Grey water - great in drought

2016-11-30 06:00
Grey water also contains nutrients derived from the residues and soaps in the water, which feed and nourish the soil to produce lush plants. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Grey water also contains nutrients derived from the residues and soaps in the water, which feed and nourish the soil to produce lush plants. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

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GREY water is the recycling of bath, shower, hand basin and laundry water, which can then be used to irrigate your garden.

This is especially relevant for South Africans as they have to contend with low rainfall, water shortages and water restrictions. By reusing bath and laundry water, homeowners can keep their gardens looking healthy — even in times of drought — without spending an extra cent on their water bill.

Plus, grey water also contains nutrients derived from the residues and soaps in the water, which feed and nourish the soil to produce lush plants.

However, do not use water waste from the kitchen sink as this contains fat content that will damage your garden.

Grey water systems

A grey water system can be as simple as using a bucket to carry the waste water outside, or as complicated as having the grey water piped directly outside using a tank and pump.

According to Water Wise, a simple bucket system can be used to transport the grey water by hand from the bathroom to garden. It is the cheapest system, but is inconvenient and increases the possibility of contact and contamination between the grey water and people carrying the bucket.

Homeowners can also make one themselves by connecting a pipe from the outlet of their bathroom to a hose pipe.

Alternatively, homeowners can invest in a system that connects the grey water to the outlet pipes of the bathroom where the grey water will be collected or stored in a tank. The water will run through a hair and lint filter first before it is pumped out through irrigation pipes to the garden.

With any grey water system, it is important that you use “garden-friendly” products and detergents that do not contain any salts, boron or bleach.

If you intend on using the water to feed a vegetable garden, it is important that the system has a filter.

How much does a grey water system cost?

According to Erika Theron from Rainwater Harvesting, a small, entry-level system that works instantly (no storage) could cost around R13 000 (fully installed), while a system that offers European bathing filtration standards could cost R110 000 or more. She says in between these there are different options that homeowners can choose from.

Grey water tolerant plants

In general, tough drought-tolerant plants will do best with grey water irrigation watering.

Generally, grey water is alkaline, so avoid using it on plants like azaleas, begonias, gardenias, hibiscus, camellias and ferns, fynbos and proteas.

Plants that flourish from grey water include olives, rosemary, bougainvillea, lavender, Cape honeysuckle, Italian cypress, bearded iris and petunias.

To help these plants thrive, occasionally flush the plants with a bit of rainwater or tap water to remove the residue from the grey water.

Grey water reuse guidelines

Homeowners who’d like to use grey water in their gardens should be aware of the hygiene factors. Because grey water is not fresh, homeowners should apply the following:

• Use the grey water within 24 hours. Storing the water any longer will result in a bad odour.

• Minimise contact with grey water.

• Use non-toxic cleaning agents and products where possible.

• Do not allow your grey water to pool on the surface of the soil. Standing water will provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

• Do not use water from the kitchen or toilet.

• Do not use laundry water that has been used to wash nappies.

• Do not allow children or pets to drink or play in grey water.

• Do not let it run into the swimming pool.

• Do not use grey water if a family member or someone on the property has an infectious illness.

— Property24.

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