Drought Stricken Atlantans Get Conflicting Advice On Gray Water ReUse

We've just learned that thirteen US states allow for regulated gray-water re-use; but, Georgia, suffering from a record drought, does not. Or maybe it does - we're not sure. The coverage of this topic is contradictory. (Even scientists in drought stricken Australia seem conflicted about the advisability of of gray water re-use.) No wonder folks in Georgia are resorting to praying for rain.

A University of Georgia scientist says that bath, shower and laundry water is NOT safe for reuse because it might contain bacteria or other contaminants.

As the state's historic drought drags on, people are wondering whether they can safely and legally use ``gray water'' on outdoor plants. While 13 states have laws that allow regulated gray water use, Georgia does NOT. U-G-A hydrology professor Todd Rasmussen says that toilet and dishwater -- considered ``black water'' -- is unsafe for human contact and should always be discarded.

Though gray water is less dangerous than black water, it could still contain traces of fecal matter, blood, or other contaminants. And if a person carries an infectious disease, the water could be dangerous for humans to contact on a lawn.

The same guy quoted in an 11ALive Story gets balanced by a little investigative reporting.

“Well, grey water certainly has its place in conserving potable water use inside of a household," said Bryan Wagoner of the Georgia Association of Water Professionals. "And it can be a significant amount of water savings, if it's done properly."

An average home can realize huge water savings with a grey water system installed by a licensed plumber.

“With proper disinfection and backflow prevention devices," explained the GAWP’s Wagoner. "(It) can save an average household up to 250 gallons a week just by using washing machine and bath water."

And you can still use grey water without a professionally installed system.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division said that collecting grey water this way -- from a shower for instance -- is not likely to be harmful because of contamination or bacteria. The people who are collecting it and using it are the same people who are generating it. Your water is not likely to hurt you.

According to the Georgia Association of Water Professionals, there are no documented cases of illness from a properly installed grey water system. Before installing one in your house, be sure to check with your county health department.

To be safe, if you are collecting grey water and not using it the same day, put in a few drops of bleach. The bleach will kill the germs, the water will be fine for your plants, and you won't have to toss anything out with the bathwater.

So...is it legal in Georgia? Do the rules get set at the County level? (That seems crazy.) Is gray water reuse safe, if properly managed? We still don't know.

Amazing that something this important gets left wide open in the face of a crisis. There must be published epidemiology and best practices descriptions for graywater management. Anyone have a freely down loadable reference or two for us?

Via::Access North Georgia, "Scientist cautions against gray water use as drought drags on" Image credit::Beach Cast, Fecal Coliform

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