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Person using gray water to wash laundry.

How Upcycling Graywater Can Save the Environment & Your Money

Upcycling graywater is a new practice sweeping across eco-conscious and budget-friendly households. But why use the same water for washing laundry and watering your plants? Read on to learn about graywater, how to properly recycle it, and what regulations to keep in mind while setting up your own system.

What Is Graywater?

While the spellings may vary, greywater, graywater, grey water and gray water all mean the same thing—any domestic wastewater produced, other than sewage. Riding the line between clean white water and non-sanitary blackwater, graywater is a valuable resource that can serve many uses when recycled properly.

The difference between white, gray and blackwater has to do with organic loading, which is based on the quality of the water source. This quality is determined by the amount of organic material (such as dirt and minerals) added to a body of water that will breakdown within an environment.

Graywater earns its name because it contains traces of dirt, good, grease, hair, and certain household cleaning products. However, this water is still clean enough to be used again! Since the average person generates upwards of 40 gallons of graywater each day, there’s a great opportunity to recycle it and save on water bills.

How to Recycle Graywater Through Treatment

By reusing or upcycling graywater, you only pay once for water—from showering to keeping your lawn lush and green. But the largest savings comes from lowering your septic tank maintenance and reducing your overall demand for potable water. When you factor in local climate conditions and household use, you can determine just how much water is saved.

For now, most states require graywater to be treated as carefully as blackwater. This means it must run through a separate purification system to be thoroughly clean. Any system used to purify graywater should be as simple as possible, as it increases the longevity of the system.

The most common graywater recycling system in households is a laundry-to-landscape system. It works by pumping used water from the washing machine to a bin or basin outside the home. Oftentimes, this water runs through a mulch basin; mulch keeps soil moist around plants and acts as a filter for unnecessary solids. Besides watering your landscaping, this setup is relatively inexpensive to build and maintain.

If you’re a DIY type, you can pick up parts and labor for a laundry-to-landscape system for around $100. Another option is paying approximately $500 for a professional installation, although this cost is offset fairly quickly. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, it will take two-and-a-half to six years to offset your system’s costs.

Legal Restrictions for Upcycling Graywater

You may have heard the term “water rights” when discussing graywater and water reclamation. While we’re accustomed to having water at our disposal every moment of the day, there are legalities for water use in many parts of the country. If you live in the eastern or western half of the United States, the Riparian Doctrine or Prior Appropriation Doctrine may govern your water rights and ability to recycle graywater.

At our office location in Colorado, a 2013 state bill allowed graywater to be used at several levels. The Colorado House Bill 13-1044 says graywater can be used to flush toilets and irrigate landscapes for residential, multi-residential, and commercial locations. Other states like Nebraska, New Mexico, and Wyoming, have similar regulations.

No matter where you live, it’s important to look into state regulations before putting your own upcycling system together. Take a look at the specific state rules and browse through research about water recycling on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website for more information. Now is the perfect time to try graywater recycling to take a step towards saving money—and the environment.

What About Water Damage?

Water damage can be caused by a variety of sources, including leaking appliances, building maintenance issues, and bad weather. We offer an initial water damage assessment in our “one hour or less” response time. We provide services for water leak detection, water damage restoration, and mold removal. If you have a water cleanup emergency, give us a call. We work directly with your insurance.

We service the following locations:

Colorado cities of Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley, call us at 970-581-4498.

Wyoming cities of Laramie and Cheyenne, call us at 970-581-4498.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, call us at 505-250-6500.