This past November (2013), Watershed Management Group's Green Living Co-op installed a "Laundry to Landscape" system at my house.
The Green Living Co-op runs on a barn raising principle - basically you earn "hours" by participating in other members' projects. After you've earned a set amount of hours, you qualify to host a workshop at your house. A co-op project manager works with you to design the system and oversees the project work. They also provide educational information along the way.
The end result is that the homeowner gets a well-designed project installed with free labor and the participants get hands-on practice building out these projects. Having an experienced designer lead you through the steps to build out one of these projects really builds confidence that you can do this!
Here's a short video showing the progression through pre-planning, the day of the installation, and the subsequent test run of my new "Laundry to Landscape" system. I love it!
Benefits of reusing greywater
Here’s how this project fits into the overall plan for my front yard, which faces west, here in Phoenix, Arizona:
- It provides water for tree canopy coverage on this western exposure – the hottest side of my house.
- It provides water for vines growing up a trellis in front of my patio and my big, west-facing windows. These vines will act as solar baffles for the low western setting sun that sneaks in under the tree canopy in the evening and which currently heats up the mass of my brick house and transfers that heat inside. When you’re dealing with 100 days of 100° + temps (30 of those days between 110° - 120°), the very last thing you want is the setting sun taking one final opportunity to add more heat to your living space!
- With only 7.5” of annual rainfall in Phoenix, we need to use water wisely. Reusing greywater is a great way to grow desert-adapted trees, shrubs, vines and more – essentially slowing down and capturing more “energy” from this element instead of letting it flow into the municipal sewer system. These native and xeric plants function to attract native pollinators, cover the ground to hold moisture, provide shade, provide food and act as a living air conditioner making the whole property cooler and more pleasant to be in. It is regularly 10-20° F cooler on my property when compared with properties that have predominantly grass or rock landscaping.
- The reclaimed water and the woody mulch in the infiltration basins, help build more fertile, biologically-active soils that will, over time, alter the texture of our highly compacted clay soil, allowing an ever greater range of plants to fill in various niches.
- There is also a very important community aspect to this project. Because I live in the urban core of the largest dryland city in the USA (and the 6th largest metro area overall), showcasing working projects that are viewable to passersby is a big goal of mine. People like to see how something works – what it looks like, feels like. A well maintained project with an informational sign or two, an invitation to tour the site and maybe a related “Introduction to Permaculture” class, will greatly increase the acceptance and implementation of similar projects throughout the neighborhood and beyond.
So basically, we desert dwellers need to get over the prevailing “squick factor” Western culture tends to have around greywater and embrace this valuable resource as one of the major forces in re-greening our deserts.