In the US alone thousands of gallons of drinking water are used to water gardens and lawns. The alarming rate at which drinking water is misused has caused an awakening in the mind of people. This has led to several households are looking for ways to reduce the amount of water they consume. This article focuses on ways in which household wastewater can be used for gardening. It emphasizes on how to recycle water for gardening indoors and how to purify water for gardening.
Is recycled water safe for plants?
If you live in an independent house there are a number of ways in which you can reuse household water. This includes water from the kitchen, bathroom, washing machine, your aquarium and also the dishwasher.
Reusable household water is known as grey water and it is said to have fewer pathogens as compared to black water which is in no way suitable for gardening. Black water is water that is let into the sewage directly, like water used in toilets or the greasy water from your kitchen sink.
Even though grey water can be used in gardens, it contains about 40% contaminants like soap, detergent, dead skin, hair, and oil. These, when used to water plants, cause damage. They can also cause long-lasting damage to the soil.
Hence, it is important to purify household waste water before using for gardening. The common term used these days to describe a garden that uses grey or household water is called “Wastewater garden”
How to purify water for gardening.
Household waste water used for gardening can be purified in several ways. You can either use DIY methods or go in for a full-fledged purification system. The latter can get a little expensive when it comes to installing individual systems for households.
On the other hand, there are also a number of legal procedures to follow when it comes to installing a purification plant. The permissions to acquire differ from place to place and that could cost you a lot of time and money.
DIY methods on the other hand are such that can be started as a small-scale project and expanded over time. Here is How can we purify waste water at home without special equipment.
# 1 Separation of clean household water
Not all water that is recycled in households needs to be treated. Treating household waste water needs to be done only if the water contains contaminants.
As mentioned in the previous section only 40% of the total household waste water contains contaminants it is important to sort water at source in order to reduce the effort you put in purifying it.
For this, you can simply collect water that is free from contaminants in a separate container at the source.
For example, the water used to rinse out vegetables and fruits can be collected in a container. Same is the case with utensils that you rinse right before use. You can also follow this method while collecting stale water from bottles. if you think about it, we waste a lot of water while waiting for the water in the shower to heat up. This can be collected as well.
When you have all this water collected you can use it directly to water your garden. This reduces the amount of water that needs to be purified or treated.
#2 Filtration of solids from household waste water
Filtering waste water at the source itself makes it simpler to segregate waste water from scraps, especially in the kitchen. The water used to rinse out utensils before putting it into the dishwasher is a good example.
In this, we see that the water has particles of food and grease when these are filtered or strained either at the source of after collection the water can be used for gardening.
There are often question like Can you drain GREY water on the ground? Asked on popular gardening sites.
Questions like these are a good sign for starters that people are actually thinking of reusing household waste water. secondly, it is also indicative of the fact that we do not really know a lot about grey water and its application.
In the next section, we aim at taking the information about how to recycle water for gardening indoors and how to purify water for gardening further. It involves purification methods you can use in your garden.
How do you recycle greywater at home?
Here is how you can construct a natural treatment system for household waste water also known as grey water. If you do not wish to sort water at the source like explained in the previous section.
You can always change the plumbing in a way that greywater flows down a separate drain and enters the purification plant. This is not as complicated as it sounds.
This system can be used in smaller gardens and then tweaked as your garden gets larger. Here is how to purify water for gardening.
The first step to the purification process is altering the plumbing. This can be done on your own if you have knowledge about PVC or you could hire a plumber. The task should not take long. All you need to do is install separators and valves where greywater meets the mainline.
This includes water coming from the shower, bathtub, washing machine, kitchen, dishwasher and other appliances.
After the plumbing is in place all you need to do is install the various components associated with water purification.
The components of a homemade grey water purification system are
- Inspection chamber/ grease trap
- Baffle filter
- Planted gravel filter/ reed bed
- Storage tank
# Inspection chamber/grease trap
This is like a collection unit that collects the household waste water. The first step of how to purify water for gardening is water collection. The modified plumbing in apartments or an external plumbing system drains all the reusable water and that water is collected in a collection chamber.
All the solid waste, like food particles all large floating particles, and everything that can be filtered out stays in this chamber before the water moves on to the next step. The segregation or filtration happens with the help of filtration sieves and the Baffle wall (entrance of the baffle filter).
# Baffle filter
Even after the initial filtration process, there is a lot of solid particles and scum present in grey water that cannot be used. So how to purify water 100% for gardening?
Once the water is in the baffle filter it passes through a number of chambers where the water is treated by anaerobic decomposition. After this treatment process, the water loses most of the solids and the water is fairly purified. This water cannot be used right then as there are a number of components that are still present in the water.
Anaerobic decomposition is the process where organic matter is broken down by micro-organisms. This process is a key factor responsible for the formation of usable gasses that are used as biogas.
