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bennelson 01-29-2009 11:00 PM

Best water use ever!
Hey everyone.

At my house, we have a well for source water, and a "holding-tank" for waste water.

That means that rather than having either sewer or a septic tank and field, waste water literally just accumulates in an underground tank behind my house.

I live right down the street from a lake, in an area not serviced by municipal sewer - a holding tank is a cheap way to set up a waste-water system.

However, it is NOT cheap to maintain. You have to pay a guy in a pumper truck to come out whenever it's full. At about $90 per service call!

How often does it fill up? Well, that's the point I am coming to. When we moved in to our house a couple years ago, it came to about every 5 weeks.

That comes to about 28 gallons of water per person (my wife and I) per day. Remember, thats showers, dish washing, clothes washing, toilet, every bit of water that runs down the drain.

At the end of summer, I bought a used front-loading washing machine. It uses HALF as much water as the old one did.

This last emptying of the holding tank was 8 WEEKS since last time.

Thats less than 18 gallons of water per person per day!

And not a bad savings on that terrible waste-water bill!

mobilerik 01-30-2009 12:01 AM

Nice! Hypermiling your wastewater, too...

Do you have a convenient way to separate and recycle your "greywater"? (A garden, yard, etc.?) That'd surely cut out most of the remaining bill.

Daox 01-30-2009 07:02 AM

Great job Ben! Any tips to share with the rest of us, or is that reduction simply from the washer upgrade?

bennelson 01-30-2009 11:08 AM

I think most of that savings is from the new clothes washer.

But of course we also just do everything we can in general to save water.

I made an idiot's guide to saving water in the shower a while ago:

I would love to have a greywater system, but there no easy way to seperate out some of the drain pipes from the others.

Also, I have an extremely high water table in my area, so I can't just run water into the ground and expect it to soak up.

I have thought about the concept of doing some greywater re-use inside my house. One concept I had was to recapture shower water to flush the toilet with.

In our country, we basically flush toilets with clean drinking water. Sure seems like a huge waste. If the slightly used shower water could be stored in a small tank, and then THAT gets pumped into the toilet every time it's flushed, that's twice the use out of the same water.

Here's an example of sink water that goes straight into reuse in the toilet:
Sinkpositive: Save Water, Wash Your Hands : TreeHugger

And here's a commercially available sink-to-toilet setup.
How the AQUS Works - WaterSaver Technologies

I would like to do something similar to that, only with the shower, as it would provide a LOT more water, and the additional equipment could be in my crawlspace (think VERY short concrete floor and wall basement) instead of taking up space under the sink.

I did see a fantastic greywater system at a "model home" of the future. However, it was also fantastically expensive, and overkill. It went so far as to have ultraviolet disinfecting lights as part of it. I'm just trying to flush a toilet and save some water, not drink out of it!

mobilerik 01-30-2009 05:45 PM

The sink-in-toilet idea is common in Japan. My grandfather had one. The idea is ridiculously simple to implement as a hack -- just open the tank and remount the sprayer at a convenient height. When you flush the toilet, wash your hands while it fills.

As for the AQUS, why does it need to disinfect the sink water?

It occurs to me that the sink is at about the right level to pipe straight over to the toilet tank, right? No pump needed.

The shower seems like a tougher issue. For a manual solution, you could just keep a bucket in there while you shower, and use it fill the toilet tank. While it wouldn't catch everything, I bet you could get a more or less a half-tank's-worth per shower.

trikkonceptz 01-30-2009 06:16 PM

The problem with a shower filling your toilet tank is the amount of water ... The average shower uses what 20-30 gallons of water, I'm assuming. Lets even say 10 gallons for arguments sake. x2 people is 20 gallons. Your average toilet uses 1.6 gpf, so you would have to flush your toilet 10 times a day to use up that water or have a way for the excess water to flow out again.

While a good idea, it may be better suited for public restroom use than individual homes.

mobilerik 01-30-2009 06:28 PM

And for that matter, toilet use can be cut down a lot by following the "if it's yellow..." rule. And if you wanna take it to the limit, you could do what a friend did with his outhouse, and "poop in a bag"! Toss in some cat litter, and it'll be fine, lol. :thumbup:

bennelson 01-30-2009 07:20 PM


Originally Posted by akashic (Post 85878)
"if it's yellow..." rule.

We already do follow the "if it's yellow" rule. I didn't really want to bring that one up right away.....But since you did...

I have read a book called "Humanure". It is actually a really interesting book on the history of dealing with waste. It also includes plans for building your own "sawdust toilet". Which is certainly a step up from "poop in a bag"

I do agree with the fact that two people showering every day would create more waste-water than a toilet would use. In fact, that's a good thing. It means that every flush would be using recycled water and not need brand-new clean water (which is just more water that we have to pay to haul away)

A recycled shower water system would have some sort of storage tank (maybe 20 gallons?) a filter, a pump to move water to the toilet, and an overflow that would allow shower water to just go out the normal drain-line if the storage tank is full.

If the storage tank always outpaced the toilet, then there wouldn't even need to be a separate water line to feed the toilet if the shower waste-water tank was empty. One less thing needed, thus keeping it all a bit simpler.

As for the MANUAL bucket in the shower method. I have done that a couple of times. When testing the actual flo rate of the shower with a bucket for example. However, it IS a MANUAL way of doing things. I like an automatic way of doing things in that it encourages us to do things right without even thinking. Emptying a bucket is hard work. Forgetting about water use, and STILL getting more bang for my water buck is GENIUS!

I just really like the idea of getting to flush my toilet for free.

A while back, I did do calculations of the washing machine, and found that it would pay for itself in about a year.

mobilerik 01-30-2009 07:56 PM

Yeah, once the toilets are accounted for, where would you recycle the washing machine water? That's quite a lot of water to deal with at one time.

Off on a tangent again, I've often thought it'd be amusing to generate a little hydroelectric power by tapping into the neighborhood sewer line that runs past the house. Not sure what it'd be good for... a "trickle charger" I suppose. ;)

Peter7307 01-30-2009 08:59 PM


Originally Posted by bennelson (Post 85830)

In our country, we basically flush toilets with clean drinking water. Sure seems like a huge waste.

Same here in Australia and government regulations in some places prohibit people from having "grey water" re enter the house so water good enough to drink makes a one way trip.

Do they change the law?
No too easy and not enough brownie points for the politicians. The spend millions building desalination plants instead. More votes there.

That said the uptake of water tanks to catch rainwater has been excellent and the use of water saver shower heads (9 ltrs / minute or less) is also going well.

Just as a comparison my water consumption from the bill about a week or so back is 50 liters ( = 13.208 602 618 gallon [US, liquid] ) per person per day.

We are in the middle of Summer and temp here have been at 43 C + (107 F) for the past four days and about another four days to come before any change in likely.

Oh yeah we are also in a drought and have been for about the past five years or so. Sort of forget about that since it is just routine now not to water the garden , wash the car etc.

Cheers , Pete.

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