By Rachel Dovey.
Confession: I’m a Californian who likes plants. I want to grow them outside my house in the dirt. I want to water them and watch them grow.
Does this make me a monster? Maybe. I know that while my front yard is made up of natives and veggies, not lawn grass, I’m still part of a pattern in which lower-density cities use more water to keep things green outside. And knowing that has led to my love-hate relationship with the subject of today’s post: gray water.
Perhaps you live in one of those strange and magical places where precipitation still falls from the sky, and don’t yet know about gray water. Gray water is “gently used water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines,” according to a leading advocacy source, which can be reused for irrigation. It’s a literal bucketful of untapped potential, given that an average shower uses about 17 gallons and washing machines usebetween 14 and 40 per load. But even though it’s legal in California (it isn’t in every state), a bundle of codes, permits and even the most basic of questions — how to transport it outside — still make gray water a decidedly tricky business.
I speak from experience.
My foray into the murky world of gray water began last March, when my husband, daughter and I moved into a rental with a small front yard. I wanted a garden, but my drought fear was then new and visceral — Northern California wildfires had been off the charts the previous summer, thirsty animals were dying in record numbers as they tried to cross the roads, and even the low-maintenance ivy patches bordering my city’s public buildings had gone crispy and tan.