How A South Bay Family Uses A Hose (Yes, A Hose!) To 'Save' 4,600 Gallons of Water Per Year

A very simple "gray-water" system recycles and diverts the family's laundry water to irrigate trees.

Photo: Anita Martinz/Wikimedia.
Photo: Anita Martinz/Wikimedia.
By Regan Ryan Hunt

A few years back after learning how much energy is required to transport and clean dirty water, I asked my father-in-law to create a very simple system which diverts our dirty laundry water out into our yard to water our trees. 

We bought all of the supplies - additional hose (to reach out the window above our washing machine) electrical tape, spigot and garbage can - at Home Depot for about $20.      

Since that time, we have not watered our trees with "regular" water at all which saves us both time and money. We use all earth friendly cleaning products in our home as well as mild biodegradable detergents (ECOS brand from Costco), so minimal - if any - chemicals reach the trees. 

The garbage can captures the water exiting the washing machine. The attached hose is rotated to the seven different trees we planted last year. (Our gray water hose doesn't reach one tree and even with regular watering it is still visibly smaller than the ones that are "fed" by our gray water.)     

There is a ledge that the garbage can sits on. It is a recycled part of a stage that my husband made for his band and no longer used. I painted it purple to add some funk and interest to the back yard. The ledge helps gravity pull the water out of the garbage can and through the hose.      

Quick tip: Remember to be sure to put the hose out the window before you start your load of laundry. Otherwise, you may end up with a flooded laundry room as I once did!     

Before installing the gray water system, we bought a new energy and water efficient washing machine. We decided not to buy a dryer and instead used the money to get the most efficient washer available. 

So our laundry is fairly green as we have not used anything but our "solar" drier for close to two years. Our clothes smell amazing, and we love this small contribution to our precious planet. 

With two busy boys who love to play in the dirt, our washing machine stays pretty busy. But I don't feel so bad knowing that the water is reused on the trees. 

This article was originally published in the SJ Mercury News on August 9, 2008. Due to the current water crisis I thought that putting it into the local papers could help our water shortage. Since we installed this system in 2006 we estimated that we have recycled over 4,600 gallons of water per year. That adds up to over 41,400 of "reclaimed" water.


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