Tips for using ‘grey water’ in the garden

2016-02-25 06:00

SOUTH Africa is a semi-arid country that receives an average of 490mm of rain every year. Currently, the country is experiencing a serious water shortage because there is less than 1 000m3 of water available per person per year. This figure will decrease as our population expands, pushing us into a greater water crisis.

Municipal water use, which includes domestic water and water used in the garden, makes up an average of 27% of the total water used in the country. A major component of domestic water consumption is gardening, estimated at 31% to 50% of total household water use.

How can you reduce your water use in the garden?

Using water wise gardening concepts and drought-resistant indigenous plants, along with mulching of soil to preserve soil moisture and efficient irrigation systems and irrigation scheduling will help reduce the amount of water you use in the garden.

You could also use rainwater harvesting and reuse wastewater (grey water) and apply soil improvement process like composting.

Why should I reuse grey water?

There are many reasons why using grey water is beneficial. Firstly, using grey water means using less of the country’s valuable potable water and saving thousands of litres of drinking water. Secondly, this will reduce the impact on natural water resources because you’ve reduced your water consumption. And lastly, you will save money on your water bill.

What is grey water?

Laundry water

Kitchen water

Shower and bath water

Handbasin water

Using grey water in the garden

Grey water should not be used on fynbos or proteas either. In general, tough, drought-tolerant plants will do best with grey-water irrigation.

Grey water is typically alkaline, so avoid using it on acid-loving plants such as azaleas, begonias, gardenias, hibiscus, camellias and ferns. Grey water should not be used on fynbos or proteas either.

Plants watered with grey water will benefit from an occasional flushing of rainwater or tap water to remove any grey-water residue on the plant leaves, especially if you’ve used the “sprayer” system.

Pay attention to what your plants are telling you.

Dry, wilted or curled leaves can be signs of lack of water, while wilted shoot tips or soft plant tissue can mean over-watering.

Examples of plants that thrive on greywater irrigation include olives, rosemary, bougainvillea, lavender, Cape honeysuckle, Italian cypress, bearded iris and petunias.

Tips for grey water use

Using environmentally friendly soaps, detergents and cleaning products will positively improve the quality of your grey water, and be an advantage to your garden.

Also, don’t always irrigate in the same place with grey water. Constantly move the sprinkler watering system in the garden.

How plants benefit from grey water

Grey water contains small amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, which are potential sources of plant nutrients. The soapy nature of grey water can act as a pest repellent too.

Grey water systems

A grey-water system can be very simple. For example, you can use a bucket to carry your bath water outside to water the garden. Or, you can install a state-of-the-art system that does everything for you.

The goal is to find a system that makes maximum use of your greywater, while minimising costs for the purchase, installation and maintenance of your system.

Bucket system

Use a bucket to transport the greywater, by hand, from the bathroom to the garden. It is the cheapest system but may be slightly inconvenient.

DIY pipe system

Connect a pipe from the outlet of your bathroom to a hosepipe. When ready, lay the hosepipe in the part of your garden that needs watering.

Commercial grey-water system

The grey-water system is connected directly to the outlet pipes of the bathroom, and the grey water is collected in a closed storage tank. The grey water is filtered to remove hair and lint.

From the storage tank, the grey water­ is pumped into the irrigation pipes and distributed to the garden.

Health and safety grey-water tips

• Do not use grey water if it contains oil, faeces or urine.

• Only store your grey water for a maximum of 24 hours.

• Don’t let children or pets play in or around grey water.

• Use a nylon stocking or a sock on the end of your drainage hose to filter out lint and hair.

- Property24.

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