Create an Oasis with Greywater describes how to choose, build, and use residential greywater reuse systems in just about any context. It explains how to go about setting up a system for under $40 in an afternoon, all the way to setting up very excellent, large area distribution systems. All the information you need to get clear on your goals and how to asses your site/situation to choose the best greywater system for you. In depth detail on greywater plumbing, soils, plants, and common mistakes to avoid. Everything you need to know about diy greywater.
About the Author
Art Ludwig is a top-selling author and international design consultant. Optimal, integrated design has been Art's day job for 37 years. His specialty is complex, deep green, integrated "systems of systems" for water, wastewater, energy, shelter, and transportation. Art created his own program in ecological systems design at SBCC and UC Berkeley, and through independent study. As part of his self-education program, Art studied and worked in 27 different countries and attained fluency in five languages. He has worked professionally on building codes in three states. His quantitative analysis of the health risks of greywater cleared the way for more rational regulation of greywater in California, and he played a major role in the crafting of new greywater standards.
I thought I had posted a reply to this already. If my reply is inappropriate please delete it again and I'll understand.
I give this book 9 out of 10 acorns, or really 10 out of 10 acorns, as one of those long-standing reference books we treasure. I keep pulling it off the shelf and reading through parts again. It's packed with information from Ludwig's many years of practical experience installing and maintaining greywater systems. Being a 5th edition, it does feel like the content is honed to a perfect fineness of addressing common questions. If you are considering installing a greywater system to reuse your wastewater in one way or another, this book will help you avoid a lot of common mistakes.
I've lived with a greywater system for about 20 years, but ours is unfettered by regulation, so it's simply a buried pipe out to a lower level of landscape, into small canals that water a grove of willow trees. Art Ludwig's book helped me understand why that has been working so well for so long (he says that topsoil exposed to air is one of the best ways to treat greywater), and dissuaded us from tinkering with improvements. He makes it very clear what kind of maintenance you are signing on for if you go for pumps or drip systems.
My only slight complaint would be that the layout is a bit unattractive (reminds my old Word documents), and since this book is likely to be shared by greywater-enthusiastic householders with their less enthusiastic living partners, if he ever makes a next edition, it would be nice to splurge on more professional layout.
Another book down! This time it is 'Create an Oasis with Greywater' by Art Ludwig. This is the book on greywater.
Let's start with a quick little quote from the book about what greywater is.
"Any wastewater generated in the home, except water from toilets, is called greywater. Dish, shower, sink, and laundry greywater comprise 50-80% of residential 'wastewater.' Greywater may be reused for other purposes, especially landscape irrigation."
That's greywater, how much you have, and what to do with it in a nutshell.
The book goes into detail on "...how to choose, build, and use 20 types of residential greywater reuse systems in just about any context: urban, rural, or village. It explains how you can put together a simple greywater system in an afternoon for under $40. It also includes information for taking your greywater reuse to the next performance level."
Just picking up this book and quickly flipping through the pages gives you a real sense of how information rich it is. Tonnes of nice pictures/drawings/schematics and every page is full; no wasted paper on this book! Not wasting paper is always good.
This book starts off, like any good information/diy book should, with the basics of what is it, what you can do with it, why use it, and when not to use it. Gets you off on the right foot, before getting into the outlining of a goal for, and assessment of, your site. Lots of good stuff here about assessing soil percolation, amount of greywater actually coming out of the house, landscape slope, and treatment/disposal area. Everything you would want to make sure you knew before installing a greywater system.
Like most things in permaculture, greywater is super site specific and there is a lot of 'it depends'. Art makes it pretty clear throughout the book that there are "no universal principles" to greywater. Each situation is different and you have to evaluate your situation before coming up with a design that works for you.
The section on collection plumbing is quite good, outlining everything you would want to take into consideration when collecting the greywater from your house. A nice bit about not squandering any fall so you have maximum height for gravity feeding the greywater to your desired spots outside. This section has a nice table with a list of parts required and information relating to those parts like environmental impact.
One of the best aspects of this book is how sections for greywater basics are highlighted. You can just skip to all the highlighted parts, read those and have all the necessary information to design, build, and maintain a simple greywater system. This leaves about half of the book for optional reading. So if reading and learning all the details about more complicated systems isn't your thing, no problem, this book has you covered.
