Last week I attended parts of the first and last days of Greywater Action’s Installation Course. My role there was simply to observe and to report, but I am definitely hooked on the greywater movement now. You can read the story on Oakland Local.
And a movement it is. Advocates for water conservation & efficiency, rainwater capture from roofs and pavement, permeable surfaces, and greywater systems are all around us in the guise of landscapers, plumbers, contractors, cafe and other business owners, urban farmers, and regular citizens, etc. They are the advanced guard and avant garde of building a sustainable water culture.
And with the change in CA’s plumbing code allowing for wider use of greywater systems, the underground is coming into the light of day. Greywater and rainwater harvesting are quickly becoming recognized as an important strategies in long-term water conservation planning.
My current water conservation repertoire is decent, albeit limited. Developing an awareness of my water use was the first step, which was perhaps motivated by simple curiosity. Where does my water come from? Where does it go? The answers to those questions depended on where I lived. Then I started hearing reports of local water battles and when I moved to California of the shortage in rainfall and therefore snowpack that has led to drought. Add to that my exposure when traveling abroad to communities that either lacked access to fresh, clean water or fighting against privatization or theft of local water.
I gained a much deeper appreciation of water for the precious resource it is.
Over the years I began to adopt other measures, mostly low-hanging fruit that anybody can do. The low-flow shower heads are up. I practice “when it’s yellow, let it mellow”. Last spring we began using buckets in the shower. The water used while it is heating up and even after you turn off the faucet adds up. Now we capture that in buckets and use it to water the garden and flush the toilet. We also put a bottle full of pebbles in the toilet tank to reduce gallons flushed. And of course I try to avoid running the faucet any longer than I have to win brushing teeth or other tasks
I eliminated plastic water bottles quite a while back, not just because of the inherent waste and pollution of plastic bottle use, but because the corporations behind most of the major products in plastic bottles are depleting and in many cases stealing community water resources. Coca-Cola’s practices in India and Nestle’s in Michigan are two good examples. After learning about that I couldn’t in good conscience support that.
Of course, there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Our washing machine is top loader, which is much less water efficient than front-load machines. I still need to cut my shower times down. And of course there is greywater systems, which are most useful if you have a landscape that needs irrigating. And we rent, so there isn’t a lot I can do in this regard other than pass on the information and suggestion to the owner.
Regardless, I am eager to learn more about greywater and rainwater harvesting systems. So I will do what I can to implement water saving strategies now and work on the skills and knowledge for later when I can do more.