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Monday, February 28, 2011

Flushing the toilet with greywater

When we first moved into our house almost 5 years ago we were told the shower in the master bathroom had a leak, but that it had been fixed. The inspector checked it out and it looked good. For a while. Slowly, over the course of months and years, the drip returned.

We tried a number of different solutions to slow the drip, some more successful than others. Short of tearing out all the tile and replacing 50-year-old plumbing, we chose to ignore it as we had other, scarier stuff completely eclipsing our lives. The little drip (along with other home projects) went unattended.

Things around here have since stabilized, more or less, and in order to avoid expensive repairs we started collecting the dripped water in a bucket. During the summer months, this collected water gets dumped into the rain barrel. It's clean drinking water and can be used for whatever needs watering. During the wet season which, in Seattle, is most of the year, the collected water is used for flushing the toilet.

We don't flush the toilet a tremendous amount of times during the day since we off and on use cloth wipes and practice the mellowing yellow mantra. But, when it's time to flush, using saved water makes me feel like it's canceling out the drip.

For those who haven't tried using greywater (saved shower water or bath water or, really, any used water) for flushing your toilet, you just lift the toilet seats and pour it in. The volume of water causes the toilet to flush. It's like freaking magic, I tell you. But, then again, I'm easily amused by all things related to the potty.

Anyway, over the last month or so, that slow drip has increased to a more moderately paced drip. And now we are collecting far too much water to sanely ignore this issue any longer. I'll be calling a plumber this week to see what damage is required to resolve the problem and, in the meantime, I've been sort of feeling forlorn about not having as much water for flushing the toilet.

So, this morning I tried an experiment. Instead of just collecting the shower warm-up water (which I'm more apt to do during the dry summer), I took a shower with the bucket in there with me. It doesn't take up much space, but it does collect quite a bit more water. Since we use biodegradable soap, anything that splashes into the collection would be relatively harmless. As a result, I'm thinking that once the shower is fixed, I can still have a goodly amount of greywater for flushing or watering plants or whatever.

Do you use saved water or greywater for flushing your toilets?

24 comments:

Steve said...

We also have a leaky faucet in the kitchen along with a hole in the kitchen sink pipe which is under the patio concrete. Plumber says it'll be at least $700, so. . .pot in the kitchen sink to collect water to flush.

On top of a bucket in the shower to catch that water to flush with.

Good news is we haven't had to call the plumber to Roto-Rooter the sewer line in over 2+ years. That is usually an every year event. I guess the water is keeping things clear.

Steve in Central CA

kris in larryville said...

Used to live in San Diego and showered with a bucket every day. You get used to it and it comes in handy. My grandma (with whom I lived) used it to water the plants. We did not use biodegradable soap but they did not seem to mind.

Adrienne Audrey said...

Why didn't I think of this? I use this method of flushing out the bowl when I clean my toilet. Now I can collect the grey water from the shower before it gets hot and use that to flush!

i heart spinning said...

fucking brilliant. sorry for the cussing, just excited. i love those "why didn't i think of that 2 years ago when i asked someone to hook me up a greywater system and they wouldn't help me. DUH i coulda just done that all these years.

owlfan said...

We've been showering with a bucket for several years (ever since we had severe watering restrictions). I also collect the water after my son has taken a bath and use it to flush. And since it takes a full bucket to heat up the water to wash dishes in the sink, I get another bucket every few days there too. Convincing the rest of the family to use the saved water to flush with is going much more slowly.

Frugal Pursuit said...

I use rinse water from the washer to flush my toilet. It gives me some exercise going down the stairs and bringing the water up to the toilet on the main floor. Plus, it's cool to watch everything go down the hole with 5 quarts of water.

Lil said...

That's quite brilliant by its simplicity. But I don't think i'm gonna use this idea... why so ? It would totally be possible to shower with a bucket (i'd have to buy one though), but my toilets are in a separate room, and we'd have to cross a wood floored corridor (sensitive to all things wet, like drops of water) with the water bucket. On top of that, the toilets are a very little room, with not enough space for the water bucket. I don't imagine we could get used to go to the toilets, then go to the bathroom to get the bucket, then go back to the toilets to flush. It seems quite laborious.... But anyway, I'll keep this idea for when I have a house with toilets in the bathroom and/or more will to save every possible drop.

Chile said...

We kept the bucket in with us in the shower most of the 6 years we lived in the rental house in town. The problem was, like yours, old plumbing as well as a property management company loathe to spend a single extra cent unless it was vital. When the shower was on, the tub faucet still had a pretty steady stream coming out of it as well.

With our hard water, it was important to remember to clean the bucket often as well as the toilet, otherwise we got some pretty bad staining.