An essential part of the 'greywater basics' is greywater in the landscape. What to do with it when you don't need it, preserving and monitoring soil quality, plants for greywater reuse and for greywater disposal/treatment, and mulch. These are all key things to know about when using greywater. Mulch seems to be the king component to use at the area of dispersion to prevent people/animals from getting into the greywater and for treating the water with beneficial bacteria. Some nice pictures for making mulch basins around trees and using swales.
Next is this sweet 'system selection chart' where all the different systems are listed under a heading of simple systems or more complex systems. This table has all sorts of info on the different systems to choose from like it's overall score in optimum application, if it is proven or not, when was it developed, ease of construction and use, greywater sources utilized, cost range, and what pages to read to learn more. Definitely a nice table of information.
The next two chapters deal with the systems listed in the previous chart, starting with the simple ones and then moving on to the more complex ones. They start off as simple as a drain from your sink/washer/shower/whatever out the wall to a mulch basin. Quick and simple alright! The complex systems go into such things as constructed wetlands and automated sand filtration to subsurface emitters. Way more complicated, but it's all there for you to learn about.
Now Art gets seriously into describing his favourite system set up, 'the branched drain design'. Basically a gravity feed system that collects the greywater from the house and then splits the load to multiple destinations. This is the most popular set up I guess and it makes sense. Lots of detail here on the concept and the actual design. He says these two chapters used to be in a separate book, but now they are made available here because they are so popular and excellent.
Overall this book is really good! My only problem, which isn't really a problem, is that I live in a climate where it freezes for most of the year, so a lot of the techniques discussed in this book don't really apply to me, or only during the summer months anyway. He does talk about cold climates though, so it's not as if he doesn't mention them. Basically if it freezes hard where you live, you can bury your greywater lines below the frost line for winter use, or build a green house to treat the greywater in. In my opinion, an earth sheltered greenhouse would be the way to go, all decked out to specifically treat greywater.
If you find this subject interesting at all, go check out this book. This is the book on the subject and you won't be disappointed, even if you live in a cold climate. Here is a link to the author's page.
This book is amazing. It taught me one very important lesson. Keep it simple. Reading through this book I see how the things can get carried Away.. But it doesn't need to. And that right there is the importance of a grey water system. Keep it simple. Otherwise it just doesn't work. Read this book to see how to keep it simple. I recommend this book to friends, family and permies.
Mobile Chicken house build-
This looks like it will be a really interesting book for anyone who is considering alternatives or who is wanting to build in an area where perk is sketchY. i am getting ready to build on a 6 acre parcel that has a beautiful pond and is at the end of a lot of catchment. During wet times there is a lot of soggy ground so I'm concerned about septic for both grey and black water. I'm not sure how someone writes a review of a book without already having read it. And if you already have the book and have read it, why would you want to win a copy? Unless it's just to give it to a friend.
The video and short "snippet" from the book in the post look really practical and well explained. I especially liked the fact that in the video he explained not only how the laundry to landscape system works, but also why it is beneficial
From the description is sounds like he goes into multi0-terraced open greywater systems and that would be an awesome thing to be able to access for designing my place. It has been many years since I looked into these systems and would love a refresher course. There have also probably been many new techniques developed since I last explore this subject some 30 years ago.
I know this is not much of a review, but I would appreciate one of these books if you have an extra.
