Water recycling at home: how to get started

June 19, 2015

Every household generates a large amount of wastewater that simply flows down the drain, but not all of this water needs to go to waste. Read on to learn the basics about how water can be recycled in your home.

Water recycling at home: how to get started

Ground rules for water recycling

So what is water recycling? In the context of your home, it generally refers to the collection and reuse of greywater – which is gently used water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines – for other purposes, such as irrigating your garden, flushing your toilets and washing your clothes.

Recycling water is not especially difficult, but it is not as straightforward as collecting rainwater. If you are interested in recycling water within your home, it must be planned and carried out carefully to ensure that what you do meets all the relevant health, environmental and legal requirements.

  • Check local council and water authority regulations carefully. Some councils and water authorities do not allow reuse of wastewater; others encourage it by offering rebates for money spent on water-saving and water-recycling devices.
  • Unless you treat the water, use greywater only from the shower, bath, basin and washing machine. Do not use water from the kitchen as it contains grease and food scraps that encourage the growth of bacteria and attract pests.
  • Restrict the use of untreated greywater to the garden. Use only treated greywater to flush toilets and wash clothes (although final rinse water from a washing machine can probably be reused in a subsequent wash without treatment).
  • Even greywater from the bathroom and laundry can contain pathogens that spread disease. To minimize the risk, use the water immediately, handle it with care and make sure you wash your hands afterwards.
  • Keep children and pets away from greywater.
  • Never put greywater on fruit and vegetables that may be eaten raw.
  • Ensure that greywater doesn't flow from your property onto neighbouring property. You could be liable for any damage or illness that occurs as a result of this.
  • Seek advice from a specialist plumber or consultant who is familiar with recycling systems and local regulations and requirements.
  • Make sure all members of the household and visitors understand what is being done and how to help.

Choosing a water recycling system

Many different types of water recycling systems are available, including reed-bed and sand filters, aerated wastewater treatment systems, and ultraviolet disinfection systems. Before investing in a system, it is important to do some research and understand what you are planning to buy. For starters, ask yourself and potential suppliers the following questions.

  • Is the system approved by the local council and water authority?
  • What kind of guarantees come with the system?
  • Does the cost include delivery and installation?
  • How much space and energy will it use, and how much will it cost to run?
  • Will the recycled water be suitable for indoor use? If so, how do I connect the recycling system to my toilet cistern and washing machine?
  • Does it have many parts that can break down, such as pumps?
  • Is it noisy?
  • Does it use chemicals?
  • How will I know if it's not working?
  • Does it require periodical emptying or desludging?
  • How does it deal with small amounts of household chemicals, such as bleach?

When done right, water recycling offers plenty of benefits, including reducing your household's water use. By planning a safe system in consultation with your local council and plumber, you can put your greywater to work – and in the process you'll be helping the environment!

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