Grey water is the waste water that flows into drains from our sinks, showers and baths. The water usually contains residues from soap and detergents, therefore it is not dirty, just not as clean as water that comes out of the tap, and it is not fit for drinking. However, grey water can be put to other uses around the home and garden.
Grey water is normally only used in times of drought, when gardeners use alternatives to watering their plants with mains water. However, grey water is becoming increasingly popular as a permanent alternative to using mains water, and it is a good option for those seeking to disconnect from mains water altogether.
When using grey water it is important to ensure it contains only organic, environmentally friendly and biodegradable products. Therefore you should wash your hands, clothes, body and dishes with natural products. This will prevent any potentially harmful chemicals from spilling on to your plants and leaching into local rivers and streams.
What’s more, grey water from the kitchen can contain food residues, grease and fat (if you use a lot of fat, why not tip it into an old yoghurt pot with a handful of seeds to make fat cakes for the birds, rather than pour it down the sink?). Water from washing machines and dishwashers may contain nitrogen and phosphorous that can lead to the growth of algae. Therefore you should dilute grey water from these sources with rain or mains water.
How to Use Grey Water
Grey water is most commonly used in the garden in times of drought. A washing up bowl containing dish water can be tipped around the roots of plants or you could connect your down pipe to a water butt or holding tank and water the whole garden with water from your shower and bath. You can even use grey water to water your fruit and vegetable plants, however, as you will eventually be eating the fruit and vegetables that grow on the plants, you may wish to dilute the grey water with rain water first.
Grey water can also be used to wash your car, providing it doesn’t contain food or greasy residues. If you have out buildings, you can use grey water to wash down windows and floors. However, if you keep animals you must never allow them to drink grey water. Even if you only use green and biodegradable products, the water can still be potentially harmful if it is consumed.
Grey Water from Appliances
If you can access the pipes, you may be able to re-direct water from your washing machine and dishwasher into a water butt or holding tank. As with grey water from your sinks, bath and shower, ensure the products you use in your washing machine and dishwasher are environmentally friendly. However, it is important not to leave the water in store for too long, as it may start to smell and go rancid.
Using grey water is a great alternative to using mains water. It is better for the environment, as it will save consumption of water, however, if you use it in your garden you should take care to use environmentally friendly products, to avoid contaminating your garden and local streams and rivers.