Hearing the term ‘gray water’ might cause your stomach to turn a bit, but in Texas, it’s quickly becoming a great way to conserve clean drinking water. Gray water is the leftover tap water from bathtubs, showers, washing machines, and other “soapy” water used in the house. It should not contain serious contaminants. Water from the kitchen sink or toilets is known as “black water” and is not safe to use for irrigation as it carries a higher risk for contamination.
According to a researcher at Texas A&M, 50-60% of home water usage is for landscaping. A four person family can produce around 90 gallons of gray water each day which would drastically help water conservation efforts. Depending on the types of plants used in the landscaping, the usage of water can increase or decrease. Plants native to the area are usually the best choice for homes as they have already adapted to life in that particular climate.
Gray water is being used in some parts of Texas already with some restrictions. It is easily captured and contained after use and then it is redirected to an irrigation system outside the home. Currently, researchers at Texas A&M are conducting experiments using gray water and clean water to see the effects on plants. One major concern about using gray water is the salt content and its threat to the flora. There will also be more experiments testing the differences between hard gray water and soft gray water. It is possible those interested in incorporating gray water into their conservation efforts will have to have a small retrofit to the their home filtration system and plumbing system. These various tests and experiments could take up to one year for results.