If you’re not familiar with the term “graywater,” it refers to water that has been used once for showers or laundry and can be used again for filling toilets, (and sometimes watering lawns as well). Some systems will also take water from sump pumps that can be pumped into a recovery tank. The point about reusing water is that it prevents the use of “potable” (treated, drinking) water for being used for things like flushing toilets. In an average family household, the largest water consumption activities are:
- Showers and baths: 35%
- Toilet flushing: 30%
- Laundry: 20%
- Kitchen and drinking: 10%
- Cleaning: 5%
Many of the municipalities around the Greater Toronto Area are looking to reduce water consumption. As more people move into the GTA, more pressure is put on our water system. If we can reduce water use we can delay infrastructure upgrades, save energy costs (water treatment costs), and most importantly, conserve fresh water use.
Enter the graywater system. A graywater system can conserve 35-40% of your water consumption by taking all water used from showers and baths and direct it to fill you toilet bowls, thereby displacing 30% of your total household water consumption. In fact, at current water rates, Chris Thompson of Greyter Water Systems, estimates that a homeowner would save 30-40% on their water bill annually with a graywater system.
After going through a second use in toilets, the water is then flushed into the main sewage system.
In addition to the advantages already mentioned, there are a few others as well::
- It is not dependent on rainwater.
- It can be used with low-flow toilets and showers.
- It means that potable (treated, drinking) water is not used for flushing toilets.
- It eases the burden on the city sewage treatment system.
The main drawbacks of a greywater system:
- Retrofitting an already built home is difficult unless a renovation is being undertaken.
- The tank requires a certain amount of space in your basement.
I contacted Chris to ask him a few questions about a graywater system:
[Chris Thompson] Systems start at $2190 for a modest sized home with a typical family. Installation varies depending on the home. For new construction or renovations where there is already some plumbing work being done or simple retrofits where the plumbing is exposed or easy to get to, the installation cost ranges from $300-$800 including materials. This would include all of the rough in materials (pipes), valves and fittings and labour required.
[Chris Thompson] I or one of my dealers would provide support to the plumber who would do the rough in and make the system connections. This is mainly a plumbing job and it must be done to comply with Ontario Building Code. Most plumbers need only a little bit of guidance from us to be able to do the installation. The dealer can also provide start-up and an orientation for the homeowner if required.
[Chris Thompson] Brac is currently the only approved residential system in Ontario and yes, I am building the dealer network for the province now.
[Chris Thompson] That would be the simplest of all installations.
[Chris Thompson] With a Brac System, there is no need to upgrade beyond 6l toilets as all of the water will be reclaimed and 6L toilets will become 0L toilets. Having said that, dual flush or low flush toilets will increase the capacity of the system. ie. The RGW150 is ideal for a family of 4. With dual flush toilets, it would be more capable of handling 6 occupants.
Most of the good low flow shower heads restrict water to about 7 litres per minute (much less and people tend to shower longer and don’t get a comfortable shower). With an average shower length of 10 minutes, 70L of greywater would be reclaimed. On average, we flush 7 times per day per person or 42L with 6L toilets. This means there will usually be a surplus, even with low flow shower heads.
Because there is a surplus, we typically do not connect the laundry because we already have enough water. In some installations, it is difficult to get to all of the showers and we might tie in the laundry to supplement. The impact is that lint will need to be cleaned from the filter more often and colour will get through the filter.
We never collect from kitchen sources due to the organics and oils that are present.
[Chris Thompson] Guelph is the first. They are just finishing up a pilot rebate that was to cover the first 30 systems installed in new construction through selected builders. They are in the process now of implementing a permanent rebate of $1000 for anybody who wants to install a system. When all of this becomes final, I will be approaching other municipalities with the details.
(Note: featured image is courtesy of the city of Guelph, Ontario)
Definitely a good read. There’s actually a lot of misinformation out there about graywater and how it relates to water conservation. We find ourselves answering some of these same questions out in the field all the time.
Thanks Ken! I am glad you enjoyed the article.
Hi Cathy Rust,
When Green Plumbing is the topic, often times water conservation and re-usability goes along with it. The best way to improve something is to first look at what you have and what is been wasted. That’s exactly the point of using “graywater” again-“reusing water”.
Hi, I live in Cobourg and like to have more details about how your product works. You can contact me by email. Thanks.
Thanks for your comments. For more information on installing the gray water system, contact Chris Thompson, the Ontario distributor for Brac systems. Here is his contact information:
Chris Thompson at Project Innovations (formerly The Install Team).
Hope that helps!
Ontario Building Code supports the use of Greywater for flushing toilets. The CSA Standard B128 also provides guidance for building inspectors to ensure the system is acceptable. The Brac System is certified to be in compliance with B128.
To date, we have installed systems in the majority of larger Ontario cities and have not had any challenges with approval. There are a number of things we do to ensure safety including labelling all lines that carry greywater through the house (this is a code requirement).
If you let me know where you live, I can give you some insite into any conditions that are required in your area but for the most part, it’s as simple as taking out a permit and having it inspected following the installation.
You can reach me through the website http://www.projectinnovations.ca
Thanks Chris for your prompt reply!
Do you have information about installed systems in Ontario? What are the code/bylaw restrictions on the installations?
Good question. Let me look into it. I’ll get back to you on this one.
Rainwater is another great way to save water. I’d love to capture it to water my garden, but it is illegal in our town, even during the rainy season where loads and loads of water just pours off the house and through the gutters. Seems kind of silly to me.
I once read a really good article about why capturing rainwater in certain US states is prohibited. It turns out that in Colorado, rainwater helps feed the Colorado river which in turn is used for agriculture in southern states. Could that be a reason why you’re not allowed to capture it where you live?