Tip: Make sure that there is an outlet to the baffle filter chambers. This will help eliminate odour. Have an external access opening that can be used for maintenance as you will need to clean the chamber from time to time.
# Planted gravel filter or a reed bed
When the water passes through the baffle filter the solid particles are mostly removed after this to purify water for gardening further it needs to pass through the gravel and plant stage. After the solids are broken down, the water is passed through a Planted gravel filter or a reed bed.
This can be done in two ways one you have containers that are filled with gravel and wet land plants or second you create a slope with gravel and reeds.
This method is used to purify the water further. Purification happens in the following ways
The plants absorb the nutrients from the water. This includes soap and other material. These weeds not only help purify the water but you can have a green patch with plants that just grow hydroponically.
Secondly during this process, the pathogens in the water are killed naturally by the antibiotics produced by the roots, the UV exposure and the gravel bed.
Note: The size of the reed bed depends on the volume of water that’s being filtered.
Tip: Prune the reed bed regularly, the last thing you want is a reed bed that is growing gout of control.
# Storage tank
After the water is treated it is finally stored in tanks exposed to UV rays. Water for gardening is used from this tank. The tank helps increase the dissolved oxygen content in the water. It also reduces odour and other pollutants. The pathogens present in water are also removed with UV exposition.
As an added layer you can add fish to the tank or pond depending on the size of your garden. Fish not only keep the water from getting stagnant and breeding insects but also remove the nitrogen and phosphorous from the water. This makes the recycled water easier on plants that are intolerant to both components.
Is it expensive to purify household waste water?
When it comes to recycling and purification of household waste water, cost becomes the major factor. Households across the US do not want to spend loads and loads of money on the installation and upkeep of purification units.
Pumps, collection tanks, plumbing and other equipment will cost a few hundred to thousand dollars, depending on the scale of the plant.
If cost is a factor, you could always go in for methods that are more on the DIY side of things, use slopes instead of collection bins when it comes to passing the water through plants and gravel. Or you could use existing containers to collect water.
You could also install filters at the source itself this will keep away solids and reduce the treatment steps. So, if you ask if it is expensive to purify household waste water? we would say it depends on the extent of your purification plant. it also depends on the mode you are looking for and the processes you choose.
How to recycle water for gardening indoors?
Water conservation comes from reducing the amount of water used and at the same time reusing water. reusing does not mean using dirty water it means recycling water in a wat that it can be used for other applications in this case gardening.
As we know it most household water comes under the grey water category and can be easily used for gardening. Here is how to recycle water for gardening indoors.
Bathroom waste water recycling
The most common question you see all over the internet is How do I recycle bath water for my garden? Here are the ways in which it can be done.
#1 collect shower water
Waiting for the water to heat up in the shower is something we face every day. The time it takes to heat up, times the number of people to the amount of water wasted on a daily basis is huge.
The water wasted can easily be used in the garden. It might not be a very practical solution but collecting the water in a bucket while its heating up is one option. another option is collecting the water in a funnel connected to a pipe with a storage bin as an outlet.
Just attach the funnel collect water and continue with your bath.
#2 Redirecting the shower drain to the recycling unit
If you are wondering how to recycle shower water for gardening indoors you can start by tweaking your plumbing. When you redirect your shower water to the garden or the waste water collection unit, you can reuse the water for gardening.
Redoing the plumbing will not be possible in most cases as it is a major task but what you can do is alter it in places where it connects to the main drain. This can be done on your own if you have knowledge about PVC and connecting systems.
If not, you can get it done by a plumber. It will not cost a lot, but you will end up saving a considerable amount by the end of the year.
Will soapy water hurt plants?
Simply put, there are chemicals in soap that will cause leaf burn in plants. It can also cause lasting damage to the soil with all the salts and chemicals its deposits. To keep damage at bay, switch to using soaps that are free from chemicals.
There are a number of beauty and detergent brands selling products that are gentle on plants and the soil when recycled. This is the simplest option when it comes to ways how to recycle water for gardening indoors.
So, if you wondering Is soapy bath water OK for plants?
We would say yes, it is if done right. Hence along with filtering bath water for garden use, simply change the products you use and for the most part, you will not need an external purification setting.
There are also questions like Will bath water kill plants?
This depends on the type of water you are planning to use, if you use water collected from the shower before it heats up, your plants will be safe. If you use water that is mixed with soaps shampoos and other chemical-laden products, they will cause plants to wilt.
In order to reuse bath water, you will need to either change the products you use or ship that water altogether and focus on the water collected before or after soap enters the stream.
Washing machine waste water recycling
There are always speculations surrounding machine water. Is washing machine water good for plants? Or can machine water be used to water plants? The answer to this is simple, Yes, it is. Like bath water, machine water can also be used to water plants. Most people wonder
Can I drain my washer into my yard?
We would say draining the washer into the yard is better when the water is filtered. If you notice machine water along with dirt have a lot of lint and other material that are not very good for plants.
