Our Permaculture Life: DIY Reedbed for Treating Our Household Grey Water for Under $500

DIY Reedbed for Treating Our Household Grey Water for Under $500

Australia is a very dry country, and globally water access and pollution is of growing concern. How we collect, store, conserve, use and reuse water is important.

Here where we live, there is no town water supply. We need to collect our drinking and gardening water, and deal with the wastewater we create.

I really like this situation - it makes you become really conscious of everything that you put down your sink because you know it's ending up in your landscape. The close connection builds a deeper sense of connection and responsibility. When waste is just taken away for us, we can become complacent.

The 'grey water' which comes from our kitchen sink, bath/shower, washing machine and 2 hand basins is fed through simple reed bed system which we made ourselves. There's no smell and no overflow. It is Council approved, functions fabulously and is super cheap and easy-to-DIY.

There is no black water (toilet water) going into this system - that is all taken care of in the compost toilet system.  (http://our-permaculture-life.blogspot.com.au/2016/10/my-toilet-makes-compost-no-water-no.html). This simplifies things incredibly.

Flowering reedbed garden processing our wastewater.
The greywater system is located below the house and uses only gravity to power the flow of water.  This picture was taken just after the cool season, so some of the species are still regenerating. Here in subtropical Queensland, there is plant growth all year round making this a functioning system throughout the year. 

We built the simplest system we could find to return our grey water from the house to the garden. It cost us under $500 for the set up and it is approved by our local Council.

We made with scrap building materials from around our site (the timber framing),  some thick builders plastic to line the system, newspaper as a bedding material under this to protect the plastic from sharp roots and stones, 20 mm gravel to fill it up and necessary piping.

One of the biggest expenses was asking a bobcat to dig the hole for us (5m long, 1m wide, 0.5m deep), although it would be possible to dig it.

We wanted a system that could easily be replicated by others, by those in small cabins (tiny homes) and in countries where expensive and high-tech systems are just not viable.

I am really happy with how this has worked and how it has capably dealt with the wastewater from our household of five people - admittedly we are quite conservative in our water use, because we want to be, but also because we can only use what we have in the tank. Our main water tank has never run out yet in more than 10 years, and just in case, we have another 2 tanks higher up in the landscape from which we can draw from in an emergency.

I'll talk more next time about our the design of our water system.

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