Invent Civil

Civil Engineering news, technology, and opinions

01 Oct, 2008

DIY Graywater Irrigation

Posted by: Skylar In: wastewater

A reporter from the L.A. Times published an article called “Gray water: A do-it-yourselfer installs a rerouting system” about her experience of routing her washing machine gray water through to her lawn & garden.  It’s an interesting read, and should be helpful for those considering a similar system of their own.  The largest caveat of course, is that it’s technically against most municipal codes to route any untreated wastewater (including gray water) through to your lawn.  The author admits this briefly within the article:

The big issue for the state is public health. Releasing untreated water into a landscape may spread bacteria and make humans and animals sick. That’s why the code requires gray water systems to be installed underground.

Although none of the gray water advocates or L.A. County health officials I spoke with for this column are aware of any incidents of gray water-induced sickness, health concerns are the main reason why so few permitted gray water systems exist in the state — and why most people install them without permits, as I did.

This code is present for a good reason – contamination can happen quite easily if the resident is not careful.  People are not used to watching what goes down the drain, and there’s a large risk involved with gray water irrigation systems.  If someone forgets about the gray water irrigation and sends something harmful down the drain, it could become a very big problem.  Of course, water from a washing machine is generally not dangerous for the environment, however there is the possibility of contamination from other gray water sources like showers and sinks.

That said, a properly functioning gray water system can be a wonderful way to conserve water, particularly in the southern US where water is more scarce.  Some states (ie. New Mexico) allow a certain amount of gray water to be used for irrigation each day, while some will not allow any gray water reuse without a permit.

Municipal guidelines have been set in place for a reason.  We need to make sure that we are not contaminating the water around us through our efforts to conserve that very same water.

So go ahead with the gray water irrigation, but make sure you do it properly.

[article via WaterWired]

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