Fancy a straightforward and effective way of doing your bit for the environment? Thought so – here’s why many homeowners are turning to greywater recycling...
It’s all pretty simple – greywater is the wastewater that comes from showers, baths, sinks, washing machines and dishwashers, and typically makes up between 50-80% of a household’s total waste water.
Greywater, unlike blackwater that comes into contact with human waste, is easy to treat and recycle, and if done so properly can save approximately 70 litres of drinking water per person per day in domestic households. You can re-use greywater to flush toilets, wash clothes or water the garden.
And if your house happens to be metered, recycling greywater greatly reduces the volume of water you use and will therefore cut those water bills.
How it works
There are various ways to recycle greywater. At the most basic end of the scale, you can use ‘direct use systems’. These include diverting water directly from the bath or sink using a hand siphon pump such as a DroughtBuster, or fitting a valve to the external waste pipe to direct it into a water butt, although this water should be used quickly before harmful bacteria begins to breed.
You could also try a ‘biological system’ such as a a sand filter that removes large particles from the water before filtering it through a soilbox (for more details, visit www.thegreenage.co.uk/tech/greywater-recycling/).
Mechanical or automated systems are also available, with new models constantly being tested across Europe and the United States in this relatively new but growing market.
A number of companies have produced variations of a system that essentially uses a pump to steer water away from a variety of greywater sources such as showers and sinks and into a pump unit. You can then divert the water to wherever you need it, like a toilet cistern or a washing machine. While not taking up too much space, it’s best if you get these systems installed by professional plumbers.
It is also possible to have a small tank installed in your bathroom that stores your bath and shower water and uses it to flush the toilet. You do need to maintain the tank by changing the filter and topping up the disinfectant used to clean the water. Again, it’s best to use a competent plumber, preferably a qualified greywater installer, to set these kinds of systems up.
UK company ReAqua has developed such a system, which costs about £1,300 including installation. For a further £1,000 the company also offers a more complex system that recovers 50% of the heat in greywater, feeding the heat back into your central heating system and consequently reducing energy bills.
Greywater recycling is a major element of creating a sustainable home and it is often easier and cheaper to install such systems as early as possible, which is why some property developers fit greywater systems when building new homes.
Leybourne Chase, a sustainable community set within 57 hectares of landscaping, parks and woodland in West Malling, Kent, is one such example. Due to be completed in 2016, all of the development’s homes will have low water use fittings and appliances, and many will have a greywater recycling system fitted.
New homes at Great Western Park in Didcot, Oxfordshire, and Cambourne in Cambridgeshire are also providing residents with greywater recycling systems as the concept becomes more widespread, and promises to be a major part of UK domestic sustainability in the future.