Drought Spurs Creativity in Finding Ways to Reuse ‘Gray’ Water

LAKEWAY, Texas—The most recent rains, while extremely welcome, have not brought an end to the drought persisting in Central Texas. In accordance with the LCRA, the Lakeway Municipal Utility District will continue its Stage 2 watering restrictions.

“We are hopeful that El Niño will bring an end to the drought this fall, and as soon as we’re sure our supplies are adequate, we will end the restrictions,” Richard Eason, General Manager of the Lakeway Municipal Utility District, said. “In the meantime, we are hearing from a number of our customers about creative ways to reuse ‘gray’ water that can make a real impact on water usage.”

The District already treats and recycles 100% of their wastewater by landscape irrigation on golf courses and 29 other residential and commercial areas.  Unfortunately, the supply of reuse water is completely consumed.  “We’d love to build a system that would allow us to provide reuse to all residential customers,” Eason said. “But there is not enough reuse water, and retrofitting our system could easily cost $30 million. However, all customers can save water by reusing gray water at home.

Gray water comes from washing machines or showers and baths (not the wastewater flushed from toilets). Gray water is not safe for drinking, but it is perfectly safe for irrigation.

So, what are the most innovative ways a customer can reuse gray water? Some of Eason’s favorite “water wise” tips include:

  • Consider using a washbasin for your hand-washed dishes. You can even use one on both sides of the sink, one for washing and one for rinsing. When you’re finished, let the water cool and give your potted plants a good drink—you can water several plants with that amount.
  • If you enjoy taking baths, let the water cool after you’re done and then ladle some of it into a watering pitcher. Your houseplants will thank you for it.
  • Fish tanks also provide a great source of gray water. Save the water you collect when you clean out a tank and pour it on your plants. Fish waste is nutrient-rich and beneficial to plants and lawns.
  • Look into buying a rain barrel and installing it under one (or more!) of your downspouts. “Runoff from a 1,000-square-foot roof would have caught nearly 3,000 gallons of water from the recent storm,” Eason said. Don’t’ forget to check local building codes for any restrictions.