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

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Buckin' Bronco Gets it Right on Greywater

Just Water Savers USA sent me the Wyoming rules on greywater reuse. As someone who grew up in Wyoming, attended the University of Wyoming, and spent the bulk of my professional career working as a geologist in the Cowboy State, I was very surprised to see that Wyoming even considered greywater as part of their water portfolio. Why was I surprised? Wyoming is not known for recycling much of anything except wind and rattlesnakes (if you have been to the vendor booths at Cheyenne Frontier Days, you know what I mean). And with only two seasons - winter and the 4th of July - I was curious where greywater might be reused.

If one reads Annie Proulx's three books on Wyoming, coupled with recalling the fact that former Vice President Dick Cheney is also from Wyoming, one quickly learns that Wyoming is a no-nonsense state; handshakes and a person's word still mean something there. And a no-nonsense approach is used by Wyoming when it comes to greywater. Note that the "Equal Rights" state gives parity to kitchen sink wastewater! Wyoming got it right when it was the first territory in the US to give women the right to vote, the first state to register professional engineers, and when it came up with this leading-edge one page set of rules regarding greywater reuse. Let's hope climate change might add an extra day of summer to reuse the greywater before it changes phase.


  1. I have to congratulate Wyoming on this code. It is no nonsense - ie it actually makes sense. It create regulations that are realistic, and provides a framework that pretty much fits in with what people do naturally (apart from root vegetables, but well, I guess they have to deviate from leading edge in at least one part). To my knowledge they are the first state to allow airborne irrigation (with the exception of very windy days). That means one can use a hose with a nozzle to irrigate unless it is very windy. It may not be the most efficient method (drip is better, and more economical if water is not cheap), but hey - it allows most to re-use graywater without much expense. It is still far more efficient than laundry to landscape as recommended than some.

    I award Wyoming 1st prize for common sense, without pandering to (self) interest groups. 3 cheers for Wyoming !!!!!!

    What will the outcome be? A high proportion of the population will re-use graywater, saving water, their garden (and money!!!), without creating disproportionate health risks.

    I can only hope that States such as Oregon and Washington State can take a similar approach.

  2. Paul:

    While the airborne irrigation may at first glance appear to be unique except on windy days, you must be apprised that the Wyoming Wind Festival lasts 365 days a year!

    Hey, did you see this article in the Journal Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, Volume 199, Numbers 1-4 / May, 2009, pp. 235-245.

    "Reuse of Domestic Greywater for the Irrigation of Food Crops"

    Sara Finley, Suzelle Barrington and Darwin Lyew1

    Abstract: As global water resources decline, reuse of domestic greywater for the irrigation of home gardens is quickly becoming widespread in many parts of the world. However, the sanitary implications of reusing greywater to water edible crops remain uncertain. This study examined the benefits and risks associated with domestic greywater reuse for the purposes of vegetable garden irrigation. Untreated (settled only) and treated (settling and slow sand filtration) greywater collected from a family home was analyzed for basic water quality parameters over a period of 8 weeks. During that time, both greywaters were used to irrigate individually potted plots of lettuce, carrots, and peppers in a greenhouse. Tap water was used as control. Upon maturity, plants were harvested and the edible portions tested for fecal coliforms and fecal streptococci, common indicators for the presence of pathogenic microorganisms. Heavy metals were not detected in the greywater, but both fecal coliforms and fecal streptococci were present in high levels, averaging 4 × 105/100 mL and 2,000/100 mL of greywater, respectively. Despite these high counts, no significant difference in contamination levels was observed between crops irrigated with tap water, untreated greywater, and treated greywater. Fecal coliform levels were highest in carrots and fecal streptococcus levels were highest on lettuce leaves. However, contamination levels for all crops were low and do not represent a significant health risk. Plant growth and productivity were unaffected by water quality, owing to the low N, P, and K levels of the greywater. These results reinforce the potential of domestic greywater as an alternative irrigation source.

    While Wyoming's pathfinder approach certainly is worth noting, and the Canadian's research showing that irrigation with greywater appears safe for food crops, I suspect that Oregon will follow the path of least resistance and consider greywater with FUD.

  3. Hi Todd,

    thanks for that - I hadnt seen it before.

    Interesting that fecal streptococcus was found on the lettuce leaves. They must have surface sprayed the leaves to contaminate them with greywater. We recommend drip irrigation sub mulch to prevent this occurring.

    Oregon seemingly will go with the FUD approach. Maybe attitudes will change in another 5 years.