the hose. (Other systems, like at the Berkeley EcoHouse, use an electric pump.)
Attached to the bucket are a number of valves that can be turned on or off to control water flow.
Recycled graywater flows through a hose into a PVC pipe that sticks out from a raised vegetable bed.
Water trickles through the pipe and into the root system of the plants. This way, the recycled water never comes in direct contact with the edible parts of the plant.
KQED QUEST correspondent Amy Standen interviews Graywater Guerilla Laura Allen about graywater (any water that has not come in contact with toilet water) and blackwater (toilet water).
Oasis Design makes one of few soaps designed for graywater recycling. According to the company website, Oasis soap is "biocompatible," which means it breaks down into plant nutrients after use (as opposed to "biodegradable," which only ensures that the product will break down-not necessarily into parts that are good for the environment).
Mateo also recycles his blackwater from a composting toilet.
The composting toilet separates excrement from urine. Urine flows directly into a bucket in Mateo's backyard. Mateo adds water to the urine and then feeds it to the root system of his plants. Urine contains large amounts of urea, which is a good source of nitrogen for plants and is often an ingredient in processed fertilizers.
The excrement falls into a bucket located in an enclosed space under Mateo's house. Because the excrement is separated from the urine and covered with wood chips, the smell is minimal.
Every couple of weeks he will transfer the contents of this bucket into a larger composting bin located behind a shed in his backyard. After a year, the composted feces are used as a soil amendment and fertilizer.
Mateo believes that his graywater recycling system is helping his garden flourish, attracting more birds, bees and other beneficial fauna than in the past.
Lettuce is irrigated with graywater, which is applied to the plant's roots, so as not to come in contact with the lettuce leaves.
Bees buzz around Mateo's lavender plants.
Landscape Contractor John Russell digs down into the constructed wetland at the Berkeley EcoHouse. Graywater never reaches the surface of the gravel, which keeps visitors and mosquitoes from coming into contact with it.
The Berkeley EcoHouse's constructed wetland consists of a 10-foot diameter gravel bed. Graywater from the house flows through the wetland, where it is cleaned by water-loving plants such as papyrus. The filtered water flows into a cistern where an electric pump sends it out to irrigate the rest of the garden.