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saving the world September 23, 2014

Filed under: garden — courtsbrogno @ 12:00 pm

I’m not usually in the habit of saving the world, but with all that’s terrible going on in the world right now–ebola, ISIS, gun laws, gender rights, (really the list could go on for a very long time)–I felt it was time for me to do something. To take action. To make a change.

So I thought and thought and thought and after realizing that there’s not much I can do for the world (other than send emails to my senators), there IS something I can do for my state. I can save water.

There’s something odd about the dynamics of water right now. We either have too much because of climate change and cities are rushing to plan ahead for when sea levels rise and coastal cities potentially/likely go under or we have too little, as is the case for California.

So we made rules this summer at our house: short showers, skipping showers (so me and Maddie only shower every other day), no flushing the toilet if it’s just pee (as an added bonus, this drives my mother crazy), turning off the water when brushing our teeth (something I always forget to do).

But there had to be more I could do, especially because I planted a full vegetable garden and because we have flowers in the backyard and rose bushes along the side of the house that our landlord wants to keep alive.


(beautiful backyard with flowers)


(vegetable garden)

And then it hit me: grey water. Our house is lucky enough to have our washing machine and dryer outside in the backyard and I figured if I could get the grey water from the washing machine I could water all our plants. So I went to Home Depot.

Now, I’m not an engineer so I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for nor did I take any measurements. Thus I just wandered the aisles until I found something that looked the right size and looked like it might work. And it did.

I took the gray hose from the washing machine and attached it to some white hose thingy I bought and then used those metal tightening things to ensure no leaking.

IMG_3543And it didn’t leak!

Then the white hose went directly into a garbage bin to collect the water:

washing machine


Once the bin was full:


I could cart it around and water the garden.

But here’s the thing….there’s a lot of water in that garbage bin, which made it quite heavy, so I used a small garbage bin to water the plants in small planters:


And then when the big garbage bin was about half full, I dumped the water into the large planters:


So I did this for about 2 weeks and it was working fine, but it was so laborious. The garbage bin is 32 gallons and guess what? One load of laundry that’s medium or more uses more than 32 gallons of water. Thus, I had to sit outside while the washing machine was going and wait for the garbage bin to fill about 3/4 full, then shut off the washing machine, then water, then turn the washing machine back on, then water again. Then repeat. And getting the garbage bin to the side of the house to water the roses became such a pain in the ass.

So I thought some more. And I went back to Home Depot without any measurements and bought some more things and did this:


I connected the white hose to some plastic thingy with those metal tightening things to an actual garden hose! It’s not perfect and it leaks (but I capture the leaking water in the big garbage bin), but it does work.


working 2

So now I don’t have to sit around and wait nor do I have to lug around the big garbage bin all the time (though sometimes I still do because it is a faster way of watering our big planters). All I have to do is move the hose. And the hose is 100 feet long so it easily makes it to the side of the house to water the roses.

In a way, I guess we’re not really saving water so much as re-purposing it. But now I don’t have to water the plants with fresh water from the hose (I still water our small vegetable garden with fresh water though). And our water bill has gone down, but because I have to purchase biodegradable laundry detergent (so I don’t kill our plants and flowers), the price is pretty much the same.

But that’s okay because I feel like we’re doing our small part in helping California with the drought.

I’m sure an engineer could have done such a better job, but I’ve got to admit: I’m pretty proud of my MacGyver moves.

Now I’m just trying to figure out how we can access our bath/shower water??? But that probably includes some serious pluming and I’m a bit frightened by the thought. However, I do teach at a school of engineers, so maybe I could get some help. Because that would be seriously awesome (though I would never let them see my system now–I can just imagine the horror on their faces).



One Response to “saving the world”

  1. nmacdoug Says:

    You are the bomb! I totally didn’t think to do the washing machine thing. For the shower, we have a largish bucket for collecting water as it warms up then we get wet, turn off the water then lather up and then rinse. The water goes to the avocado tree.

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