California has a Water Crisis and Makers Can Help!

If you’ve turned on a radio or TV in the last month, you know California is close to bone dry. What can we Makers do about it? Make a simple system that uses laundry water to water your lawn!

Grey-water Recovery and Treatment: Most greywater systems start with a diverter valve so that wash water with bleach or other toxic chemicals can still be sent down the standard drain, and only bio-friendly soaps are diverted out to the landscaping.

Water from the washing machine comes up into the bottom of the valve and is then directed either down the drain to the right or out to the yard on the left.

The valve should be large enough that it does not restrict the flow from the washing machine, e.g. not smaller than the size of the outlet. This example system uses a 1″ 3-way valve. Cost including adapters and fittings was around $50.

Outside the laundry room, there are 3 PVC valves which will allow the water to be directed to different areas as needed.

The valves unscrew so if they get clogged up they can be cleared. The tall vertical tube is a vacuum break which keeps the system from pulling the fill water out of the washer after it is done emptying a load. Most would use a ball valve, but that would be more expensive, prone to jamming, and this will also act as an indicator if the outlet lines are plugged up.

The cost is <~$20 for PVC fittings, valves, etc…

Standard drip irrigation pipe run through old plastic pots from previously purchased plants… placed upside down. This provides an air gap between the hole in the pipe and the ground so that roots will not grow up into the pipe.

The new bed will be filled in with mulch to absorb and hold the water safely. Open water is a health hazard as it can result in bacterial blooms, mosquitoes, and in any case, it will evaporate. The top layer of mulch drys out and keeps the water stored until the earth around it needs it.

Pipe was “rescued” from a prior irrigation project, so the total cost here is $0.?

San Diego permits safe residential grey water systems (from shower, bathroom sink, and clothes washing except for diapers) as long as the water is let out below the surface, e.g. into a mulch bed.
Current requirements are listed here:

Things to NOT do:
1. Don’t use water from a dishwasher or kitchen sink. Little bits of food can have really bad germs in them and will rot and plug up lines.

2. Don’t use water from diapers or wash loads that might have “accidents” in them. Poop is… bad.

3. Don’t release the water above ground. It needs to filter directly into the soil, and not come in contact with people or animals until after it has been broken down by soil bacteria.

4. Don’t build it without checking with your local city / HOA / etc… regarding local regulations.

Source: Grey-water Recovery and Treatment