3 yrs ago my husband and myself moved onto 10 acres in the woods and it didn't have anything on it but trees. We live in an rv and I have just been running the greywater out into a hugelculture mound. Last winter I read Creating a Greywater Oasis as we had built a little guest house/wwoofer lodge needed that something done with the greywater and this book had the best reviews out there. It was an easy read with clear and concise information. It was just what I wanted as I had no interest in creating a greywater system that had pumps and containment systems. I wanted as low maintenance as possible. Using the information I gained from the book I created a simple branched system. The lodge is set up on a hillside so below it on the hillside but parallel we dug a long trench about 25 ft long, 2 ft wide, and 2 ft deep and filled that with logs, leaves, old hay, and some dirt up to ground level and then I created a raised bed on top of that that is layered with old hay, dirt, leaves, compost, and topped with wood chips. Coming out from the bathroom under the lodge I buried an 1 1/4 pipe about 16" deep at the point where it leaves the side of the lodge. I needed it that deep because my shower was set into the ground a little bit and I needed it lower than the shower drain. From that point I ran the pipe down about 10 ft at a gradual decline as recommended in the book, to the upper part of the raised bed,. Because the hill has a pretty good drop on it over that 10 ft span the pipe came out only about 6" below ground which was perfect. I put a tee on it and ran a pipe both directions off of that with a slight downward slope on each of those pipes. I ended the branched pipes about 5 ft from both ends of the garden bed and the water comes out both pipes about the same rate. I had the ends of the pipe come out about half way up into a big flower pot with holes in the bottom that I had buried in the ground. I set a piece of plywood on top of the flower pot so I can just lift it up and see if the water is draining out fine and have access to clean out the ends of the pipe and any buildup in the flower pot. I am going to keep a lookout for the perfect flat rock that can replace the plywood on both pots so it blends in better with the garden bed. At no point does the greywater come in contact with the top of the ground or people, unless one specifically goes into the drain tubs to clean them out. In the raised bed I put several comfrey plants, a plum tree, currents, and wild ginger. Comfrey loves it here, fruit tree is doing well after a yr, currents are struggling. Don't think there is enough sun for them and the comfrey keeps crowding them. Wild ginger is hanging in there, but again unless I keep the comfrey cut down every 2-3 wks it grows over the ginger. The system is so far great. With the help of a couple wwoofers it was only fully finished last fall so this coming summer is going to be the true test. There will be a shower, a wash machine, and bathroom sink going into this bed. It will probably not be used continually, will be periods of rest between guests. Most of the rainwater from the lodge is directed via gutters off to the side of the loge away from the raised bed so as not to over saturate the bed. This coming summer we will build a mulch pit for the rainwater and put a couple fruit trees on the upper side of the pit. We are going to be starting on our house soon and will be using a branched greywater system as well. So all in all the book was very useful, saved me a lot of time perusing the internet and I put it to pratical use right away. Attached is a picture of the lodge with the garden bed below it.
I have now read this book twice and got a lot out of it in each reading. 9/10 acorns.
Pros: Art Ludwig has experience and he packs his knowledge into this fairly slim manual. I found the chapters very well laid out. He has great charts explaining the pros and cons of various systems I appreciate that this book does not advocate a 'one size fits all' sort of approach but instead offers a variety of techniques for various sites and functions. In fact, you could theoretically read just a couple chapters of this book that pertained to what you wanted and be ready to go on a project quick. I wound up reading it cover to cover since I'm a bit of a permaculture nerd. Still a fairly quick read. There's not much fluff. I agree with much of what Simon Johnson describes in his review above. I would add that one of the most compelling sections in the book is the part about the dirt cheap, super simple system in which you just use pex tubing and have it go straight from source to landscape, bypassing branched drains altogether.
I recommend that everyone who's planning to use grey water should buy this book (or get it from the local library- mine carries it!). It will more than likely save you several hundred dollars in time and mistakes that you were able to avoid. If you know of a more thorough book on the subject, please share!
Cons: Art, if you're reading this... you did a fantastic job and I love your book. The only reason I'm putting this in is cause I felt like I should try and find something to complain about. I think the main room for improvement would be improved photo quality and visual appeal of the book- I think a talented graphic designer could make the book a bit more visually appealing. However, there are still a decent number of inspiring photos, but a professional photographer and designer could make things really 'pop'.
I also recommend checking out Art's other books- especially the one on water tanks and storage.
I hope to post photos of my fancy (actually... really simple) system this summer. That's one of the huge take aways from Art's book- simple is usually the best.
Also... one last note. Art talks about using urine as a fertilizer in one of his books- I think it is in this one. He says that he feels most comfortable with irrigating with urine when you've got 30 inches of rain fall or more a year in order to manage any salt build up. I asked Brad Lancaster this question- he has a demonstration site in dry Tuscon and he said that he just directs extra stored rain water to all areas that get fertilized with urine and effectively creates areas which receive 30 inches or more of rain water irrigation a year. Basically... salt build up from urine should be paid attention to, but if you don't concentrate it in just one or two places and additionally direct rain water from areas like your roof into the urine fertilized locations, you should be fine. I would be curious to follow up with Art about this as well but haven't had a chance yet. The book 'Liquid Gold' also discusses this- one person in the book mentions lowering his salt intake to lower his salt output. The typical western diet is WAY too high in sodium, so it's definitely worth paying attention too. If you wouldn't want it going on your plants... why would you want it going into your body?