At the same time, the detergent you use may not do good to your plants and may cause leaf burn. Hence it is advisable that machine water be purified before letting it out to water plants.
If you are looking for a way to use the water without investing much or without much effort. You can start by filtering the water. Filtering the water at the source will reduce the dirt and grime that comes with machine water.
You can also consider changing the products you use to wash and soften your fabrics. Once that is done you can use the water from your machine without worrying about harming your garden.
So, Will laundry detergent kill plants? Probably Yes but changing products to those that are biodegradable and safe to recycle will not.
Dish washer waste water
Just as the machine there are a number of questions related to the use of dishwasher washer being used for gardening. most people would argue the water from dishwaters should not be used to water gardens as it contains a large amount of oil and gunk.
This is true even though you change the products you use. there will always be some amount of oil in this water.
If you still want to use this water you can filter the water at source in a way that all the oil that comes off the utensils stays in the filtering device.
Another option when it comes to dishwashers is that the vessels can be rinsed before putting them into the washer. This will increase the amount of work and at the same time case more water to get wasted.
Kitchen waste water
If you are wondering How do you treat kitchen waste water it’s simple, collect water that is not contaminated or water that is free from soap.
This water can be used directly without the purification process. When it comes to the water that contains either oil or soap it needs to be purified before using it in the garden.
Collecting rain water
Rain water collection is the best way to conserve water. some may argue that rain water is not household waste water but if you think of it. it does trickle down your roof. So in a way, if it’s not collected it will go to waste.
Rain water can be collected in separate containers and used for vegetable gardening as these are generally free from pathogens. This water can also be used in the house itself.
- How to Capture Rainwater for Gardening
What are the disadvantages of recycled water?
When it comes to how to purify water for gardening and how to recycle water for gardening indoors. We have several techniques to use, while some are manual and can be done easily.
There are also commercially available options that claim to purify household waste water better. Whatever may be the case, there are always advantages and disadvantages associated with recycling.
1# The recycled water may not be free from all bacteria
Some bacteria are extremely stubborn and may linger on even after recycling. These bacteria can cause illnesses when consumed. When you water vegetables using recycled water there is a high possibility that the water is not completely safe.
2# The recycled water can change the PH level of the soil
Even though the filtration and purification process is thorough and extensive there are salts in the water that may cause the PH of the soil to change over time. It is recommended that you test the soil from time to time to check for a change in the PH level.
Recycling household waste water can be more beneficial than harmful. Here is a list of the advantages of recycled water.
What are the disadvantages of recycled water?
1# Useful during periods of droughts or water shortage
When you have water saved it can be used at any time. Once the water is collected it is not necessary that it gets utilized right then. This water can serve as a backup in most cases when you have a dry spell.
The water recycled and stored can be used in the garden at any time throughout the year. Its usage can be extended to other household activities like washing the driveway, the car, and the garage.
2# Reduction in water bills
When you recycle household waste water, the amount of fresh water you use is reduced drastically. Less consumption equals a reduction in your water bill. This way you conserve water and also save a lot of money annually.
3# No wastage of water
This point is a no brainer when you recycle household waste water you, in turn, save a lot of water. hence, you are not wasting drinking water to water your lawn or garden or wash your driveway. These are taken care of by the recycled water.
4# Helps save useful plants and vegetables when the water supply is very low
There are a few plants that require water all year through. Sometimes it becomes difficult to sustain them with a dwindling supply of water. in such cases, recycled water becomes a savior. When you can water your plants without worrying about falling short of water to use at home.
5# Can be used for collecting and using rainwater
Collection and the optimal use of rain water is the best example of water conservation. When you have a system to collect rain water you can use this water to maintain your garden and also use it as a last resort when you are short of household water.
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There are a lot of questions when it comes to how to recycle water for gardening indoors. When it comes to recycling the key is planning. All you need to do is plan the extent of your garden and the plants that you will have in it.
You will also need to set a budget when it comes to recycling. As most of the methods mentioned in this article are low budget and can be done without any special equipment. They are time-consuming and also require thought and dedication.
This may not be possible if you have children or are not on the same page as others at home. Recycling is a family effort and needs equal attention from every member only then will it be successful.
On the other hand, questions like how to purify water for gardening are simple when you have options. You can either go in for a full-fledged purification unit or formulate ways in which you can do it at home. Either way, water that is recycled should not be used for drinking or cooking.
Note: It is recommended that you use recycled water for plants that you will in no way consume. In this way, you are not putting yourself at risk even if there are pathogens present.
I’m Elsa, and I love gardening. I started GardeningElsa.com as a resource for other gardeners, and I offer expert advice on gardening topics such as plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetable gardening. On my website, I share my latest tips and tricks for creating beautiful gardens. When I’m not working on my website, you can find me in my own garden, tending to my plants and flowers. Read more about me.