Sample Owner's Manual for Greywater Users

This is an open source document. Sweetwater Collaborative has provided this owner's manual for anyone who wishes to use it. Please credit Sweetwater when you share it. Thank you.

 

Owners’ Manual for Greywater Users

Congratulations on putting in a greywater system!  This manual will help you enjoy your system for years to come.

This manual is to remain with the building throughout the life of the system. Upon change of ownership or occupancy, the new owner or tenant must be notified that the structure contains a greywater system. A map showing the location of all greywater system components is attached to this owner’s manual.   

 

1. How do I divert my greywater back to the sewer?

Turn the three-way valve handle to direct the water towards the sewer or septic system.  Make sure the three-way valve is labeled clearly to direct to the sewer or landscape so there is not confusion later. 

 

2. Why would I divert my greywater back to the sewer?

• During the rainy season if the ground is already saturated from rainfall runoff.

• When washing dirty diapers.

• When washing anything with chemicals, like oily rags.

• Anytime you notice the water is not draining well and you see pooling or runoff in the landscape.

• If you think your plants are receiving too much water.

• Anytime you may use products that are harmful to plants (like bleach or harsh chemicals).

 

3. What products can I use in my greywater system?

Plant friendly products are essential when reusing greywater.  All products should be:

• Biodegradable and non-toxic

• Free of salt (sodium) and boron (Borax), two common ingredients that are non-toxic to people but are harmful to plants and/or the soil.

• Chlorine bleach is also harmful to plants, and should be diverted to the sewer or septic by switching the three-way valve.  Hydrogen peroxide bleaches are less harmful and can be used instead of chlorine.

Consider the effect of cleaning and beauty products on the pH of the water. 

• While many soaps do not change the pH, some do.

In general, liquid soaps do not change pH, while bar soaps make the water very basic (opposite of acidic).  Soils in Santa Barbara are already very basic. USE ONLY LIQUID LAUNDRY SOAPS

Some Recommended Products for Greywater Systems

 (they are salt and boron free, and pH neutral):

Laundry: Oasis is the best choice; Ecos Baby liquid detergent is also OK.  Read the labels- avoid sodium, as well as coconut or palm oil sufactants- they are sodium by a different name! There are also soap alternatives that are greywater friendly, like soap nuts, and “wonder balls”.

Showers: Aubrey Organics make shampoos and conditioners that don’t have salt or unhealthy chemicals, and are fairly easy to find.  Many shampoos and other beauty products contain carcinogenic chemicals, reproductive toxins, and neurotoxins.  You can find out what’s in your products at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics online database at www.cosmeticdatabase.org

Sinks: Oasis all-purpose cleaner, Dr. Bronner’s

Many products claim to be safe for greywater systems but are not.  You need to read the ingredients. Anytime sodium is listed in any form, it is not an appropriate product for a greywater system.  If you use that product, turn the three way valve to ‘sewer’.

 

4. How do I maintain my system?

Your greywater system mostly relies on nature and gravity to ensure its proper functioning.  You can periodically:

• Check on the mulch basins (the mulch layer the greywater flows onto) and make sure the greywater is draining properly and there is no pooling or runoff.

• You should also check to make sure that water is coming out evenly among the outlets, or coming out in the amounts they were set to when the system was put in or adjusted.

• If you notice uneven distribution of water you should….

…In a Laundry to Landscape system:

Open any partially closed ball valves, attach the garden hose to the clean out point, and blast the system with water to flush out any particles in the system.  Anytime you attach a garden hose to the system, make sure you have an anti-siphon valve or vacuum breaker on your garden hose bib.

…In a branched drain system:

Open the clean out plugs in the double ell flow splitters and see if anything has clogged them. Insert a garden hose into the clean out plug and flush the system with water.  If it’s still not draining evenly, you can adjust the level of the double ell splitters.

 

5. What do I need to do to follow the CA greywater code for a Laundry to Landscape system that does not require a permit?  

Summary of Requirements:

The system must:

• Have an easy way to direct flow back to the sewer/septic (like a 3-way valve). The valve must be labeled.

• Send the water to irrigate landscape plantings.

• Keep the water on the same property where the greywater is produced.

• Have a maintenance manual.

• Discharge greywater under a 2” cover of mulch, plastic shield, or stones.

The system must not:

• Contain diaper waste

• Contain hazardous chemicals (such as from a home photo lab)

• Have pooling greywater or runoff.

 

This manual has been compiled by Sweetwater Collaborative, Santa Barbara, CA http://sweetwatercollaborative.org 

Information in this document has been adapted with permission from Greywater Action’s greywater users’ manual http://greywateraction.org