I started using gray water last year in an attempt to reduce my water consumption during last year’s drought (see 10 Gallons of Grey Water).   Now we’re into 2009 and it’s clear we’re going to have another tough year for water. Both my winter crops and my drought-tolerant plants need water, because we haven’t had our usual winter rains.

The ornamentals, in particular, are Mediterranean-climate plants. They are used to dry summers but get through them because they have adapted to heavy winter rains and dry summers. Because we’ve had much less rain than usual this winter, I’ve started irrigating them to make sure they get what they need to make it through the summer. That means I’ve started using gray water in January, not June. I thought it would be interesting to track this during the year, to see how much water I can actually use instead of letting it run down the drain. While my methods aren’t the most efficient, they do allow me to save a significant amount of water for irrigation. So, follow along with me during the year to see how much water I end up saving.

I have three primary sources of water that I save:

  • Laundry rinse water: Technically, this is the only true gray water, as it has already been used for another purpose and collected on it’s way to the drain. To keep it simple, I use this on my ornamentals instead of my food crops, so I don’t have to take any special precautions with the food crops. If I’m on top of it during the wash cycle, I can get two five-gallon buckets of rinse water, one from the wash cycle, one from the rinse cycle. Normally, however, I just let it keep flooding over into the laundry tub, so I just get rinse water, which is pretty clear of detergent.
  • Shower: I keep a bucket handy and run water into it while I’m waiting for the hot water. I get slightly less than one gallon from each shower. Since this is clean water, I use it on my food crops.
  • Hot water tank overflow: The relief valve on my hot water tank always let’s a little water out after I’ve showered. I simply have a bucket next to the heater that catches this overflow. I get about 2.5 gallons a month this way. But, it’s clean water so it’s easy to use on my food crops.
  • Other: Occassionally I save small amounts of water from other sources, e.g., cold water from the kitchen sink while waiting for hot water. In addition, whatever rainwater collects in my garden buckets goes here.
2009 Gray Water Log (started ~2/1; last updated 12/31)
Month Shower HW tank Laundry Other Total Notes
Jan 5.0 2.5 7.5
Feb 15.0 2.5 30.0 47.5
Mar 15.0 5.0 20.0 12.5 52.5 “Other” was mostly rainwater
Apr 12.5 2.5 5.0 2.5 22.5 On vacation half of month
May 17.5 2.5 5.0 10.0 35.0 “Other” was rainwater
Jun 17.5 10.0 2.5 30.0
Jul 17.5 20.0 37.5
Aug 17.5 5.0 10.0 32.5
Sep 12.5 2.5 10.0 25.0
Oct 20.0 2.5 10.0 32.5
Nov 17.5 2.5 15.0 2.5 37.5
Dec 17.5 5.0 15.0 35.0 42.5 “Other” was rainwater
Total 185.0 42.5 140.0 65.0 425.0

3 Responses to “Saving water, 2009”


  1. […] January 1, 2010 Final results of 2009 water saving test Posted by ramblinrobert under My garden, my life, Water | Tags: drought, rainwater catchment, water conservation | Leave a Comment  I began saving water late in January 2009 to see how much water I could save by doing simple things like saving laundry rinse water and collecting my morning shower water while it warmed up. I also started saving rainwater in my five-gallon buckets. The results are in. […]

  2. Gladys Gilbert Says:

    For over twenty years, both Richard and I keep a bucket handy and run water into it while we’re waiting for the shower water to warm up. We use the water to fill the tank after flushing the toilet. Apart from July and August, we don’t have a shortage of water. (it rains most days)

    1. ramblinrobert Says:

      Great idea. I do the same thing, but use the water for irrigating my potted plants on my front steps. It’s easy to be water-efficient, once you put your mind to it and change a few habits.

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