Another book down! This time it is ‘Create an Oasis with Greywater’ by Art Ludwig. This is the book on greywater.
Let’s start with a quick little quote from the book about what greywater is.
“Any wastewater generated in the home, except water from toilets, is called greywater. Dish, shower, sink, and laundry greywater comprise 50-80% of residential ‘wastewater.’ Greywater may be reused for other purposes, especially landscape irrigation.”
That’s greywater, how much you have, and what to do with it in a nutshell.
The book goes into detail on “…how to choose, build, and use 20 types of residential greywater reuse systems in just about any context: urban, rural, or village. It explains how you can put together a simple greywater system in an afternoon for under $40. It also includes information for taking your greywater reuse to the next performance level.”
Just picking up this book and quickly flipping through the pages gives you a real sense of how information rich it is. Tonnes of nice pictures/drawings/schematics and every page is full; no wasted paper on this book! Not wasting paper is always good. 🙂
This book starts off, like any good information/diy book should, with the basics of what is it, what you can do with it, why use it, and when not to use it. Gets you off on the right foot, before getting into the outlining of a goal for, and assessment of, your site. Lots of good stuff here about assessing soil percolation, amount of greywater actually coming out of the house, landscape slope, and treatment/disposal area. Everything you would want to make sure you knew before installing a greywater system.
Like most things in permaculture, greywater is super site specific and there is a lot of ‘it depends’. Art makes it pretty clear throughout the book that there are “no universal principles” to greywater. Each situation is different and you have to evaluate your situation before coming up with a design that works for you.
The section on collection plumbing is quite good, outlining everything you would want to take into consideration when collecting the greywater from your house. A nice bit about not squandering any fall so you have maximum height for gravity feeding the greywater to your desired spots outside. This section has a nice table with a list of parts required and information relating to those parts like environmental impact.
One of the best aspects of this book is how sections for greywater basics are highlighted. You can just skip to all the highlighted parts, read those and have all the necessary information to design, build, and maintain a simple greywater system. This leaves about half of the book for optional reading. So if reading and learning all the details about more complicated systems isn’t your thing, no problem, this book has you covered.
An essential part of the ‘greywater basics’ is greywater in the landscape. What to do with it when you don’t need it, preserving and monitoring soil quality, plants for greywater reuse and for greywater disposal/treatment, and mulch. These are all key things to know about when using greywater. Mulch seems to be the king component to use at the area of dispersion to prevent people/animals from getting into the greywater and for treating the water with beneficial bacteria. Some nice pictures for making mulch basins around trees and using swales.
Next is this sweet ‘system selection chart’ where all the different systems are listed under a heading of simple systems or more complex systems. This table has all sorts of info on the different systems to choose from like it’s overall score in optimum application, if it is proven or not, when was it developed, ease of construction and use, greywater sources utilized, cost range, and what pages to read to learn more. Definitely a nice table of information.
The next two chapters deal with the systems listed in the previous chart, starting with the simple ones and then moving on to the more complex ones. They start off as simple as a drain from your sink/washer/shower/whatever out the wall to a mulch basin. Quick and simple alright! The complex systems go into such things as constructed wetlands and automated sand filtration to subsurface emitters. Way more complicated, but it’s all there for you to learn about.
Now Art gets seriously into describing his favourite system set up, ‘the branched drain design’. Basically a gravity feed system that collects the greywater from the house and then splits the load to multiple destinations. This is the most popular set up I guess and it makes sense. Lots of detail here on the concept and the actual design. He says these two chapters used to be in a separate book, but now they are made available here because they are so popular and excellent.
Overall this book is really good! My only problem, which isn’t really a problem, is that I live in a climate where it freezes for most of the year, so a lot of the techniques discussed in this book don’t really apply to me, or only during the summer months anyway. He does talk about cold climates though, so it’s not as if he doesn’t mention them. Basically if it freezes hard where you live, you can bury your greywater lines below the frost line for winter use, or build a green house to treat the greywater in. In my opinion, an earth sheltered greenhouse would be the way to go, all decked out to specifically treat greywater.
If you find this subject interesting at all, go check out this book. This is the book on the subject and you won’t be disappointed, even if you live in a cold climate. Here is a link to the author’s page.