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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