from shower to flower

Earth Day is com­ing up on Wednes­day. What environment-friendly changes will you be try­ing to make?

Last year we installed a tan­k­less water heater, a move that has saved us at least 30% on our gas bill. But it still takes a while for the heated water to make it to the bath­room. In the past, we let the cold water in the pipes go down the drain until the water got to a proper shower tem­per­a­ture. recovered-water-bucketBut now the water is going into a bucket that we’ll use to water the gar­den. (A prettier–or at least cleaner–bucket not for­merly used for pulling weeds and mix­ing pot­ting soil is next on the agenda…)

The next log­i­cal step for water con­ser­va­tion would be to install a gray water sys­tem to reuse wash­wa­ter. Reg­u­la­tions in Cal­i­for­nia have been com­plex enough so that only 41 house­holds have done it legally in San Diego County, and only 200 state-wide. State sen­a­tor Alan Lowen­thal from Long Beach has intro­duced a new bill, SB 1258, that would man­date a review of exist­ing codes to make it eas­ier to design and install legal gray water sys­tems, a piece of leg­is­la­tion that is being called the “shower to flower” bill.

It’s a good start, and one worth supporting.

Related read­ing:
San Diego Union Tribue: New water­ing source is sur­fac­ing (March 23, 2009 arti­cle)
Los Ange­les Times: A solu­tion to California’s water short­age goes down the drain (April 19, 2009 opin­ion piece)
The text of SB 1258, marked up with com­ments and sug­ges­tions for fur­ther improve­ments by Oasis Design.

7 thoughts on “from shower to flower

  1. tina

    Gray water sys­tems are some­thing that we all should go to. A dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion though some­times with who owns water rights. It is so impor­tant to be green. I am not as savvy as you with recy­cling but really I should be. I am hop­ing to do a few rain bar­rels one of these days. Sigh. Time.

  2. susan (garden-chick)

    We installed a tan­k­less water heater two years ago with mixed results. It takes over a minute for the water to be hot enough (bath­rooms are upstairs), which is a long time to let the tap run. Had not thought about your idea of har­vest­ing the water, although lug­ging it down the stairs does not sound too appealing.

    Our old tank was pretty small, so even if you wanted to take a long shower, cold water hus­tled you out of there fairly quickly. Now that the hot water flows indef­i­nitely, I fear we may be tak­ing longer show­ers, actu­ally negat­ing the ben­e­fit from the water not stay­ing heated all the time.

  3. lostlandscape Post author

    Tina, how far are you behind your aver­age rain­fall? If you’re not that far in deficit, there might be other things you could do that would have impact. Insu­lat­ing my house more, for instance, wouldn’t make much more dif­fer­ence because of our typ­i­cal weather, but chang­ing water­ing habits would.

    Susan, we expe­ri­enced an increase in the amount of time for water to heat up, like you did. But keep­ing the tank of the old water heater full and hot, even in the dark of night, wait­ing for us to turn on the hot water, prob­a­bly was be like keep­ing a ket­tle hot 24/7 for the occa­sional cup of tea. So in the end it’s a lit­tle water spent, but a lot of nat­ural gas saved. But there’s that temp­ta­tion for longer show­ers, isn’t there? Hope­fully you at least real­ized some sav­ings in power.

  4. ryan

    We run the water from our wash­ing machine into a planter. In our area you can do that with­out a per­mit if you don’t spray the water through the air. For sink and shower water you need a per­mit, unless your shower is out­side…
    That bill is good to know about. Long over­due, hope it goes somewhere.

  5. Jenny

    We have a gray water sys­tem. Oh course, we live out in the sticks so can pretty much do what we want. We also have our own well. Makes you a very good stew­ard of your own land when any­thing you do directly affects YOU. We also recy­cle and com­post as much as pos­si­ble. We have an addi­tional incen­tive to do that since we have to haul our own trash.

  6. lostlandscape Post author

    Ryan, it’s nice you can recy­cle your wash water legally. Lots of Cal­i­for­ni­ans do it out­side the law. Some­how the thought of deposit­ing gar­den dirt off of dirty clothes and back into the gar­den along with the wash­wa­ter seems like a pretty safe things to do…

    Jenny, you win the green crown and scepter! (Be sure to send pic­tures.) Liv­ing where you do, I’m sure you have to be more aware of the un-green things we city dwellers do with­out ques­tion­ing because it’s so con­ve­nient to do.

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