Reverse Drought by Recycling Greywater


Target: EPA IO Deputy Assistant Administrator Ken Kopocis and Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator Michael Shapiro

Goal: Ease drought by recycling wash water (greywater).

The city of Tucson is fighting the growing drought by recycling used water rather than using new water for its lawns and other plants. The local government is offering financial incentives to individuals who outfit their homes with greywater recycling systems. It has also made it mandatory for all new buildings to be outfitted with a simple pipe/valve system that allows the occupant to easily switch the flow of greywater from sewer/septic lines to a pipe leading outside where the water can be recycled.

Two causes of the drought that is steadily becoming a national epidemic are the fact that we consume too much water and that our used water is piped into sewers or septic systems. In the case of a sewer hookup, that water is wasted, ending up in the ocean or a lake, but not before it is treated extensively (on the taxpayers’ dime).

The water from our sinks, bathtubs/showers, dishwashers, and washing machines does not need to be sent away to the sewer or to a septic tank. This water can be piped out to a lawn or a garden instead. By doing this, we ensure that our used water returns to the subsurface water table. By using the same water twice (i.e. using it to water our plants after it has been used for washing) we greatly reduce our demand for water.  This way we are pumping less water from the underground water table and returning more of what we do use.

There are a few related points that are worth noting–the plants referred to here could be a lawn, vegetable garden, and/or trees; there are nutrients in wash water that are good for plants; this is good for plants as long as natural soaps are used (any kind of harsh chemicals can harm or kill plants); this is perfectly sanitary as long as wash water is sent directly to plants where it can soak into their root beds, and as long as the water is not allowed to pool and become stagnant.

This is an important solution that the EPA should be promoting. Sign the petition below to let them know this.


Dear Administrator Kapocis and Administrator Shapiro,

I am concerned over the prevalence of drought presently affecting our country. Since we tend to use more water than we need to, and we tend to waste all of that water after the fact, greywater recycling is a practice that must be adopted in order to reverse these problems. In stretching our resources in this way, we can accomplish more by using less.

In the process, water that would otherwise have to be treated, costing labor and money, is instead returned to the subsurface water table. The water table is an important consideration due to the fact that it’s being depleted more quickly than it’s being replenished.

The city of Tucson has set the precedent for best addressing these issues. Individuals there are offered financial incentives for outfitting their homes with greywater recycling hardware. Additionally, it is mandatory for all new structures to be outfitted with an optional valve, directing greywater from sewer/septic lines, to a pipe leading outside where it can be recycled.

I urge you to push for similar measures in municipalities nationwide in order to help reverse the drought conditions many are already experiencing and to prevent future drought.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Brad Lancaster

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