Recycle your household water

To the naked eye, the front lawn of Joe and Christina Kovalic's house looks like any other suburban sea of green grass, but a few feet below the sod and soil lay a concrete rainwater system and treatment tank. The tank, as the name suggests, treats rainwater so that it can be reused for toilets, laundry and watering the lawn. “The colour takes a little getting used to,” says Christina, pointing to the greyish, cottage-worthy water in her otherwise pristine toilet basin. “It looks like you haven't quite flushed.”

OK, so grey-water, as it's known, isn't exactly rosewater, but this treated and filtered, cloudy waste water, whether it comes from rain, showers, laundry and other non-toxic, non-contaminated household water, is perfectly suitable for watering lawns, powering washing machines and flushing toilets–just don't drink it.

Like everything else high-tech, prices range with grey-water systems depending on size and complexity. Expect to pay about $1,500 plus installation, with yearly savings of about 35 per cent. This upfront cost will end up saving you money–and will reduce strain on the municipal water supply.

According to Environment Canada, toilets use one-third of a household's total water consumption; add your weekly loads of laundry, also fuelled by grey-water, and you're looking at a huge slash in water usage, which also means educed home energy and water bills.

There are two types of grey-water: light grey-water, which comes from bathroom sinks and tub showers, laundry and rainwater; and dark grey-water, which comes from kitchen sinks and dishwashers. This dark grey-water contains food waste, grease and (most likely) chemicals from household cleaners. There's also black-water (water that's come into contact with human waste.)

In a typical Canadian house's plumbing, all wastewater is combined at the main sewer and drained away. While this is necessary for black-water, which must be sent through the municipal water treatment system, there's no reason why grey-water can't be diverted and filtered back to the home.

The problem is, many municipalities consider any water that has exited a plumbing fixture to be black-water, which is why not all provinces (Quebec, for example) allow grey-water systems, or if they do, the technical requirements may be too much for most homeowners to bother with. Of course, rainwater collection is legal almost everywhere, so even if you can't install a grey-water system, you can still collect what falls from the sky and, according to Environment Canada, save about 150 litres of drinking water per day, per household.

Recycling something rather than throwing it away. Sounds reasonable to us.

For more on grey-water, visit these sites:

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's page on grey-water and rainwater

CBC News' report on grey-water

City of Windsor, Ontario's report on grey-water

Export date: Thu Feb 2 18:32:57 2023 / +0000 GMT

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