Posted by: Daryl & Wendy Ashby | June 26, 2011

We’ve Come a Long Way (Or have we?)

I remember as a kid sewers were not available to us as we lived well outside the city boundaries. A septic system with a tank and distribution lines represented the only solution.

Rather than flood the septic system with what all our waste from the bathtub, laundry and sinks (grey water), my father installed a rock pit which involved a large hole int he ground filled with loose rock. Here he dispersed the grey water via a separate piping system than the septic or black water as it is called.

Any sewage, whether it be dealt with via a septic disposal network or a treatment plant will not fair well with the introduction of fresh water or excess water in general, so the more you can remove from the system the greater the bacterial action will be with the sewage and the more efficient the breakdown of solids and other nasties will occur.

Today however everything is funnelled into the same pipe and dumped into the ocean, a lot of the time with little to no treatment.

Allow me to challenge you, where a lot size does not represent a limitation. Give serious thought to going back to the old way of doing things. Not only will your pocket-book benefit, but the environment will benefit as well.

One new home I can think of, sees the owners standing on the second or third-floor balconies looking down upon a small grove of fruit trees that are being fed with the gray water, from their laundry machine, bathtub, showers and sinks.

The gray water system was designed to work 100% off gravity. It has no filters. No pumps. No electrical devices. Just a series of pipes that route the water through a 50-gallon tank in the garage. With the flip of a three-way valve, the couple can send their laundry water downhill to the yard.

The system can accommodate 160 gallons of wastewater daily, all drained through a series of pipes buried 10 inches underground. The pipes are perforated and operate similar to a giant soaker hose, spreading water slowly across a large area. Because the house discharges so much less water into the sewer system, they receive a 60% reduction in sewer charges from the Department of Sanitation.

The gray-water effort is complemented with the 1,500-gallon underground cistern, which stores rainwater funneled from the roof which then can be used to water trees along a downward-sloping fence line.

Through the past decade or so, the Regional District has imposed water restrictions and as a result lawns, gardens and the general well-being of our yards have been drought starved. With the new awareness of climate change, it is predicted water will grow only more scarce globally with time.

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