Once is Never Enough, Use it Twice
by Doug Pushard
There are numerous ways to make your water go further these days. One easy but often overlooked method to cut your water bill is to use your water twice. Unlike electricity, water can be reused over and over again.
Installing a greywater system is one way to stretch your gallons. These simple systems take the water you use in your bathroom faucets and laundry and send it to your yard. The water is used in both your house and yard, but you are only billed for it once!
Greywater is bathroom sink, showers, tubs and clothes washer water as opposed to kitchen sink and toilet water, which is often referred to as black water. Greywater systems can in a lot of cases be easily retrofitted to intercept a few of these water sources and reused.
In New Mexico and Arizona, installing a greywater system does not require a permit for private residential greywater systems that discharge less than 250 gallons per day for use onsite for gardening, composting or landscaping irrigation. There are a few important restrictions: it can not be stored for more than 24 hours; it should not be used in above ground spray irrigation systems; and does not contain hazardous chemicals derived from activities such as cleaning car parts, washing greasy or oily rags or disposing of waste solutions from home photo labs or other home occupational activities.
Another unique approach is to reuse your bathroom faucet water to flush your toilet. These simple faucet to toilet water reuse systems store the water you use to wash your hands in the bathroom and send it to the toilet tank instead of down the drain. Now when you flush, you aren’t pouring fresh, clean, expensive drinking water down your toilet. Once installed these systems are totally invisible and save water everytime you flush.
For those of you with water filtration systems that require a backwash, such as ultra-filtration or reverse osmosis systems, you can plumb the backwash so that the water goes to the landscape instead of down the drain. I often see systems in our area that purify well water and then send the backwash straight to the septic system. Arguably this may be considered using it twice; however, most septic systems are plumbed to drain far away from the house and not in an area where landscaping is either sought or required.
Another approach for these systems is to plumb the backwash to a rainwater tank as opposed to the septic system. Most rainwater catchment systems can handle water with some amount of fine particulates. Irrigation systems the typical use of rainwater always have a screen filter to remove large particulates.
There are many ways to save water. Conserving is one and reusing it is another. Given that we live in an area prone to drought, it just makes sense to save every way we can and using water twice is one great way to stretch this precious resource even further.