Greywater Systems – L2L (Laundry to Landscape)

by Linda Lenore on July 6, 2011

Yesterday I attended the Build It Green South Bay Guild meeting held in Mountain View where I learned about Greywater Systems for L2L - Laundry to Landscapes. A greywater system can take the waste water from any sink, shower or laundry to be used for watering gardens and landscaping. Blackwater systems take the wastage from toilets and repurposes it - at least that is my understanding.

Having paid my water bill today - and having it jump up still more as the summer gets warmer, the days longer and the landscape more thirsty - I dreamed again of ways I could possibly implement a system into our lives. We've done several things to reduce our landscape water needs as well as strategically plan for future plantings.

For instance, we removed 6 lawns from the property and used a small patch of Astro turf for the front parkway. Drip irrigation has been installed instead of using rainbird-type over sprayers. Yet the water needs continue.

A system called "Geoflow" Subsurface Drip Systems was discussed at length. Their literature says, "Geoflow's subsurface drip systems solve many of the problems that plague traditional methods of wastewater dispersal. Since the effluent is dispersed underground where it is absorbed in the biologically active soil layer, there is no surface contamination, no ponding, no run-off, no bad smells."

Let me explain briefly what I heard that struck me.

First, the pipes are placed 3"-4" below the soil. This allows water to reach the roots where it is needed. It doesn't evaporate in the heat because it is underground - not exposed to air. By being underground, it doesn't water the weeds, which is the only thing growing in the first 3" of soil.

This alone would have made me a believer as I was out again early this morning pulling weeds. We live on a corner lot. There is an abundance of areas for weeds to grow. I pull weeds. The birds and wind repopulate the ground. We do this dance endlessly!

Second, I would love to take my laundry wastewater to water plants. I tried it once with dismal results. Actually it was dish water that I poured on my perennials. I watched them fry!

It turns out - even though I use bio-degradible, eco-friendly products - there are salts in these products making them too alkaline for the plants. The water needs to be diluted, mixed and then allowed to settle particulates before using. No wonder those poor plants died!

There are still costs to consider and codes to comply with. Yet it appears many of the challenges we faced in previous remodels have been solved - some by new systems, some by new knowledge and some by new laws.

I'm going to see if we can't include a greywater system into the next phase of our green remodel. After all, the cost to do it will offset the cost of water in short order.

It will also help the planet grow and rebuild itself. The dirt I get on my clothes, while pulling the last few weeds the rain sprouts, will wind up as part of  the greywater and then leeched back into the soil from whence it came.

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