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Would you flush your toilet with Evian? You're probably laughing at the thought, but the fact is, most bottled water is no better than repackaged tap water.
Every time you waste water, you're wasting a lot more than you think. The processing that the water goes through uses huge amounts of electricity which contributes towards pollutants and use of fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, when you're wasteful with conventional items like food you're wasting thousands of litres of water. Every time we throw away food not only is that a waste of the packaging that it was in, but also the thousands of litres of water it took to get the item to your plate. This is no exaggeration - it takes a staggering 4650 litres of water to bring beef steak to our table.
Modern tap water's a triumph of engineering. The process it goes through from collection to final drinking is vast and complex. If you take cost out of the equation, flushing your toilet with tap water is almost as absurd as flushing it with the most pretentious bottled water. Yet we all do it. Wouldn't it be better if we used lower quality water that's previously been used in showers or to wash your hands with (known as grey water).
Water treatment has a financial and environmental cost because of all the chemicals that need to be used, and not every community has an inexhaustible supply of water. By using grey water systems you can cut down on the amount of processing required by making the most of the water that comes through your taps; saving money and looking after the environment.
Go Green With Grey Water
Grey water systems work in a number of different ways. Some take water from roof drains, filter it and store it for use in irrigation, washing your clothes and yes, flushing toilets. Toilets can be flushed with grey water from sinks and showers as well.
One oft-neglected advantage? A grey water system allows you to buy old fashioned powerful, high-flow toilets, guilt free. Impress your friends and neighbours with your highly functional, environmentally sound toilets. Whether you use your grey water system to maintain the landscaping, wash the floors or justify a less efficient (perhaps antique) toilet, you will need methods for collecting the water, filtering it, and transporting it to the appropriate fixtures and taps.
A grey water system requires an efficient pump, such as those manufactured by Lowara and Grundfos, to deliver the water to where it's needed. The cost of installing a grey water recycling system may vary a lot depending on how much water we want to recycle and how we want to use it.
A simple system which will allow us to use filtered grey water for the laundry or for the garden can cost us between $700-$2,000 plus $100-$200 for the materials. A branched drain system can cost between $1000-$3000 plus $200-$500 of materials. A pumped system could cost more or less the same besides being slightly more expensive on the materials, maybe an extra $200. The bigger the project becomes, the harder is to do it yourself, so you should include in your budget extra for labor cost.
Due to the amount of energy involved in water's treatment and transportation, wasting water is no smaller "sin" than wasting food or other solid trash. Start doing the research today, and you could have an energy efficient, water-conserving, toilet enhancing grey water system in place this summer.
James Finlayson works for London Pumps and enjoys writing about the environment when he's not travelling or reading about the latest trends in technology.
Photo Credit: World Bank Photo Collection