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DIY Laundry to Landscape Greywater System

by Kevin and Julie on September 12, 2015

We just installed a greywater system that lets us redirect water from the washer to the planters in our front yard. It was a one day project, and best of all, no permit is required in California!

the finished project

Here’s how we set up our system, including the parts we bought. If you would like to replicate this system, your parts may vary based on the locations of your washer, sewer pipe, and rain barrel. Check out the links at the end for more examples, parts lists, and regulations.

The first thing we bought was this 50 gallon rain barrel. This differs from many other greywater projects we’ve seen online that redirect greywater straight into buried pipes. We use this barrel as a surge tank to handle the volume of water generated by our laundry, reduce stress on the washer pump, avoid backflow, decrease maintenance, and minimize the amount of digging  we had to do.

This diverter valve is a key component in our system. It allows us to redirect laundry water to the front yard or to the sewer. This is important because not only is it required by California regulations, we also recognized that there will be times when we need to use bleach or other laundry products that are harmful to plants and should be put into the sewer.

A closeup of the diverter valve, the hose barb, the PVC adapters, and the pipe straps

A closeup of the diverter valve, the hose barb, the PVC adapters, and the pipe straps

To speed up the water flowing out of the barrel, we raised it with some bricks. We started off with two bricks and ended up using four to increase the height.

We added this piece of plywood on top of the bricks to increase the stability of the rain barrel.

According to California regulations, greywater cannot be allowed to drain into the gutter, so we dug this mulch moat around the rain barrel to handle accidental overflow.

Moat before we added the mulch

Moat before we added the mulch

This was the wall behind our washer before we installed the diverter valve and pipes. We disconnected the washer from the large black pipe in the lower left corner, which leads down to the sewer, and we drilled the hole in the upper right corner that leads out to the rain barrel.

The before shot

The before shot

After a lot of measuring, cutting, and gluing, this is the PVC pipe assembly that will connect the washer to the sewer on the left end and to the rain barrel on the right end.

Everything glued together with PVC cement and silicone tape

Everything glued together with PVC cement and Teflon tape

Here are the pipes screwed to the wall using pipe straps and wall anchors.

almost done

Almost done

California regulations require instructions that explain how to use the system, so the kids helped make this sign. To discharge washer water to the yard, we turn the valve handle so that it points to the left, “To the yard (barrel).” To direct water down the sewer pipe, we turn the valve handle until it points upward, “To the ocean (sewer).”

10-instructions-valve-sewer

Instructions

California regulations require a clear warning message with the following language: “Greywater Irrigation System, Caution – Unsafe Water.” We wrote this warning on the rain barrel using a silver Sharpie.

Greywater Irrigation System, Caution - Unsafe Water

Greywater Irrigation System, Caution – Unsafe Water

California regulations require greywater to be discharged two inches below the surface, so we dug several pits all over the front yard and filled them with mulch. The water hose allows us to direct water into the mulch pit of our choice.

Rain barrel with water hose

Rain barrel with water hose

We’re all done! One last note: because of low rainfall in Southern California, it’s important to use laundry detergent that contains no salts to avoid killing plants. Many biodegradable, environmentally friendly laundry detergents still contain salts, so they shouldn’t be used in a greywater system. After reading a lot of labels, we found a suitable laundry detergent at our local Trader Joe’s.

Greywater friendly detergent from Trader Joe's

Greywater friendly detergent from Trader Joe’s

Here are the parts we bought for our system:

  • (1) rain barrel – 50 gallon
  • (1) garden hose – 50 feet
  • (10) mulch – 2 cu. ft. bags
  • (1) 3-port bronze diverter valve – Apollo 70-600 1″ NPT
  • (1) hose barb – brass 1″ NPT to 1″ barb
  • (2) PVC 1″ MPT to 1″ slip
  • (3) PVC 1″ 90 degree elbow slip
  • (1) PVC 1″ 45 degree bend slip
  • (2) pipe strap – 1 1/4″ galvanized
  • (2) hose clamps
  • (1) PVC pipe – 1″x10′
  • (1) PVC cement
  • (1) Teflon tape
  • (1) 3/4″ plywood sheet
  • (4) retaining wall blocks
  • (1) laundry detergent, greywater friendly

Here are some websites we found useful:

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