Laura Allen (left, with Cleo Woelfe-Erskine and a bathtub wetland), Oakland, California
I was living in a big home with seven other people, and we were starting to garden. My housemate Cleo and I realized that our household was using an incredible amount of water. The average American uses 50 to 70 gallons of water per day, just inside the home. If you include the yard and lawn, it's almost double. It seems crazy how much we waste.
So I wondered if there was a way to reuse our sink water to irrigate. Through trial and error, we figured out how to create a gray-water system, which means taking the water from your sinks, showers, or washing machine and directing it into your yard. I took a plumbing class, and we set up a little wetland in a bathtub in the yard to filter the water. We were able to cut our water use in half.Some people have the misconception that gray-water systems are dangerous or unhealthy, but there has never been a documented case of anyone getting sick from them, as long as you don't drink the water or spray it on food crops that will be eaten raw. They're easy to set up and only cost around $100 for a basic system, not including labor."