The Green Factor of Grey Water

Water conservation is becoming a must for everyone, especially in water scarce South Africa. Greywater recycling can save significant amounts of water and is an environmentally sound practice, as the article below mentions.  Grey water recycling and rainwater harvesting combined can save even more water; rain water tanks also reduce monthly water bills and increase property value.

Grey water can be generally defined as used household water, including that from baths, laundry, and dish washing, but excluding water which has come into contact with feces. Instead of losing this water down the drain, there are a number of reasons to put it to good re-use.

grey water tanks

1. Savings Recycling grey water equals significant savings individually, communally, and globally. 50-80% of household waste water is grey water. If used twice it would significantly cut the cost of your water bill. Allowing water to cycle naturally puts less strain on your septic system, and the community’s water treatment plants, thereby extending the systems’ lives. Grey water recycling allows for more of the world’s precious freshwater to be saved for necessities such as drinking and cooking.

2. Gardening Plants love the nutrients in grey water, and the biologically rich topsoil in your backyard purifies it. The bacteria in the soil are actually more effective at purifying water than engineered treatments, and make the nutrients available to plants. Grey water may also provide irrigation in areas that are otherwise too arid to support abundant plant life.

3. Safety There are no documented cases of grey water causing human illness. When added to soil, any potentially harmful bacteria and viruses soon die. The more organically rich the soil is, the faster waste residues are broken down. As a precaution, grey water should not be used on plants that will be eaten raw or leafy and root vegetables. It is best to use natural cleaning products, such as vinegar, olive oil, and lemon juice, on water that is to be recycled.

4. Inconspicuous The holding tank for grey water is usually buried beneath or at ground level. Waste water is brought to the tank by gravity or pumping, and sent through irrigation lines into the landscape or to the toilet when it’s time to flush. The water must be used within 24 hours or it will become anaerobic, smelly, and unusable. However, with the average American household using 300 gallons of water a day, it shouldn’t be a problem.

5. Flexibility A grey water system can be used in conjunction with a septic system. A 3-way valve may be installed which allows you to switch between systems as needed. In areas where a conventional septic system is not feasible a grey water system may be substituted. An extreme example is the Mars Desert Research Station. In the future, grey water recycling may also be used on trips to Mars to conserve water and increase oxygen.

6. Legality Grey water usage is legal but restrictions vary depending on your location. The best policies regarding usage in the United States are for Arizona. The state provides education and guidelines, which if followed, exempt residents from having to apply for a permit to install a grey water recycling system.

7. Conservation When dumped in rivers, lakes, and oceans waste water becomes a pollutant, but when allowed to cycle naturally it replenishes groundwater, enhances water quality, and enriches the soil.

About 60% of your body is water. No living thing can survive without it. By using grey water recycling you gain the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping do your part in preserving one of our most precious natural resources, water.

This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17 @

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