Have you heard about “used” water? With drought looming this summer, this is something you should know. Let's begin with recycled water, sometimes called reclaimed or non-potable water, which has been treated to make it suitable for landscaping and gardens but not for drinking or uses such as food preparation or swimming pools. Because we often use drinking water to water our lawns and gardens, using recycled water instead can save significant amounts of the water that is used for drinking and in irrigation systems, toilets, washing machines, and showers. Recycled water is for hand watering and should not be connected to the home's potable water systems. Much of our recycled water comes from wastewater treatment plants. Wastewater is treated through screens that remove solids, other fine filters, and beneficial bacteria that ingest organic material. Chlorine is added as a final disinfectant before the recycled water is distributed.
Water Your Garden for Free
The Contra Costa Central Sanitary District, which serves sections of Northern Contra Costa County, has been recycling water since the 1970s and provides more than 500 million gallons of water to our community every year. Want to get some for hand watering your garden and saving on your water bill? It’s pretty easy. You can find a use application and agreement form, plus some easy training on the Central San website, along with instructions on how to take home up to 300 gallons of recycled water from its facility in Martinez. You have to bring some water-sealed containers of your own. Central San also provides recycled water to commercial and industrial customers for golf course irrigation, parks, college campuses, and more. You can download a handy (and short) pamphlet that explains in more detail all of the above.
East Bay MUD also provides recycled water for free from its East Bayshore and San Ramon Valley treatment plants. This water is for industrial uses, irrigation, commercial building toilets, construction, and more. Today, East Bay MUD is capable of producing about 9 million gallons of recycled water per day. The water utility is not currently offering recycled water to drive-up customers because of safety and other concerns but plans to in the future. For updates about East Bay MUD’s drive up recycled water program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another solution is replacing your potable water for irrigation with water that you’ve already used to wash clothes and take showers. Greywater systems that divert water from laundry use to landscape use can save about 3,500 gallons of potable water per year when used with high efficiency washing machines. For older washer models, diverting laundry water can save more 11,000 gallons of potable water. But don’t hesitate to replace that old washer with an Energy Star model. It will save you plenty of water and energy on its own. Check your utility for generous rebates on efficient clothes washers.
Greywater systems can be simple and consist of a three-way valve that diverts water from your washing machine to your yard instead of to your drain. You can do it yourself or hire a pro to install it. The Ecology Center of Berkeley has produced a video, “Laundry-to-Landscape Greywater Installation” for do-it-yourselfers. Greywater Action, a local advocate for grey water systems, will educate you with videos and workshops, and also point you to professional installers.
East Bay MUD provides lots of information on its web site for customers interested in adding a grey water system to their water supply. You can download and fill out an application for a rebate. Contra Costa Water District also offers rebates.
Photo by Arnaud STECKLE on Unsplash