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

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kicky Kitchensink Greywater Killer

Greywater gadgets for the dreaded kitchensink wastewater are becoming ever more stylish. Some of the early gadgets discovered by the Rainbow Water Coalition include the legendary Hughie Sink, the EkoKook Sink, the EULO Sink, the Ecocubo Sink, the Envirosink, the Equaris treatment system but now the world will more than likely hear more about designer Alexis Lizares Aqualife, designated as a water recycling "appliance". Her design portfolio is very impressive and extends beyond appliances. 
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Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works.
~Steve Jobs

Saturday, April 28, 2012

More Greywater Mythbusting

In a second of what appears to become a running series on busting some preconceived notions about greywater, the first posting focused on dispelling the myth that pirating of greywater from wastewater flows would somehow or another cause concerns about the flows within sewers and increasing the "loading" of the wastewater quality to the point of making the wastewater treatment ineffective. Another concern discussed on the Rainbow Water Coalition was the issue of "dangerous" bacteria and viruses in greywater herehere and here.

One of the papers that will be presented at the 12th World Wide Workshop for Young Environmental Scientists WWW-YES-2012 Urban waters: resource or risks? held in Arucil, France during late May, 2012 is titled: 

Assessment of waterborne pathogenic bacteria in greywater and irrigation soils by researchers Maya BENAMI, Moshe HERZBERG, Ezra ORLOFSKY, Amit GROSS and Osnat GILLOR in the Department of Environmental Hydrology and Microbiology at the J. Blaustein Institutes for Ben-Gurion University of the Negev


Reusing greywater (GW) for irrigation is recognized as a sustainable solution to water conservation in arid lands. One of the major impediments for reuse of GW is the presence of pathogenic microorganisms. The presence and abundance of nine pathogens and indicators was investigated in three GW treatment systems and their respective irrigated soils. The GW and soils were monitored bi-monthly over the course of a year using culture dependent and independent methods. The presence of the pathogens and indicators was analyzed and compared in GW versus freshwater (FW) irrigated soils. The results showed that comparable types of pathogens and fecal indicator bacteria including Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enterica, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterococcus faecalis, Shigella spp., and Vibrio cholerae were found in the treated GW and their corresponding irrigated soils, while Campylobacter jejuni was found in none of the analyzed samples. Although the FW and GW irrigated soils contained a similar array of bacterial pathogens and indicators, we cannot establish their source. Spatial and temporal scales were found to have no impact on the diversity or abundance of pathogens and indicators in the treated GW or irrigated soils. With our experimental set-up our results suggest that GW irrigation has minor effect on the pathogen and indicator diversity and abundance in irrigated soils.

Read some of the other excellent 16 papers on urban waters prepared by the next generation of water professionals!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Taking the Waste Out of Wastewater"

Greywater is part of the wastewater portfolio, so it is safe to say that it will be addressed in a new documentary film "Last Call at the Oasis" that was introduced in the Op-Docs section of the New York Times.

In theaters starting May 4.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Greywater Goes Ultra-Green

Ultra-green homebuilder Sven Thesen wins the Rainbow Water Coalition's greywater gadget award for  good governance with his "cutting-edge eco-designs" in Palo Alto, California. The Palo Alto Patch article  describes his graywater system shown in this photograph "...that allows him to save water from his kitchen sink and use it in his garden. To do that, the water has to be filtered. Thesen’s design calls for a large tank full of redwood chips that he salvaged from a friend’s demolition. Microbes living on the wood chips break down the water to a level safe for irrigation".

Yes, you read that correctly - the dreaded kitchen sink water being reused in his garden! And with a variance from the state plumbing code to boot.

The article is silent on how much the variance cost him, but on the basis of the following information contained in the article, it was probably less than the $90 that Oregon demands for something less sophisticated:

Thesen said that for Palo Alto to approve the design, he had to promise a number of improvements, including a high-level water alarm which will sound if, for example, he left the sink running and it started flooding his yard....For it to be rolled out to the masses, though, Thesen’s pilot test has to be a success. “The city is saying hey, we are promoting people who want to put in place pilot systems,” said Thesen. “We recognize the benefits, we will not say no to putting in systems like this, just give us the data.” 

