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Water Scarcity and Home Gray Water Recycling

Water Scarcity and Home Gray Water Recycling

Going green is about doing small things to make big changes. Glitz of media and commercialism most often blinds us to the important realities, entangling us in wasteful consumptive behavior. Our planet has only finite resources, and there’s a limit to what it can offer. The most precious gift it has for us is clean, clear, fresh drinking water.

As you read this article, one out of every three people in the world is facing water scarcity. Unless each one of us becomes aware and starts acting now, by 2030 more than half of the world’s population will not have access to clean drinking water. It is a crisis in the offing that threatens to become the mother of all crises, from which there will be no possible bail out.

Water is a Scarce Resource

When we open a faucet to fill a glass of clear bubbling water, we seldom think about the fact that Earth has only a finite amount of water. There is no new water getting into the system since the age of dinosaurs or even before that. Seven billion people of this planet share what was shared by 300 million people in the age of Christ. World’s population quadrupled in the twentieth century, but its water consumption increased 9 times. Although technically the amount of water remains constant in world, the rate of its replenishment to usable state lags far behind its rate of consumption.

Water scarcity affects areas as diverse as China, Australia, India, Indonesia and California. Strategists are predicting that in future, security will be threatened by water conflicts, even water wars.

Water Scarcity and the USA

Closer to home, the situation is no different. USEPA has predicted that by 2015, more than 36 states will face water shortages. The situation is particularly serious in Texas and California. It is estimated that by 2020, California will be facing a water shortage equal to its total urban consumption today. Texas is already drying up, with sprawling level D4 or ‘exceptional draughts. The fast vanishing Lake Meade in the South West, the source of water supply to Las Vegas, is predicted to dry up in the next 4 to 10 years. Other zones under pressure are Florida, Georgia, the Midwest and upstate New York. The situation may be worse than it seems with the rate at which we are wasting this vital resource.


This may be the situation in 2050 if we do nothing. Image Credit

Americans are the heaviest water wasters in the world. On the average, a person in the United States uses more than 150 gallons water per day in drinking, washing, sanitation and cooking. How much water do you think a person in Switzerland uses? It’s less than 30 gallons per day. In China it’s 22 gallons and in poorer countries, less than 10 gallons per person per day.  We also use A grade drinkable water to irrigate landscapes, wasting a resource that may be worth more than diamonds in future if we keep squandering it away like this. The problem is worse in arid zones, putting more stress on an already dwindling water supply.

Saving Water to Save Our Future

There are inexpensive things we can easily do to save this precious natural resource for ourselves and our future generations.

Fix a Faucet: Even a minor leak of a few drops per minute can waste many gallons of water over days and weeks. Showers and toilet flushing consume the most amount of water. Replacing the taps, shower head and flushing tank with low flow fixtures can save up to 20,000 gallons per year per household. It may seem idealistic, but if every American home installed low flow fixtures, we can save 2 trillion gallons of water per year. This does, however, give us an idea about the power of doing small things for saving an increasingly scarce and absolutely vital resource.

Recycle Gray Water: Are you are still watering your lawn with potable water? You may not feel so proud of your beautiful flower beds if you knew that a child dies every 20 seconds from lack of clean drinking water. You can easily recycle gray water and use it for irrigating your landscape. You will be saving water for our future generations, and some money too. Going green starts from you!

Gray water is the waste water from all other sources than the toilet. That includes kitchen sink, laundry, bathing and washing. Using some simple techniques, you can reuse gray water for watering plants and grass; and if you feel guilty when you let clean drinking water go down your toilet, you can also use gray water for flushing.

An Aesthetic and Simple way to reuse Gray Water. Image Credit


Recycling Gray water for Home Garden: It is not like building a space rocket at all. It is infinitely simpler. Following a few practical tips, you can easily save the amount of water you use to water your lawn or landscape.

  1. Use only gray water from shower, bathroom sink and laundry. Do not use waste water from kitchen. It has food particles which may turn into pathogens. Never use black water from toilet.
  2. Make an estimate of how much gray water you can divert and how much you require. Try not to end up flooding your lawn.
  3. Make sure you check your State laws about gray water reuse. Most states allow it for irrigation purpose; however, there may be limitations. For instance, California State law requires that gray water supply system is buried under mulch or earth by at least 2 inches.
  4. A basic gray water recycling system diverts the water from your shower or washing machine to your landscape. You can use a drainage pipe that joins your shower drain to your garden watering system. Be careful to keep the delivery end lower than the inlet by a couple of inches. You can use a valve to control gray water supply and a distribution head to divert water to different areas of your landscape. A very practical and ingenious gray water reuse system can use water from your washing machine to irrigate your orchard.
  5. If you want to go for a gray water treatment system, there are many options available in the market. It is advisable to seek professional help if you need major changes in your plumbing.  Nevertheless, simpler is better and you can always do some limited treatment yourself by installing a filter to strain out hair and lint. If it is only gray water from the bath or the laundry, it doesn’t require much treatment anyway.


  1. Don’t spray gray water through sprinklers. Gray water spray may be harmful for health. Use subsoil, flood or drip irrigation complying with the State regulations.
  2. Don’t use gray water on root vegetables like beet, radish, carrot etc. There may be contaminants that seep into the vegetables.
  3. Don’t use gray water for pets, washing your car or any other purpose than irrigation. Although it may be used for toilet flushing in some states, that may require dual plumbing, a storage and some basic treatment.
  4. Gray water is usually alkaline and may be harmful to certain plants. You may like to consult the local nursery guy. Never put down acids or other harsh cleaning chemicals down the drain as these may kill your plants.

If recycle water just from the washing machine, you can save at least 5000 gallons in a year (for just 4 wash cycles per week on a front loading model). It may not seem like much to you today, but it is equivalent to a large tanker full of water, which may be worth a million dollars just 50 years from now!

You’ll also be returning this amount of water back to the nature through plants.



More resources:

Recycling Gray Water for Home Gardens

Gray Water Recycling System Under $ 100

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