Safe uses for grey­wa­ter

Here we share your tips, tales, pho­tos and feed­back, an­swer your ques­tions and iden­tify mys­tery plants

Gardening Australia - - CONTENTS -

Kevin and Jo Lester, via email

We love our gar­den and we’d like to use our grey­wa­ter to help get some of our plants through the dry times. What do we need to know about us­ing it?

Phil Dud­man says

Han­dled cor­rectly, much of your house­hold grey­wa­ter can be put to good use in the gar­den, po­ten­tially sav­ing thou­sands of litres of town or tank water. How­ever, grey­wa­ter may con­tain harm­ful pathogens and salts, so mis­us­ing it can pose a se­ri­ous health risk to hu­mans, soil and plants. Here’s what you need to know, but be­fore us­ing grey­wa­ter in the gar­den, check if your lo­cal coun­cil has any other guide­lines or re­stric­tions.

• Use only the best qual­ity grey­wa­ter from the bath, shower, hand basin and fi­nal rinse of the wash­ing ma­chine. • Don’t store un­treated grey­wa­ter. Use it as soon as pos­si­ble to avoid of­fen­sive odours and dan­ger­ous build-up of harm­ful bac­te­ria, and if you can’t, di­vert it to the sewer. • Al­ways ap­ply grey­wa­ter di­rectly to mulched gar­den beds. Don’t spray it in the air as you don’t want any­one hav­ing con­tact with it.

• Use un­treated grey­wa­ter on trees, shrubs or or­na­men­tal peren­ni­als. • Don’t use grey­wa­ter on any of your veg­eta­bles, ground-dwelling ed­i­ble herbs or pot­ted plants. • Un­treated grey­wa­ter is safe to use on fruit trees, but not on trees where fruit that falls may be eaten. • Don’t use grey­wa­ter in ar­eas where chil­dren and pets play.

• Don’t al­low grey­wa­ter to run off into stormwa­ter drains or neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ties. • Avoid ir­ri­gat­ing with grey­wa­ter within 1m of any bound­ary lines, build­ings, in-ground pools and in-ground potable water tanks. • Don’t al­low grey­wa­ter to pol­lute drink­ing water or ground­wa­ter, or to en­ter a wa­ter­course.

• Don’t use grey­wa­ter dur­ing rain or when the soil is sat­u­rated. Only use it when the gar­den needs it. • Don’t al­low grey­wa­ter to pool on the sur­face of the ground. • Don’t use grey­wa­ter from the wash­ing of nap­pies or soiled cloth­ing, or when some­one in the house is sick or has di­ar­rhoea. • Wash your hands thor­oughly af­ter con­tact with grey­wa­ter. If you’re se­ri­ous about the on­go­ing use of grey­wa­ter, look into some of the di­ver­sion sys­tems that help to au­to­mate the process and re­duce con­tact, as well as sys­tems that treat the water and im­prove the qual­ity, fur­ther re­duc­ing risk. Keep in mind that many soaps, sham­poos, wash­ing pow­ders and de­ter­gents con­tain high lev­els of nu­tri­ents and salts that will harm soil, plants, ground­wa­ter and wa­ter­ways. Look for the wash­ing and per­sonal hy­giene prod­ucts that are low in ni­tro­gen, phos­pho­rous and salts, some­times la­belled ‘grey­wa­ter safe’ or ‘gar­den safe’. If you’re un­sure of the safety of a prod­uct you’re us­ing, don’t use that batch of grey­wa­ter.

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