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| Last Updated:08/02/2014

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The Hindu, 08 February 2014


What little changes or adjustments at home can save water? Some ideas from Preethi Sukumaran


This past week we spent a couple of days at my sister-in-law’s home in a large apartment complex in the city. Apart from the highly effective segregation of solid waste in this 350-apartment community, I was pleasantly surprised that they had also installed a sewage treatment plant to recycle black water. Therefore no fresh water was being wasted to flush toilets. This is a highly sustainable system which is easy to implement when a number of like-minded citizens join together to pool their resources and invest in the plant.


For many of us who live in independent homes or in buildings with just a few apartments there is still plenty of scope left to recycle and save water. From the earlier article we know that roughly 50 per cent of the fresh water in a home becomes grey water from activities like bathing, laundry, washing hands, mopping the floor etcetera. Let us examine some quick fixes to save water at home.


Laundry water


Even before water becomes waste-water and needs to be recycled, it can be “cycled”, which means that the same water being used for multiple purposes. Laundry is the big area of water consumption with 50-100 litres of water used per load depending on the type of machine used. Even washing by hand consumes a few buckets per load. The drainpipe from the machine can be fed to a bucket to collect the grey water. This water will be quite soapy and can be cycled to mop the floors or even to flush toilets.


The major contaminant in laundry water is the chemical detergent used and not really the dirt from the clothes. This is important to note for those interested in recycling laundry water. Chemical detergents are very high in phosphates which will cause a nutrient imbalance in the soil if the grey water is directly fed to the garden. Furthermore, chemical detergents also contain several other soil pollutants such as enzymes. This is why untreated water from household laundry enters the water bodies causing severe pollution. The ideal option would be to switch to a natural plant-based detergent like soapberries, which will not pollute the gardens or water bodies. You can even take a sample of that water from your washing machine and get it tested at a lab for biological oxygen demand to check if it is safe for recycling as specified by the Central Pollution Control Board.


Bath water


Bathing, especially showers, uses a lot of water which can be recycled by collecting the water with some quick plumbing changes. Similar to the laundry example, using natural, organic soaps and hair-wash products will render the grey water safe and easy to recycle.


Kitchen water


Water from the kitchen sink will contain grease and food particles which can be filtered through a mesh to give reusable grey water. Waste water from reverse osmosis (RO) purifiers is very high in dissolved solids and can only be reused for flushing or mopping floors.


The major contaminant in laundry water is the chemical detergent used and not really the dirt from the clothes