Greywater can be a valuable source of water to use in the garden, particularly during dry conditions. Learn how and where to use grey water at your place.

 

Greywater is water that comes from household washing machines, hand basins, showers and baths.  Water from dishwashers and kitchen sinks is often referred to as ‘dark greywater’ as it has a higher load of chemicals, fats and other organic matter. Dark greywater is not recommended for using on gardens. Greywater does not include water from toilets, which is referred to as ‘black water’. 

When used correctly, greywater has the potential to irrigate lawns and gardens. This helps keep gardens thriving and makes the most of precious water resources, particularly during times of drought and water restrictions. Using greywater also helps to reduce water bills and the amount of wastewater entering sewers or on-site treatment systems. Consult your local council or water authority for the latest regulations regarding greywater usage in your area. In some areas, untreated greywater can only be used in sub-surface irrigation systems.

However, here is some general information on using greywater in your garden.

How to collect greywater

According to the SmartApprovedWaterMark, 15-20% of water used in homes is in the laundry (https://www.smartwatermark.org/smartwateradvice/saving-water-home/laundry/) . Large top loading washing machines can use up to 170 litres of water per cycle, which is a significant amount of water that can be directed out into the garden.   Laundry greywater can be diverted from the washing machine using an appropriate greywater pipe or hose and collected in buckets or tubs.

Greywater can be collected in the bathroom by standing in a large tub while you take a shower, the water scooped out of the bath or washing your hands over a bucket in the bathroom basin.

 

How to turn greywater into plant food

You can make the most of greywater for the garden and turn it into plant food, by mixing specially developed Yates Greywater Fertiliser into the greywater. Yates Greywater Fertiliser has a wide range of benefits:

  • Adds missing plant nutrients to greywater. Added nitrogen and chelated iron to promote green leaf growth and potassium to encourage healthy plants and flowering.
  • Helps neutralise the effect of alkaline soaps and detergents on soil pH.
  • Contains a biocide to help kill unwanted microbes in greywater.
  • Added calcium to reduce the potential negative effects on soil quality from prolonged greywater use.

Mix 20 – 40mL of Yates Greywater Fertiliser into 10 L of greywater and apply around the root zone of non-edible garden plants or over the lawn every 2 – 4 weeks.

Where to use grey water

Greywater can be used to irrigate the lawn and ornamental (non-edible) garden beds. Greywater should not be used to water herbs, vegetables or other edible produce. Unless you only use soaps and detergents that contain negligible phosphorus (indicated by an ‘NP’ logo on the pack), avoid using greywater around phosphorus sensitive Australian native plants.

Potted plants should also not be watered with greywater, due to the potential build-up of salts.

 

How to use grey water

Grey water can be collected in buckets or tubs (kept away from babies and children) or diverted straight from the washing machine using an appropriate grey water pipe or hose. According to the SmartApprovedWaterMark, 15-20% of water used in homes is in the laundry  (https://www.smartwatermark.org/smartwateradvice/saving-water-home/laundry/) . Large top loading washing machines can use up to 170 litres of water per cycle, which is a significant amount of water that can be directed out into the garden.   

It’s best to regularly move grey water hoses around the garden and lawn so the same plants / areas are not being constantly watered with grey water. A handy way to remember is to move grey water hoses from one spot to another every weekend.

 

Which detergents are suitable for grey water

It’s important to choose laundry detergents that are suitable for using in greywater. Detergents can contain phosphorus and salts that can harm some plants and affect the quality of the soil or increase the soil’s pH (make the soil more alkaline). Soil with an alkaline pH (pH greater than 7) can lead to nutrients becoming unavailable to plants, particularly iron. You may start to see plant leaves becoming pale with dark green veins, which indicates an iron deficiency. High concentrations of salts can also damage plants and lead to burnt leaves and poor plant health. If plants irrigated with greywater start to develop pale or discoloured leaves, discontinue using greywater in that area.

Look on detergent labels for information about whether it’s suitable for greywater usage. Product labels may say ‘Greywater safe’ or ‘Greywater friendly’. Some laundry detergent manufacturers recommend only using washing machine rinse water to irrigate the garden and not the wash cycle water, so this needs to be taken in account when using greywater. www.lanfaxlabs.com.au provides information on the suitability of some detergents when using greywater.

And add Yates Greywater Fertiliser to greywater to help minimise the negative effects of soaps and detergents on soil quality.

 

Additional information on greywater

  • Don’t store greywater for more than 24 hours, as it can become a source of infection and can start to smell.
  • Keep buckets and tubs of greywater away from babies and children.
  • There are specially designed treatment tanks that households can install to process grey and black water. These are basically small domestic sewage systems that aerate waste water and bacteria breaks down the solid waste, before the water is then pumped out onto the garden. There are multiple companies that sell and install these aerated wastewater treatment systems.
  • Do not use greywater when family members are ill with a gastrointestinal infection or from the washing machine when washing dirty nappies. It’s best not to allow people or pets to walk or play in areas that are being irrigated with greywater. Leave the area to dry for at least 24 hours before allowing people and pets back onto the area. This helps reduce any contact with potential sources of bacteria and infection that may be in the greywater.
  • Using greywater from the kitchen is not recommended, as it can contain higher levels of oils. Oils can adversely affect soil structure and contribute to soil becoming water repellent. However it’s a great idea to rinse fruit and vegetables over a bucket in the sink and collect that water to use in the garden.
  • You can also place a bucket under the shower and collect the cold water before it runs hot. This valuable water would normally be lost down the drain and can be used to water pot plants (as it does not contain any detergents or soaps) and garden beds.
  • When diverting greywater directly from the laundry, it’s best to regularly move greywater hoses around the garden and lawn so the same plants / areas are not being constantly watered with greywater. A handy way to remember is to move greywater hoses from one spot to another every weekend.

Recommended Products

Yates Greywater Fertiliser

Yates Greywater Fertiliser has been specially formulated to add missing nutrients to laundry, bath and shower greywater, so that it can be used to feed home garden plants and lawns.


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