March 24, 2008

Re-Use Your Bath Water, via Umbra of Grist.org

Hi Umbra,
My new (to me) house has a somewhat larger than standard bathtub with jets. I rarely have time for a bath, but last night took the opportunity to indulge. I had a nice soak, in water heated by solar energy, but then I had a tubful-perhaps 50 gallons?-of relatively clean water that I would like to use on my always-thirsty trees, the only way I can justify an occasional indulgent soak.
How can I get the water from my tub to my trees without using an awkward, cumbersome and splashy five-gallon bucket (my current method)? Is there some kind of portable hose/siphon system for interior home use? It’s about 30 or 40 feet from the tub to the balcony overlooking the trees.
Kathy Byrne/Boulder, Colorado

Dearest Kathy,
What to do with all that water? If you have a window in or near your bathroom, and a yard, hose or tank within reasonable reach of the window, you can easily capture and reuse wastewater from showering and baths.
The water has a name-gray-water-and we’ve talked briefly before

about diverting drains to lead to a gray-water system. And yes, there is the old bucket brigade approach. What Kathy wants is a third way: to sling a hose out the window and pump water outdoors without wrecking the post-soak relaxed state. This of course could be done with two people, one manipulating the interior hose end, perhaps closing it off while the second primes the siphon at the other end by sucking or running water up it. But after a bath one needs to go to bed, not gallivant about in the potentially cold yard in a bathrobe while the neighbor’s cats gaze derisively.
Kathy, gallivanting about on the web, found a British product, WaterGreen. It is a 3.5 meter P.V.C. hose; one end attaches to the actual garden hose, the other is open and sticks in the tub. In the midst of the hose is a squeezable priming pump. You just squeeze it a few times and the water flows up, over and down to the garden. Two immediate problems present themselves: one, it’s a little pricey for non-U.K. residents; two, we have sworn off P.V.C. Kathy shared a further idea, of making one herself, and that saves us from P.V.C.
Making your own siphon requires two separate shopping trips. First to the marine supply shop to get your priming pump. The WaterGreen pump is a marine-style priming pump that begins a siphon action; other systems I saw used a hand bilge pump of sorts. You’ll need to know the size of the outgoing fittings on the pump before the second trip, to the hardware store to get a rubber (not P.V.C.) hose, the hose end fittings, and perhaps a hose clamp or two. One other way to reduce and reuse P.V.C. would be a third trip to find a used hose at the thrift store [or craigslist.org] and cut it to the size you need with a hacksaw.
Naturally, we should bike to all these locations, or at least group our errands.
Conservatively, Umbra

Courtesy of grist.org, ele’s favorite online source for fun practical eco news. Umbra, the best writer this side of sustainability offers a weekly email re simple eco questions and solutions: sign up at grist.org/ask

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