Earth to Oregon - Phone Sven.
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If local homeowners began widespread adoption of this kind of technology it could help the City meet its aggressive carbon reduction goals while reducing the impact on the water treatment plant.
~Sven Thesen, Ultra-Green Homebuilder 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Greywater Reuse Legal in Oregon for $90

DEQ begins accepting permit applications for graywater reuse and disposal systems. Oregonians can now obtain a permit and legally reuse graywater while protecting public health and the environment. Permit applications and information on the graywater program are available on DEQ's graywater web page.
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The one great principle of English law is to make business for itself
~Charles Dickens

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Seeing Green with Grey Water

We have seen this before. The greyvolution by students working on water reuse projects in many locations across the world ranging from elementary students science fair projects, university student projects entered into international competitions despite "official" government positions contrary to the student recommendations, to the highly competitive world of new designers that the famous Australian vacuum cleaner designer Dyson hosts as discussed here, here, here, here and here.

Engineering students at Oregon State University completed the preliminary design for a greywater and rainwater reuse system for a natural foods store located in Corvallis as part of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition's efforts to show the public how to lower the water use in the city by at least 30%. The Rainbow Water Coalition served as a resource for the design team who struggled with whether they had to design the greywater/rainwater system from scratch, including the piping and pumping systems, or if they could incorporate existing technology. Their design diagram shown here reveals the result - go with ready made technology. The students used the handy search engine on the Rainbow Water Coalition using the keyword "gadget" and were overwhelmed with the listing of cool greywater stuff, some of which they found to their surprise, was designed, developed, and sold by OSU engineering alum.  Their final recommendation was to go with a BRAC system - a Canadian product used elsewhere in public buildings in Oregon.

The newest entry into  the greyvolution is Canadian student Brianna Bouius gold medal award winning project "Seeing Green with Grey Water" where she "...examined how different dish detergents, when mixed with water, affect the growth of ivy plants over a 14-week period. Conventional dish detergents made the ivy grow at a slower rate than water alone, she said, while plants watered with a solution containing "green" dish soap had a slow start but caught up later. A natural lemon dish soap she used actually helped the plants grow better than water alone, she said. Bouius said her findings prove that grey water left over from washing dishes can be reused to water plants...and...She said for every 1,000 gallons of water saved, carbon emissions can be cut by 1.55 kilograms".

Pretty impressive analysis from a 12-year old!
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The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.
~ Grunge Star Musician Kurt Cobain

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Top Ten Greywater Institutional Issues

A Rainbow Water Coalition follower asks about the perceived or actual barriers there are to emerging decentralized technologies, like residential graywater reuse....but also, generally, what factors are most important when assessing whether decentralized or centralized technologies are most appropriate.

In no particular order, the following is based on the many postings on the Rainbow Water Coalition and associated interactions with other greywater professionals:

  • There is the institutional perception that traditional wastewater treatment is safer than decentralized use. There is also the issue that wastewater has enormous value and it can be resold at a large profit. There is also the sense that greywater reuse was perceived as stealing revenue and job security from the wastewater sector.
  • Interference with water rights (this is an issue in Colorado and has thwarted the attempts to pass a law on greywater reuse this past year)
  • Backflow prevention when greywater reuse is indoors. (Heard this directly from municipal water systems, and even though the plumbing codes address this, it is important that it be reiterated in the design/decision documents).
  • Site suitability (shallow groundwater and soils - is every site suitable, is every geographic location suitable, i.e., warm weather vs. cold weather situations).
  • Operation and Maintenance (filters versus other technology such as disinfection) and costs for operation and maintenance
  • Is the equipment "Off the shelf" vs. "Do It Yourself" (DIY) – Some of the OSU engineering students the RWC worked with wrestled with this situation thinking they needed to build it rather than go shopping. There is more acceptance of "off the shelf" technology, and industry has recognized this with the boom in new technologies and applications that are emerging every week. 
  • Where is the technology used elsewhere? (Are there local case studies that one can point to, or are there national or international case studies that one can point to that are comparable to the proposed application under consideration at a particular location)?
  • Cost – this is a no brainer, but the costs are highly variable dependent on size of reuse project and the technology. 
  • Combining with rainwater (Oklahoma and Australia permit this application, but other states don't - why?)
  • Storage Safety – entry by humans, especially children (Australia had a problem with a child nearly drowning in a greywater storage bin).
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Any place that anyone can learn something useful from someone with experience is an educational institution.
~Li'l Abner Cartoonist Al Capp