Ok. I lied. One other note. I think when I install my system I'm going to have a kitchen sink with two drains where one side goes to municipal sewer and one that goes to the garden. That way, if I have stuff like brine or something else that's salty or just something I wouldn't want in the garden, I can easily dispose of it without even having to flip a valve under the sink.
I recently read this book as part of my research in starting up a permaculture-based small farm and homestead. It is clear and easy to read; I give it 8 out of 10 acorns. I would rate it even higher if more of the book were applicable to my zone 5 climate. (Cold-climate zones get their own appendix, but still, it was a little discouraging to see how much easier it is to use greywater in places where the ground is not frozen solid for months at a time.)
The book favours simple systems over complex, expensive ones. I appreciate a book that points out an outdoor shower is a type of greywater system. Also, that you can keep a bowl in your kitchen sink to toss the water outside; and you can drain a bathtub by siphoning the water through a hose out the window. I expect that most people, like me, want more comprehensive solutions. But these simple measures are empowering. It’s all part of a spectrum of greywater management.
Some parts of the book, like why and how to design a mulch basin to receive the greywater, were immediately helpful to me. And I liked the information about longevity and environmental sustainability of different plumbing materials. Other parts will require another reading; for example, I got a little lost in trying to equilibrate the amount of greywater produced by the household with the watering needs of the trees by the mulch basin (especially changes over time).
This book is remarkably clear-sighted about the practical obstacles, including human behaviour and design errors. For example, systems that depend on someone moving a hose to disperse greywater in different places are nearly always abandoned within a year or two. Ludwig encourages readers to consider long-term variables, such as whether the system will be understood and maintained by other people over time. (It could even possibly be a drawback if you decide to sell your property.)
After reading this book, I’m undecided on whether installing a comprehensive greywater system should be a priority, on a site with good water supply and a seemingly well-functioning septic tank and field. But I feel much more knowledgeable about key considerations and several practical options to get at least partway there. Maybe someday I will build that solar greywater greenhouse, which Ludwig calls “the ultimate in favorable microclimates, and the best option for year round treatment” in my cold climate. In the meantime, I’ll be the one with the hose hanging out the bathroom window.
I think that depends on your system. If you have more flow than your septic system can easily handle, diverting the graywater part to simpler disposal would be immediately beneficial. If your drains go to a municipal system, you can lighten the load on that and keep nutrients on site with a graywater system. If your septic system percolates deep into the ground, it may not deliver nutrients to the surface in a beneficial manner. Most of my land is hardpan, but there is a field just below my house where the leachfield is (<5 minute perk rate) which is 3-5 feet of topsoil overlaying a spring water aquifer. I located the leachfield to be above a part of the aquifer that comes out in seeps, not near the part that comes out in the spring. So graywater dispersal above the hardpan next to my house will be a benefit to the land, moistening the upper edge of the hillside instead of the already moist flat below.
John Johnston wrote:I'm A Retired Environmental, Inspector, OK, non-state Employee. Be very careful of state Laws. You could lose water rights.
Not that I personally am violating any state or federal laws re water usage, but I can't quite figure out what you mean here. Which water rights could a person lose by not observing state laws? Would those laws be water usage laws or laws pertaining to the disposition of grey water?
In some states, OK, If you try to dispose of "gray water" in any other way other than an approved system "Septic system", you can lose your water meter, and/or fined. most states consider gray as Septic as contaminated water. evenif you keep it on your property. play it safe and check.
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
Happily, this book discusses the legal issues and permitting constraints (specific to the US), and gives advice on how to make sure your system is legal and safe, or in some states, illegal bit still safe. Ludwig also published a separate book specifically for greywater system installers, on the nitty-gritties including state regulations. His website is also a great resource for making sure your system is safe. There are many ways to do it safely.
Works at a residential alternative high school in the Himalayas SECMOL.org . "Back home" is Cape Cod, E Coast USA.
"Create an Oasis with Greywater describes how to choose, build, and use 20 types of residential greywater reuse systems in just about any context: urban, rural, or village."
Art Ludwig, author
This is an excellent book for anyone who is wondering how safe and easy it is to utilize their greywater for landscape use. The author is well qualified on the subject and offers very thorough information on the topic, including safety and legal issues, plus how to avoid common greywater mistakes.
