This entry was written by one of our members and submitted to our blog section. The author's views below are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Green Home Guide.

Earlier in the year, we looked at the benefits of putting our limited rainwater to good use with water catchment and infiltration strategies.  Now that LA’s picture-perfect weather makes it tough to keep our gardens picture-perfect without irrigation, our teams field plenty of questions about graywater..

Unlike the other water harvesting strategies we’ve covered, graywater is always “re-watering” with already used water.  Graywater comes from sources from with in a home or business, like the laundry machine, bathtubs, sinks and showers. The outlets for these sources are diverted into the landscape or on-property storage instead of the sewer. 

Like catchment and infiltration, graywater produces amazing community benefits.  It reduces stress on the sewage and water sanitation systems as well as the need for water importation from afar.  It also helps keep our oceans clean and surfers safe by flowing water through the best filters available – land and foliage.  Graywater will also serve you well.

For savvy Los Angeles businesses and households, graywater can actually supply all the water needed to keep landscapes flawlessly lovely through the dry season.  As at least 50 percent of household water is used for landscapes graywater use can produce notable improvement to the typical water bill.


Scott-Weich home, featured on the 2010 Eco Echo Park Home Tour features a rose-feeding graywater system.

Does graywater sound like a panacea?  It just may be!  There are, however, a few challenges. Storage of graywater can be expensive. It may also present the need for small lifestyle changes.  As graywater will contain the products that you place down your drains, protecting plants sensitive to phosphates and salts may mean changing your favorite dish detergent or shampoo. For the same reasons, graywater should be used to water foliage planted for enjoyment, not veggies or herbs planted for consumption. 

Releasing graywater to smaller, thirstier areas of the landscape like traditional lawns or rose gardens can eliminate the need for storage and minimize lifestyle impacts.  This strategy also helps with addressing graywater’s most vexing challenge – red tape.

Unfortunately, many localities have legacy ordinances that conflict with their own, newer Water Efficiency Landscape Ordinances (WELOs).  If excessive red tape, fines or fees are encountered, it may be useful to note that all California municipalities must allow graywater use as a matter of state law. 

As you might imagine, these challenges will erode with time.  As more people express interest in graywater, innovative and less expensive storage options develop, and localities are pushed to address the conflicts between legacy ordinances and their own WELOs. 

Be part of the solution!  We will continue to follow this topic and share opportunities for action as well as strategies for integrating graywater into your landscape.