Sunday, April 8, 2012

When Greywater Happens in Antarctica, It Stays in Antarctica

A former student from an online class titled Introduction to Water Science and Policy that I regularly teach sent me a photograph of her daughter sporting a limited-edition Rainbow Water Coalition hat at McMurdo. I am not certain what research she was completing. In her message, she writes "...she was there for six months but didn't learn anything about how the water that she used was obtained, or how waste water was treated.  I guess that is typical of most people, that we just take for granted that everything works and is available for our use".

Isn't that the truth about water everywhere?

But what an interesting question - what happens to greywater used in Antarctica? A quick search found some answers. At this site where anyone can ask a question about life "under down under", the resident reports: "Different camps produce different amounts of grey water. Obviously, it depends on how many people are in camp and how much water they use. Lake Hoare produces about 21 barrels of grey water each season. A barrel is a 55 gallon drum. Lake Hoare is a very active camp, with LOTS of people coming and going!". This is confirmed by this site on waste management, but there also appears to be some wastewater treatment available at a central location where barrels are hauled to and unloaded.

And another in a series of great greywater theses, this thesis completed at KTH Chemical Engineering and Technology in Sweden reports "A survey on waste water treatment on almost all Antarctic research stations has been carried out in order to find a suitable treatment method for the grey water released from Wasa. The survey showed that all twenty eight member states that operate research stations was included and the survey covered 41 permanent stations, 26 summer stations and 4 field stations. The study showed that 26 permanent stations and 8 summer stations had some kind of treatment for their waste water. The most common treatment method at the permanent stations are biological treatment (8 stations) followed by secondary treatment and maceration (4 stations per method)".

New Zealand researchers have built a wastewater treatment plant at their station in Antartica and apparently plan on treating greywater for flushing toilets in the future.

According to Dr. Isabella Velicogna of the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California Irvine "Antarctica is Earth's largest reservoir of fresh water". Given so much "water" why be concerned about reusing greywater in Antarctica?
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I thought, dear, that you would rather 
have a live ass than a dead lion. 
~Sir Ernest Shackleton to his wife Emily, 
after deciding to turn back 97 miles from the Pole.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

New Concept in Greywater - AQUALOOP

German technology is advancing on greywater reuse, threatening the Australian leadership in clever applications to treating greywater. Much in line with the "thinking out of the box" rock band Jethro Tull with their concept album Aqualung, Intewa introduces the new greywater treatment gadget  - AQUALOOP.

From the Intewa website:

AQUALOOP produces germ-free, bacteriological high quality drinking water irrespective of whether the input water comes from surface water, groundwater, runoff water from wastewater treatment plants, industrial wastewater or grey water from houses!

The AQUALOOP system consists of a few modular components that can be easily assembled as required:

•    Pre-filter with sediment and surface particle extraction  
•    Patented membranes with exceptionally high service life
•    Membrane bracket incl. smart control panel
•    RAINMASTER  pump & control unit

Aqua Lung's "dour musings on faith and religion" have marked it as "one of the most cerebral albums ever to reach millions of rock listeners".  AQUALOOP looks equally cerebral for extreme greywater reusers.