Chapter 1: Greywater Basics. This chapter begins by defining greywater. Explains the differences between greywater, blackwater, dark greywater, clearwater, wastewater, and reclaimed water. It discusses what you can do with it and why it should be used, but also lists a substantial number of reasons when it shouldn't be used. The last section of the chapter introduces the reader to the elements of a greywater system.
Chapter 2: Goals and Context. This chapter helps the reader deal with the massive amount of information out there about greywater systems, especially, whether or not a greywater system is right for you. It offers clear-cut steps for analyzing one's goals, context (site, sources, needs, percolation rates, climate, etc.), and proposed site. A "site assessment form" worksheet in the appendix helps the reader make a very thorough analysis.
Chapter 3: Design a Greywater System for Your Context. In chapter 3, the reader learns how to integrate a greywater system with their landscape plus other systems, how to address health considerations, and how to match greywater sources with irrigation and treatment or disposal areas. Includes general landscape design points and six factors for good natural purification of water or wastewater.
Chapter 4: Greywater Collection Plumbing. Discusses general greywater plumbing principles, planning for future flexibility, traps, vents, diverter and shutoff valves, surge capacity, easy maintenance and troubleshooting. Includes advice on choosing and finding parts, inspections, and when to get professional help. Lots of pictures, charts, and diagrams in this chapter.
Chapter 5: Greywater in the Landscape. This chapter details how to put greywater to work and how to handle it in the landscape. Discusses calculating the treatment/disposal area, greywater efficiency, coordinating greywater with freshwater irrigation, and how to handle greywater when it rains. Discusses how to preserve soil quality, with a chart of key elements found in household cleaners. Also how to monitor and repair soil, and what to do about toxic waste. The section on plants lists possibilities for greywater reuse, as well as greywater treatment and disposal. Shows the reader how to build a mulch basin for greywater irrigation, with lots of illustrations.
Chapter 6: System Selection Chart. A 2-page easy reference chart for comparing simple, easy greywater systems, or complex systems.
Chapter 7: Simple, Easy Greywater Systems. Lots of ideas and illustrations in this chapter. Discusses direct landscape systems (such as a bathing garden), garden hoses, dishpan dumping, mulch basins, movable drains, greywater furrow irrigation, and laundry drums. It introduces the laundry to landscape system (which is detailed in Art Ludwig's Laundry to Landscape book or DVD).
Chapter 8: More Complex Greywater Systems. Covers effluent pumps, mini-leachfields, subsoil infiltration galleys, constructed wetlands, an automated sand filter system, a solar greywater greenhouse, green septic systems, and septic tank to subsurface drip. Lots of pictures, diagrams, and illustrations clarify the concepts.
Chapter 9: Branched Drain Design. How to improve the time-honored "drain out back" system with ways to split the flow (including a discussion and chart on parts), branching geometry options, cleanouts, inspection access, and rainwater inlets. The section on branched drain outlet design discusses free flow outlets, sub-mulch and subsoil infiltration, how to design for surge capacity, and outlet positioning.
Chapter 10: Branched Drain Installation gets down to the nitty-gritty of installing a branched drain system. Covers checking the design, checking for buried utilities, digging trenches, connecting pipes and fittings, dealing with slope, and installing outlet shields. Final steps include testing the system, mapping it, and burying it. Also included are sections on branched drain maintenance, troubleshooting, and possible variations.
Chapter 11: Common Greywater Errors. This very important chapter contains 20 common misconceptions about greywater and mistakes people routinely make. Each one explains problems that can result, preferred practices, and specific conditions for exceptions.
Chapter 12: Real World Examples. Features six examples that are currently in use. Takes an interesting look at each user's goals, design and installation issues, costs and benefits, and opinion of the system after it had been in use for awhile. Pictures and diagrams help clarify the examples.
Appendices. Lots of helpful information in the eight appendices, including measuring elevation and slope, cold climate adaptations, non-industrialized area considerations, plus pumps, filters, and disinfection.
I trust the information because the author isn't trying to sell a pre-packaged greywater system. You can find some of the hard-to-find hardware at his website, but he isn't trying to guide the reader to buy what he prefers. He lays out all the options along with their pros, cons, and guidelines for choosing the best system for your circumstances.