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The Case for Grey Water: The Value of Capturing Run-off Water for Reuse

Water exists in the air as water vapor, in rivers and lakes, in icecaps and glaciers, in the ground as soil moisture and aquifers, and even in you. About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, with the oceans holding about 96.5 percent of it. While water is everywhere and in everything, water scarcity continues to climb as demand, use, and loss increase worldwide.

The Rise of Water Scarcity

A lack of freshwater has plagued the Middle East and North Africa region for years. While you may think water problems are only relegated today, arid sections of the globe, you would be wrong. Water scarcity is a global issue that is getting worse each year. It is being driven by population growth and the various consequences of that increase in population. Water scarcity is coming to your neighborhood if it hasn’t already.

Texas Water Usage

As defined by the State of Texas in the State Water Plan, the top three major water use categories in Texas are municipal, agricultural, and industrial user groups. Texan cities rely heavily on water to support agriculture, manufacturing, outdoor recreation, mining, and power-generating industries that depend upon it. Texas’s; rivers, estuaries, and wildlife can only thrive with sufficient flowing water. Agriculture uses 70% of the state’s freshwater to produce crops such as wheat, corn, rice, and cotton

What is Household Greywater?

The average Texan uses 25 gallons of water daily for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. The most extensive use of household water is to flush toilets and take showers and baths. Toilets account for nearly 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption. Household wastewater from showers, laundry, baths, lavatories (basins), and untreated spa water is called greywater. 2/3 of the water used in the home can be classified as greywater. In a month, that can equal 750 gallons of greywater from every man, woman, and child. Greywater includes wastewater from bathtubs, showers, bathroom washbasins, washing machines, and laundry tubs but does not include wastewater from kitchen sinks or dishwashers.

A consensus among studies is that greywater is not safe to ingest, and thus greywater systems should keep greywater in pipes and soaking into the ground to prevent accidental ingestion. All greywater has the potential to harbor dangerous bacteria and viruses. It is never potable. Microorganisms present in untreated greywater can cause damage to foliage. Untreated greywater should not be used for lawn sprinklers, as this could spread dangerous, airborne bacteria.

What Are The Benefits of Greywater Reuse?

Greywater can account for 30-50% of the wastewater that is discharged into sewers. While it is likely that treated greywater will not be safe to drink, recycling it can significantly reduce water bills for businesses. Greywater recycling has been shown to reduce water consumption by up to 40%.

With proper treatment, greywater can be put to good use. Treated greywater can be used to irrigate both food and nonfood-producing plants. These uses include water for laundry, toilet flushing, and irrigation of plants. Appropriately treated greywater can also be reused for toilet flushing and clothes washing, some of the most significant water users in an average household. In fact, Reusing treated greywater for toilet flushing can save approximately 50 L of potable water in an average home daily.

In Texas, no permit is required to use a greywater system when the flow is less than 400 gallons per day. The average greywater system installed on a single-family home can save about 2,600 gallons of water per year and have a lifespan of 10+ years. The cost of greywater would be about 10¢ per gallon, 20x more than municipal water costs.

Consumer demand and tech innovation are rapidly advancing toward global and local changes regarding household water usage. As climate change continues to influence consumer behaviors toward advanced water conservation and investments in water resource technologies, leaders in industry and government must take appropriate policy actions. Our families, communities, and planet depend on our willingness to change how we use the Earth’s water resources.

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