We offer greywater consulting and education nationwide. We specialize in designing and implementing greywater retrofits for existing homes, as well as design and consulting for new construction. Check below for a detailed (yet simple!) presentation, helpful links, and the questions (FAQs) we get so often we could scream.
Greywater 101: A presentation by Elemental Design/Build
More links & info
- Greywater Action is a national leader in greywater education and research, and their website is a wealth of greywater information.
Does greywater include all household wastewater? Greywater includes household laundry, sink, and bath or shower water. It does not include toilet or “black” water. In some states, kitchen sink and dishwasher water are considered black water, though in Oregon, these can be considered greywater with adequate filtration.
If I install a greywater system, can I turn it off and on? By Oregon law, all greywater systems must have a 3-way valve that allows you to switch between directing water to your yard or back to the sewer.
Do greywater systems have to be complicated and expensive to install and maintain? Absolutely not! Though there are several types of systems out there (50 shades, if you will) we recommend simple, time-tested, research-proven systems that tend to be less expensive and more reliable than their more complicated counterparts.
What permits do I need to get? The state of Oregon requires a $90 permit for all greywater systems, though a single permit will cover separate systems on the same property. There is a $40 annual fee, which can be waived if you submit a simple report to DEQ. The City of Ashland does not require permits for Laundry to Landscape systems, but does require a plumbing permit for shower and sink systems, since these require cutting into a house’s existing drain pipes.
Do greywater systems require storage tanks? In most cases, the best systems are passive draining and don’t require tanks or pumps, which can be expensive, and create odors if they malfunction. Pumps, tanks, and filtration are sometimes used if the slope of a site requires it, or if the owner wishes to invest in irrigating plants that require specialized irrigation systems, such as lawns.
How do “passive” greywater systems work? These systems drain water from your house to subsurface tubing in your yard. The number of discharge outlets and size of their drainage fields is determined by how much greywater you produce and how well your soil absorbs water. Greywater flows out of the irrigation tubing and into 12” deep bark-filled “mulch basins” located near the root zones of the vegetation to be irrigated. Oregon law requires that you plant enough vegetation to “evapotranspirate” your full greywater load.
What is a “Laundry-to-Landscape” system? Since washing machines already pump their own water into a drain pipe, and you can pull their drainhoses out of the drain pipe without cutting into a house’s plumbing, they are fun, cheap, and logical places to get started with greywater. Though there are several types of “L2Ls”, a common and legal system includes a 3-way valve above your washer, a 1″ pipe through your exterior wall, and a buried irrigation system.
Do I have to use special soaps? Care must be taken that all soaps be biodegradable and free of salts and borons, which can accumulate in the soil and damage plants. Acid-loving plants like blueberries or azaleas require the use of a pH-neutral soap and therefore fit best with laundry to landscape systems, where a pH-neutral detergent can be used exclusively (“Ecos” is available locally).
Is greywater hard to install yourself? Skilled DIYers can get going after a consultation, but most folks will want to hire an installer or attend a hands on workshop. It isn’t hard to put in a greywater system, but it’s also not hard to do it wrong, so we suggest getting help!