Pros & Cons of Recycling Water

circle made of water splashes
Water swirling in the shape of a circle. (Image: Sergey Novikov/iStock/Getty Images)

All around the world, people are becoming more environmentally conscious. On our quest to become a greener planet, we have been conserving and recycling non-renewable resources such as coal and oil by using energy efficient appliances and changing some wasteful habits. However, one of biggest ways we can go green is by recycling water.

About

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According to the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center, recycled water, or "greywater," derives from residential water uses such as the bath, shower, washing machine and sink. GreywaterAction.org says there may be traces of dirt, food, grease, hair, and certain household cleaning products in recycled water. While it is not suitable for all uses, greywater can be used for many things, such as irrigation and toilet flushing. Greywater systems are commercially available and you can have one installed in your home; however, you can also design a simple system without pumps that works with gravity and your landscape.

Pros

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Recycling water has many benefits, most obviously that it saves potable water. In addition to conserving potable water, greywater may actually be better for vegetation. Greywater usually contains detergents that have nitrogen or phosphorus, which are plant nutrients. GreywaterAction.org also says reusing greywater keeps it out of the sewer or septic system, which reduces the chance that it will end up in our local streams, lakes and ponds. It also increases the life and capacity of your septic system since usage decreases. Recycling water saves money as well. With water costs rising, many people who choose to use greywater have lower monthly bills.

Cons

The downside to recycled water is that some systems can be very expensive. The law may require a complex and costly system. If the area is small and the water flow is low, the juice is not worth the squeeze. It may also require more maintenance than a regular sewer or septic system. The climate may also be unsuitable for recycling. You may only be able to recycle in warmer months if you live in cold climates. Your soil may be too permeable or not permeable enough, and you may need to make adjustments.

Guidelines

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GreywaterAction.org advises not to store greywater for more than 24 hours. It may start to smell. Try to avoid contact with the water and never drink recycled water. Make sure the recycled water is being absorbed into the ground and don't let it pool up. This will attract mosquitoes. Keep your system as simple as possible to make it cost efficient and worthwhile.

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