The recycling of water has become a necessity in certain portions of the world. However, for the typical homeowner, the need to recycle water is not normally a consideration.
We have all become very accustomed to the ability to simply turn on a water faucet and have clean, potable water available without concern. This ability is a luxury in many areas around the world, and we should be more cognizant of our use of water, whether it is from our artesian well or a public water supply.
How can we economize and reduce the amount of clean, potable water that we all use on a given day? The answer for homeowners, is to recycle water such as rainwater, and use this recycled water for various tasks that do not require the water to be drinkable.
What are some of the uses for recycled water?
1.) The most obvious use of water that does not need to be drinkable, is for use in irrigation. We have already discussed drip irrigation within this website and the benefits of this technique. Irrigation water can be the accumulation and storage of rain water, that has drained off of roofs or non penetrating surfaces. The use of rainwater for irrigation is probably the most popular use of recycled water as well as the easiest to implement.
2.) Washing exterior surfaces or vehicles. Recycled water can also be used for washing exterior surfaces, such as decks, porches, patios as well as vehicles. Why use drinkable, potable water for washing the dirt off of exterior items, or washing your car or truck. Wouldn’t it be nice to have recycled water available for showering prior to entering the pool, or even showering the mud and dirt off, from a hard day in the yard. Washing is a basic necessity and the use of recycled rain water for this purpose is a perfect application of the use of recycled water.
3.) Flushing toilets . Recycled water can be used to flush all or your toilets. There is no need for drinkable , potable water to flush your toilets. If recycled water is to be used for this purpose, filters will need to be installed, to eliminate the re-occurring blockage or obstructions in your toilet flushing mechanisms. In addition to filters, a holding tank that allows any sedimentation within the water to settle out is recommended. The holding containers should be designed to accumulate the sediment in the water at the bottom of the tank, without it discharging from the container. Various baffles within the tank can be designed and installed to facilitate this process.
4.) Interior cleaning and showering. Once again, unless you have a tendency to drink the water that you wash with, the use of filtered rain water for washing is a possibility. This water should be filtered to minimize the blockage of shower head strainers and other faucet assemblies. Local and state health restrictions should be checked to ensure that this application of recycled water usage is allowed in the area that you live. Filters as well as sedimentation of the particles within the rain water is recommended, if showering and washing is being done with the recycled rain water.
5.) Swimming pool recharge. The use of recycled water from drainage off of roofs, is a perfect recharge for the evaporation that results in a pool that is open to the environment. Anyone that has been involved with an open pool, can appreciate the amount of water that evaporates from the pools surface, during a warm and especially windy day. It seems that the pool water drops several inches on such a day. The ability to recharge this water, and re-establish the proper level with free rain water is a huge savings.
How can we accumulate the water for future use.
1.) Rain barrels. The oldest method of accumulating recycled water is the use of the rain barrel. Rain barrels have been used as a means of water retention for as long as rain has drained off of roofs and non penetrable surfaces. The old fashion wooden slatted barrels with the steel bands, were the first use of rain barrels. Positioning the barrels at the obvious locations and points of drainage, to catch the majority of the runoff from building roofs, these rain barrels were a standard exterior feature of many homes and businesses. In most cases, the actual rain water was removed by hand with pails, for distribution to livestock or for plant irrigation.
2.) Plastic and fiberglass containers. As research and development advanced for the collection of rain water, larger and more sophisticated plastic and fiberglass containers were being constructed to specifically collect rain water. These advanced water containers are designed to protect the resultant water from contamination by the elements, once the water has been deposited in the container. Hoods and lids of varying designs have been introduced to allow the water to enter, but to keep debris, bird droppings or other contaminants from contaminating the water in the container.
3.) Linking the containers. Different designs and mechanisms have been developed to link multiple containers together. This linking of containers allows the pumping of the water from all the containers with a single pump. Manifolds of plastic tubing have been designed to allow multiple containers of water to merge together into one common manifold discharge. In this manner several different containers surrounding a structure, can be linked together, to pump the entire inventory of stored water out to the garden, the lawn, the driveway for washing, or any other location that the recycled water will be used.
4.) Plastic and synthetic water baffles. Similar to a heavy, closed garbage bag, the use of enclosures made of a composite membranes are available for substantial storage of rain water. These baffles can be installed overhead on the roof eaves ( only if the structural integrity of the home is adequate ) to allow the accumulation of the water. The ability to store rain water at an elevation allows the distribution of this water to anywhere on the property, as long as the discharge elevation is lower than the location of the storage baffle. I can remember an opportunity I had, to hard pipe some condensate, that was draining from a air conditioning condenser located on the rooftop of a Florida Keys home. This condensate had been allowed to simply drain down the side of the structure, and accumulate along the perimeter of the foundation. This had caused a standing water problem along the foundation, which created a breeding place for mosquitoes, which is not a good thing, especially in the Florida Keys. My solution to the problem was to bury a plastic pipe, from the outlet of the condensate drain, to a small grove of banana trees, located approximately 75 feet from the house. The residents of the home were amazed that the water simply followed the pipe, and exited at the base of the banana grove. I explained that as long as the outlet for the condensate was lower than the point of discharge from the condensing unit on the roof, the water would exit the line. This is the same with any water storage, at an elevation higher than the point of discharge. No pump is necessary, just the simple laws of gravity and fluid flow.
5.) Underground storage. As I noted in the webpage entitled Drip Irrigation, as well as Septic tank abandonment, the use of an underground tank, is a perfect container for recycled rain water. The fact that the storage is located under the ground, allows the tank to be hidden from view, and eliminates the need to occupy valuable exterior yard space. The reuse of an existing septic tank, if it is to be abandoned, is a perfect solution to complying with the requirements of tank abandonment, namely reuse of the tank. In addition, the sizes of the majority of underground tanks, are much larger than any type of above ground storage container. There is no concern with the stored water becoming contaminated and the lack of exposure to sunlight reduces the losses due to evaporation. In most instances, the existing tank will need to be cleaned, to ensure that its use as a future water storage container does not contaminate the water.
6.) Pump systems. There are several different types of pumping systems that can be used to distribute the water to the desired location. Gas, electric and solar pumps are available for use, and can be located on the exterior of the home, or in a mechanical area within the home. The use of a pump will allow the distribution of the water to any location on the property, and will also allow the water to be pressurized, which will enable a more efficient use of the water for washing down exterior surfaces or cleaning vehicles.
The recycling of water is a fundamental environmental activity, that should be advanced and promoted, in the construction of new homes as well as added to existing homes. Clean water is a commodity that the majority of us take for granted. However, the reuse of rain water and the efforts to recycle water, will guarantee that this ability to take for granted our clean water, will remain intact.
Irrigation, cleaning, pool recharge are only some of the ways to utilize recycled water.
Consider it on your next project!