Saving water the grey way

2011-03-28 00:00

HAVE you ever watched the water draining from the bath and wondered about what it represents: money and precious water resources going, literally, “down the drain”? Using technology available in KwaZulu-Natal, this doesn’t have to be the case as this “grey water” can be recycled (see below).

By installing a grey-water system, families and organisations can recycle water from washing and bathing for use in the garden or toilets. “Doing this means not only saving money, but also removing this water from the sewage treatment streams, thus alleviating pressure on waste water works and allowing them to treat just ‘black water’ or waste water from toilet systems,” said Guy Jubber of Clevergreen Environmental Systems in Durban, a franchise of Water Rhapsody water conservation systems. Water Rhapsody systems were developed in Cape Town and have won a World Wildlife Fund Green Trust award for product innovation in water conservation.

“The first rule of grey water is that you may not store it unless the storage tank is fitted with a purification system to clean the water. This means the first decision property owners need to make is what they want to do with grey water: irrigate lawns and gardens or use it to flush toilets, or both. If it’s only for the garden, water is first piped from the bathroom and laundry outlet pipes into an underground tank. The system switches on automatically and pumps the water from there as soon as about 35 ℓ is accumulated. Clevergreen supplies all this piping as well as irrigation pipes to a hose and sprinkler system in the garden, plus the pump. The pump contains a filter device consisting of two nylon devices that never need to be replaced. An overflow is also provided which is connected to the sewer system, in case of overflows.” Grey water systems can also be combined with rainwater systems.

To use grey water for toilet cisterns requires a system to digest the food content of the water and then filter it. Storage tanks contain a flocculent which prepares the water for use in cisterns by removing the odour and any sediment. Once the water is clarified in this way, it is ready for reuse in conventional cisterns to flush toilets.

Clevergreen has installed grey water systems for private homes throughout the province, including Pietermaritzburg, Durban, and the north coast. It can also install larger systems for commercial or industrial plants and has completed installations for Wits University in Johannesburg, the Old Mutual buildings in Pinelands, Cape Town, and the University of Cape Town.

WHAT IS GREY WATER?

GREY water is the waste water generated by showers, basins, baths and laundry. It does not include toilet waste water or kitchen waste water, eg water from dishwashers or washing up by hand. Grey water can be captured and used to water gardens or fill cisterns to flush toilets. When harvesting grey water, it is important to use low or phosphate-free washing powders for laundry and not to use fabric softeners or sodium hypochlorite cleaning solutions, eg Jik to avoid harm to plants or animals. Clevergreen recommends Ecosoft washing powder as an environmentally friendly option because it is phosphate-free. Waste water from dishwashers must go into sewers because dishwashing detergent is very abrasive. Grey water produces a faint odour while it’s being dispersed onto a garden, but the odour disappears quickly. The cost of a grey water recycling system depends on the requirements of the installation, but vary between R7 800 and R11 800. The average time it takes for the cost of a domestic system to be amortised is three to five years.

– www.clevergreen.co.za

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