A non-partisan, neutral perspective supporting diversity in the color of water

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mind the Bin

The news about greywater is usually very positive, extolling the virtues of water conservation, "sustainability", a "green" lifestyle. But every story has a dark side, too. This article from the Australian newspaper Moreland Leader describes a near miss with a four-year old almost drowning in a bin used for greywater storage. Kidsafe Victoria president Dr Mark Stokes indicated “There are millions of buckets of water being stored in homes every day in Victoria with each bucket representing a potential drowning situation or near drowning which can leave children with severe brain damage.” 

Recalling the global message warning transit passengers to "mind the gap" between the train door and the platform, I guess the Oregon Graywater Advisory Committee will have to consider bin safety as we develop the state rules. The next meeting is slated for January 14, 2010. The public is always welcome. Come join us.


  1. I think the interesting thing about the graywater discussion, in general, is that it seems to work at cross purposes to wastewater reuse. While I have nothing against reusing graywater, in and of itself, because I admit that I already do, sometimes with those kid unfriendly buckets. However, my bone picking is about the fact that we could be re-using ALL the water in our wastewater. If a significant portion of graywater is removed from the traditional wastewater treatment stream, all of a sudden the wastewater going to our sewage treatment plants is more concentrated. Once that happens, the treatment systems have a harder treating the wastewater to standards in permit or rule because they are not designed to deal with concentrated wastewater. So then they (which is actually us that use these systems) have to pay (in time, energy, money, upgrades) to deal with a new kind of wastewater. Next time maybe I'll pick a bone about reuse, centralized services and homeland security...

  2. Great observation regarding the concentration of wastewater to the systems. I am not a wastewater engineer, but have been involved in the *end* product - the treated wastewater. Communities along the Willamette River are battling the temperature of the discharged wastewater to the river - it is too warm for their discharge permits. They are searching for places to *store* the wastewater to either let it cool, or not discharge at all. So, greywater permits a lower volume of *waste* water to the wastewater treatment plant thus freeing up some discharge volume and permitting the greywater portion of the *waste* to infiltrate and slowly migrate to the river since it is the regional hydrologic sink. Less wastewater also would, theoretically, extend the life of the wastewater treatment plant, while at the same time permitting certain growth as climate change refugees *discover* Oregon. And a smaller footprint of the wastewater treatment plant means less opportunity for threats to national wastewater security.

  3. Interesting point, the one about the heat footprint of municipal systems. I too am all for smaller municipal treatment systems, but wonder if there is another way to skin this cat. We have a direct analogy in the distributed energy arena where solar panels are popping up on roofs around the countryside, ODOT was having it's own little NIMBY fight about a solar array in a highway corridor, windfarms, all of these are little energy generators located at different points in the grid, feeding the grid and taking the load off the big centralized plants. What if we could do the same with our wastewater? Allow little users, anywhere from my backyard, to the neighborhood park to the new industrial use, to generate treat and reuse their own wastewater? Why do the current rules constrain our ability to shorten the little hydrologic cycle that each land use has created? In my town, according to state rule, I have no choice but to hook up to the municipal system, even though that system is busting at the seams and needs millions of dollars of upgrades to serve its service area.

  4. I like the analogy to energy. It is appropriate because water/wastewater treatment is energy intensive. But if we treated and reused our own wastewater, then where would all of the large consulting engineering and construction firms that design and build these plants get their riches from? The water/wastewater game has been estimated to be $USD 1 Trillion:
    Big business is not going to let the little users get in the way of this opportunity regardless of how *efficient* it is. And the regulatory agencies are stretched thin as it is just monitoring these large PODs.