The Athens-Clarke County (ACC) Commission voted May 5, 2009 to remove their ban on using gray water for outdoor watering by hand. The Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Public Health defines gray water as “wastewater generated by water-using fixtures and appliances, excluding water closets, urinals, bidets, kitchen sinks and garbage disposals.”
This is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t likely to make a big difference in Athens because of the limitation to hand watering. I can just imagine making several trips between the tub and the backyard to water plants with my toddler’s bath water. That would definitely get old quickly. If you are handy and you have a one-story house with a crawl space, you could run a pipe from the drain line of your tub to the outside of your house. But to use it for hand watering, the pipe would have to be hooked up to a hose and the valve opened before the water is drained from the tub. It would be more logistically complicated for showers. If the limitation to hand watering were removed, it would allow people to install more advanced gray water systems, like Laundry to Landscape.
ACC Public Utilities doesn’t see gray water reuse as a water saving technique. They state that “this use of grey water doesn’t conserve any water - it only reuses water that has been previously used.” I disagree. If you reuse gray water by watering plants in your yard, you conserve the water you would have used from the local water supply for watering these plants. ACC Public Utilities goes on to state “So what can you do with grey water to actually conserve water? Try filling up your toilet tank or bowl with it for use in flushing.” Although I think they undervalue gray water, their suggestion for using it to fill your toilet tanks is good. For an easy way to do this, check out Susan Suarez’ post Sink Water ReUsed.
Athens-Clark County was not unusual in having banned gray water use. Colorado requires a permit for using gray water for landscape watering. Please share information about gray water regulations in your area and your experience with gray water systems.
Check out the following sites and books to help you get started with gray water reuse:
The New Create an Oasis with Greywater by Art Ludwig
Builder’s Greywater Guide by Art Ludwig
Graywater: The Next Wave by Curtis McLamb
*Note: An unfinished version of this article was previously published in error.