Good luck with your plumbing.

Annie said...

We don't but this is a great idea. I've been considering using the shower water for irrigation in the summer since we get so incredibly dry and I grow a ton of food. Rather than lug bucket after bucket of water out to the gardens I'm thinking about running a hose through our window or wall and attaching a sump-pump. That way we can just plug up the tub when we shower (I find standing in water while I shower makes me take a shorter one anyway) and then pump the water out the window to the garden.

Cold House Journal said...

We do double-duty with some of our graywater in the winter: heat reclamation and toilet flushing. Primarily this is water from the dishwasher (run into a 7 gallon pail, allowed to cool, then used to flush the toilet). Intermittently we do the same with shower, bath, and laundry water, though these are all a bit less convenient. Also we don't flush much to begin with-- no urgent water conservation issues here in Maine, but reheating all the ice water in the toilet tank after every #1 would take a lot of wood stove BTU's!

Lizzie Bordello said...

We do the catching warmup water thing as well the showing with a bucket in the shower thing. I would estimate that we flush with greywater at a minimum 50% of the time.

I did read somewhere, though, that the better way to do it is to take off the tank lid, flush, and then dump your bucket of greywater in after the flap closes.

Wendy said...

I love the line "during the rainy season ...." Our habits change in the winter, too. It's harder to get rid of save water when there are feet of snow on the ground, and so we're more apt to save water for the gardens, etc, during the summer than during the winter.

Su said...

I've never thought about doing that, which is weird, since it seems obvious. I am so going to start! Thanks!

Jennifer said...

That's a good idea. I have a really tiny booth shower right now, but I'll try it. If I don't end up tripping over the bucket and/or stubbing my toe, I'll call it a win.

I live in California, and we can always use water. Thank you for the idea!

Tanya said...

We have marine toilets in our house which only use a pint of water per flush. I like the idea though of setting up a whole house grey water system to reuse water on tap.

Desert Lean-to said...

We've used our greywater to flush the toilet and water the fruit/nut trees. A bucket in the shower and another under the kitchen sink worked well. Important thing to remember is that greywater becomes septic after a day or two. We installed a small sump pump and hose that carried the extra water out to the pecan trees before it became too nasty.

Anonymous said...

Showering with a bucket is a great idea. Thanks!

ceece said...

an inexpensive solution to the dripping shower: Get a little manual shutoff valve and put it behind the showerhead. Costs about $5 at most. Solved our shower drip. We also have a bucket, but haven't used it for flushing, just watering the plants.

Jasmin Loire said...

I flush with the graywater from doing hand-dishes in my kitchen sink. I rarely have gray water from any other source, as for showering I take a dip-shower, using a 3 gallon bucket of water (perfect temperature) and an old yogurt cup to pour the water over my head. I find the water pressure greatly improved using this method.

Rather than using cloth wipes, I wipe Pakistani-style, using the yogurt cup and my left hand. I haven't had a backed up toilet or stains on my underwear since I started. Also, it makes me really wash my hands well.

Just some other thoughts if you wanted to get even more friendly to your plumbing.

Jasmin Loire said...

@ Jennifer - Get a bucket (doesn't have to be round) that is large enough for you to stand in that can also fit into your shower. Stand in it when you shower. You can collect your water that way. Extra bonus, it really washes your feet.

Leta said...

We have the Caroma Profile toilet. It is an ultra low, dual flush toilet with a sink built into the back. The water from the sink drains into the toilet, and you use that greywater when you flush. We also have greywater reuse system in our basement. The laundry rinse water, and the water from the bathtub go into a 50 gallon barrel. We have a waterproof electric pump in the barrel, with a garden hose attached. When the barrel is full, we put the hose on whatever part of the garden that needs it (we have a walkout basement, and the hose goes out the basement door) and turn the pump on. It uses a tiny amount of electricity, and saves a ton of water.

Sarah C said...

We do the bucket in the shower during the summer for watering the garden, and I use the bathwater from my son for the garden.

Practically Frugal said...

Water where I live is very expensive. I stopper my tub when I take a shower, then bail it into 5 gallon pails. I use that to flush my toilet.

When I do laundry, I pump my rinse water into an old water softener brine barrel next to my wash machine (no wash tub) and then manually add that water to the machine for the next load, save that load's rinse water for the next, etc. When I'm done with laundry that day, I add a splash of bleach to the water so it is ready for the next time I do laundry (every 2 weeks).

Kitty Sharkey said...

Currently I have a Sink Positive on my toilet. It works great.

http://sinkpositive.com/site/

When I remodel though, I'm getting a Caroma duel flush toilet with a built in sink.

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