Graywater – The Black & White on Consumption and Residential Adaptive Re Use

Graywater – The Black & White on Consumption and Residential Adaptive Re?Use
Doug Keating, AIA Associate

The purpose of this paper is to provide a broad platform from which to examine the panacea of information regarding graywater. Rather than recommend a specific path, or narrowly define a detailed product, the intent of the information is to educate the reader on the wide range of factors that contribute to the arena of graywater including domestic water re?use, historic data, psychological motivation, municipal interpretations, current water climate, sample system schematics, environmental impact and the condition of recent trends in water greywater utilization.

Opinions and findings of fact are not intended to be used as an endorsement for a specific design or product; nor are they intended to invalidate or discredit systems, laws or ordinances. Put simply, the point is to foster general understanding of residential graywater and to provide a resource for the reader or researcher from which to form, broaden and arrive at personal conclusions. Within the body of data there exist multiple opinions as well as spellings. The spelling of greywater varies from publication to publication and is exhibited in this paper in its most commonly accepted form as
“greywater” which is used synonymously to refer to all spelling adaptations. The selection of opinions and data herein are based on most current information available and were also considered by source, motivation and merit before inclusion.

Water, Water Everywhere:
The definition of Graywater varies depending on the municipality or
authored paper. Graywater is most typically expressed as untreated
waste water that excludes water from the toilet, kitchen sink or
dishwasher. In contrast to potable water (water suitable for drinking),
the expanded definition of graywater includes water from bathroom
sinks, showers, tubs, clothing washers and air conditioning condensation
but specifically excludes uses as consumption, and in some definitions,
human consumption or contact. There will likely still be trace amounts
organic compounds released by graywater but the concentrations are
typically minute and this water will contain trace nutrients that the soil’s upper aerobic layers and
decompose and deactivate. (7)

Black water, in contrast to graywater, is considered contaminated and requires treatment before it can be released into the water supply. Black water, commonly referred to as sewage, originates from toilets, kitchen sinks or any other source of coliform bacterial waste. Historically, pathogens in this type of untreated water were the source of widespread disease in developing cities in the early to late 1800’s and were widely blamed for multiple epidemics such as the Cholera epidemic of 1854 that decimated over 5% of Chicago’s population. These epidemics also included typhoid and dysentery, also a source of pollution from inadequately treated sewage. (8)

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