Grey water irrigation systems explained

In South Africa we are fortunate not to have overbearing rules and regulations regarding greywater systems and tanks for irrigation (the article below originates in Australia). However one should be sensible when applying greywater to plants – do not surface irrigate plants that are for food. Also, never store greywater in water tanks for more than 24 hours (potentially dangerous organisms could multiply to harmful levels). It is preferable to use gray water immediately (also ensures that the water does not smell).

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Greywater Treatment Systems (Treated greywater systems)

The type of greywater irrigation system that can be installed will depend on the greywater quality and the site to be irrigated. The irrigation system associated with the Greywater Treatment System does not require accreditation by state authorities, however, does require prior local council approval of design and maintenance agreement.

When designing a greywater irrigation system it should be capable of supplying sufficient greywater to meet the highest daily demands of the garden, or for additional water to be applied from non-greywater sources in a supplementary irrigation system.

Distribution of treated greywater can be through a few major types of irrigation systems dependent on the level of treatment:

  • Sub-soil irrigation/drainage – is not recommended. Greywater is distributed by gravity through trenches dug into the ground. This method is usually associated with septic systems and there are a number of variations that rely upon absorption and/or transpiration of the greywater with limited control of water release to match plant requirements. This is not considered an efficient irrigation method for beneficial use of greywater and therefore not recommend unless deep rooted plants are irrigated to match demand.
  • Sub-surface irrigation – this system is usually pressured and installed 100 mm below the ground. The greywater is distributed through small-diameter perforated pipes or dripper lines and applied directly to the root zone at rates required by the plants so that the plants can utilise the water without excessive runoff or leaching.
  • Covered surface drip irrigation – this enables greywater to be applied directly to the surface of the soil under a layer of mulch. The greywater is distributed under pressure from small diameter perforated pipes or dripper lines at rates required by the plants.
  • Surface irrigation – Exposed dripper is one form of surface irrigation
  • Spray irrigation systems – these systems are not recommended as they increase the risk of exposure to people. If spray irrigation is used the greywater needs to be treated to a higher level to ensure this risk is minimised. The greywater is distributed under pressure through surface spray devices that should maximize droplet sizes, throw and plume height to minimize water loss through evaporation and maximize plant use of the greywater.

Source: Savewater

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