MY 3 year old asian pear tree produced its first large crop of fruit the season it was irrigated with laundry greywater.
This morning’s September rains signaled an end to another hot, dry summer in southern Oregon, and the first season of greywater irrigation in my yard. As my household enjoys the abundant plums and pears we grew with laundry water this year, I’m reflecting on the growth of greywater in my life, in my community, and across the nation.
With news of greywater legalization in Colorado, greywater is now somewhere in between gay marriage and marijuana in terms of state-level legality. Of course, one day we’ll look back and wonder why we ever thought it was not only a good idea – but the law – to sully perfectly clean water with our waste, than treat it with chemicals and put it back into our rivers. But for now let’s celebrate the small victories: Colorado joins Oregon, California, Washington, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico as places where people can reasonably re-use their own greywater without becoming outlaws!
I’m also pleased to report that this summer I graduated to the top ranks of the greywater installers among my certifying organization – Greywater Action. I’m now one of three Greywater Associates nationwide, and the only one doing business outside of California. Being a Greywater Associate means that in addition to my certification I’ve completed and received feedback on a minimum of five systems professionally, that I’m actively collaborating with Greywater Action, and that I’m working to ease permitting barriers and provide education about greywater systems in my local area.
Greywater-irrigated plum tree in Ashland, Oregon.
As my experience with integrating greywater into ecological designs and job sites grows, I’m excited to be doing more collaborative education and consulting. In addition to reaching local networks, I’ve enjoyed connecting with folks around the state and the country who want to include greywater in their larger classes and workshops. On the ground here in southern Oregon, I’m seeing such a need for skill building, not just for folks who want to learn and implement DIY progressive water design, but also for all the plumbers and contractors whose clients are asking for greywater. Most tradespeople at this point have little experience with alternative water systems, and also don’t have a lot of extra time and energy to devote to learning a new craft. It’s fulfilling for me to be able to step in and offer the answers clients are looking for, and help interweave this simple, fun solution into peoples homes and lives.
Eating an asian pear irrigated with greywater from my washing machine.
Greywater, of course, is one element of ecological design – a method of creating human habitat in keeping with nature’s principles. I encourage folks to see their own homes and yards not just as habitat for people and wildlife, but also as fertile ground for growing a new relationship between humans and nature. Like the laws that make greywater illegal in most of our country, we’ve inherited a lot of ingrained patterns in our built and legal environments that make it very difficult to live sustainably, equitably, and regeneratively in our communities. The good news is, we’re changing this! Ecological design, permaculture, and the constellation of elements that they encompass are gaining ground everyday. Here’s to a great growing season for greywater – may we continue to water our species’ good seeds by working together to change the world.