Living Sustainably

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Conserving Water with Greywater Irrigation

We have been advocates of water conservation for many years. The usual plan is to harvest rain with your gutters and a cistern, install water saving appliances, and using your greywater for irrigation. As we install composting waterless toilets instead of flush toilets, which make up almost half the typical non-irrigating home’s water consumption, the only wastewater left is greywater, and can be used to irrigate plants. Irrigation is the number one water consuming process in many homes. Art Ludwig has written a number of books on harvesting and conserving water, and has a new DVD out on recycling your greywater for irrigation purposes. Check out the free preview at

Additional references:

The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, Third Edition

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands (Vol. 1): Guiding Principles to Welcome Rain into Your Life And Landscape

The New Create an Oasis with Greywater: Choosing, Building and Using Greywater Systems – Includes Branched Drains


Off -grid water systems

Wondering how to get water in your off-grid home?

One of the best sources of water is rain water harvesting. Rain gutters on the roof collect the runoff into a storage tank or cistern (see Oasis Design), and filtration cleans it up for domestic use. Special precautions need to be taken if used for drinking and cooking, but for bathing and cleaning, a simple slow sand filter is sufficient. There’s a good discussion group on this topic at rainwater.

But how do you pump the water from the storage tank through the home. For this we can take tips from the RV industry. Simple 12vdc pumps that run fine on solar electric are found in most RV’s. Look at this article for tips:

What’s Up with the Water Pressure?
By Mark J. Polk

Now rainwater varies with seasons and climates, so you need to conserve your water usage. One of the best ways to do this is with a composting toilet. Either a nice expensive commercial unit like Biolet or Sun-Mar, or a inexpensive homebuilt unit like the Jenkins Sawdust Toilet.

It’s easy to be off the water grid as well as off the electrical grid. For more info, check out