Graywater Collection for Gardens

If you’re reading this site, you probably have a garden of some kind, and that means you’re using water. But what if you’re in a very dry climate or on a limited water supply, such as an underground cistern? Graywater collection could be the answer; at least, it was for us.

Graywater is wastewater from your household — not the toilet, but the dishwasher, shower, washing machine, and sinks. Unless you’re using harsh chemicals (and hopefully you’re making your own cleaners, but we’ll get to that later), all of that water can be recycled for your garden. That means big savings for you — especially if you’re on a limited water supply or depending on the weather to provide you with rain.  Setting up graywater collection can be incredibly easy and inexpensive as well. And since 60% of your household waste water is graywater, you stand to recoup a LOT of the water that’s currently going down your drain.

Some folks put containers in their sinks, or shower with the plug in their tub, and then siphon the water out the window with a garden hose onto their lawn. Since we were looking to do something a bit more efficient and less…annoying, we went and got a few supplies.

  • Water barrel with two spigots.  There’s a fairly decent selection at Amazon, but you could just as well go to your local country store and pick one up.  We paid about $45 for our barrel, but we could’ve probably gotten a used one on Craiglist for cheaper.
  • PVC pipe and elbows (We used 3″ but you’ll want to check your own drain piping and see what’s there.)
  • Pipe cement

Thankfully, our graywater drain was already set up to come out on the side of a hill below our house, so setting up the collection system took about 20 minutes.

graywater collection
We extended the graywater drain out from the hillside.


The PVC pipe fit nicely into the top of the barrel.

Now, ideally we would be able to simply hook up a drip hose to the barrel (I know Miracle Gro makes them but this one is better), and our showers and laundry would keep the barrel full — and in turn, keep the garden happy. But because that’s not how our terrain works, we’d need to use a pump to get the water back up to the garden.  In the meantime, however, we set up a filling station of sorts with a 5-gallon bucket, which we can then haul up to the garden and use to fill the irrigation pots we have buried in it.  The pots are called ollas, and we chose this kind because they’re handmade, beautiful, and we like supporting artisans!

The finished (temporary) product!

The nice fringe benefit is that we get to carry that full 5-gallon bucket up the hill to the garden. Free workout! I’m sure we’ll tweak this system and keep improving it, but for right now, we’re already saving a LOT of water, and we couldn’t be happier! I might take a slightly longer shower tonight. After all, it’s helping the garden, right?

Have you started a graywater collection system at your place? How did you do it? Tell us in the comments!

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