Image from Oasis Design

With an oppressive drought and sweeping new water restrictions, many of us are asking: What more can we do to save water?

Greywater, diverting water from sinks, showers, or laundry to hydrate the garden (or flush toilets), is coming into sharp focus as a viable option, and we couldn't be happier. Greywater systems can reuse 50–80% of a household's water use. We are desperate for this type of conservation.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Know the rulesCalifornia drastically rewrote its code in 2010, making it much easier to implement greywater systems without a permit. Since code doesn't make for fun reading, Oasis Design has a great breakdown on what is now permissible with and without permitting.

Keep it simpleA greywater system can be as simple as catching the flow of a warming shower into a bucket rather than letting it wash down the drain. If you're adding detergent into the mix, be sure to use one that is compatible with a greywater system. I love this list from Berkeley's Ecology Center. In addition to Oasis Design (who literally wrote the book—er, DVD—on Laundry to Landscape), Greywater Action is a wealth of easy-to-follow resources.

Skip the veggie gardensVeggie gardens thrive on drip irrigation (which also saves water). Drip systems are incompatible with greywater (greywater needs to move through larger pipes to avoid clogs). There is also a chance of bacteria from greywater making you sick if its still on the veggies when you eat them. So stick to drip for the edible garden and use greywater for the ornamental landscape.

Photograph by Jennifer Cheung for Sunset Magazine

Think big

Hire a pro for your remodel. Architects, like Jeremy Levine of LA, incorporate greywater systems in almost every house/garden they design. That garden up above? That’s Levine’s own backyard, watered with 100% grey water. Between kitchen sink, bathroom sink, and the shower, Levine diverts 30 gallons of water each day for garden irrigation. Here's his behind-the-scenes filter and pump:

Photograph by Jennifer Cheung for Sunset Magazine




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