Friday, May 20, 2011

Greywater Workshop Hosting

As promised here are some photos and even an article about the recent greywater workshop Jim and I recently hosted here at the house. It was part of the Ojai Green Coalition's May "water awareness month". I was clever enough to suggest a workshop and that I'd be more than happy to 'host' it. (Ie. free labor, and expertise-and at the end we get a fully functioning greywater system!)

Here is an article written by Linda Harmon one of our attendees. Most of the better photos are hers as well:

Being a conscious gardener in southern California means always looking for ways to conserve water. On a Saturday morning in a neighbor’s yard I found one.

I attended a grey water workshop sponsored by the Ojai Valley Green Coalition at the home of Chris Brennan and Jim McCarthy. The hands-on workshop was led by Van Vermeesch, formerly of Ojai’s Aqua Flo Supply, and demonstrated how to install a laundry-to-landscape grey water system from start to finish. And he made it unbelievably fun, simple and doable.

“We’re here to find out how to use grey water and take it home with us,” said Vermeesch, “how to go from laundry to landscape, taking rinse water and moving it through the garden in a conscious way.”

Harnessing grey water, water used in your home laundry that normally goes down the drain, is finally legal in Ventura County. I knew this, but installing a system had remained one of those projects I’d put off because I thought it required a tradesmen with more knowledge than I had. Vermeesch quickly dispelled that illusion for the dozen or so people who attended.

He explained that “by installing this simple system you cut your water usage and save the municipality from treating it.”

Vermeesch recommends using grey water for irrigating fruit trees and ornamentals, but not for vegetables. I figure using the grey water on the ornamentals and fruit trees, will make watering my vegetable garden a little more guilt free. It seems like a very reasonable offset.

Vermeesch first walked us through the surprisingly few materials needed, all available locally from Aquaflo except for the main diverter valve. The diverter valve, the part that controls the whole system, can be ordered online at for $59, plus shipping. Vermeesch said you can put it together from parts available at AquaFlo, but he chose to order it preassembled. I’m with him. Altogether he estimated the project cost at $275, including all pipe, fittings, labor to dig trenches, and mulch used to fill the completed channels.

The system he designed can be flushed using a simple garden hose. It uses the washing machine’s own pump, along with gravity, blue lock pipe, and a series of valves to adjust flow and cover the entire area to be irrigated. Brennan and McCarthy have approximately a quarter acre of grounds, but set up the system to cover only their back yard.

“The great part of using the blue lock is it is a glue-less system,” said Vermeesch, which translates to little mess or toxic chemicals. “It is also a completely green product and is recyclable.”

According to Vermeesch, the blue lock is equal in price to the more toxic PVC pipe when the cost of fittings and glue needed with the PVC is figured in.

Throughout the morning Vermeesch mentioned using “an appropriate technology,” i.e., using or reusing what we already have on hand instead of purchasing when possible. He even re-purposed black plastic nursery pots as boxes to cover the valves and to protect the connections in the garden.

“If you have PVC use it,” said Vermeesch. “You don’t want it being tossed in a landfill somewhere.”

Vermeesch started by connecting flexible blue lock pipe to the back of the washing machine’s waste water pipe. He connected that to the diverter, and then on to rigid PVC which he used to vent the system and bring it to the outside. Voila! the beginning of a watering system.

The most hi-tech thing he used was a drill, to fasten the PVC clamps to the wall and make a hole for the pipe to pass through the wall. Everything else was hand tools, sharp pipe nippers to cut and a shovel to make trenches and later to cover channels with mulch. A hand spade and branch cutters did come in handy to make way for the pipe as it crossed the yard behind established plants.

It was almost unbelievably quick. Of course, Vermeesch is an expert and he had 12 extra pairs of hands. All in all, a well spent morning. I can’t wait to install my own greywater system and start watering my veggies guilt free!

For more information on grey water systems go to

We did have to dig trenches in all the places we wanted the water to go. Then these were covered with course mulch.
You can also add these simple valves at each place along the main pipe where you want the water to go. This allows you regulate where and how much water goes to a certain area. We used simple plastic planters to serve as covers.
This shot show the main line "blue lock" pipe.
And here is our hero Van Vermeesch who volunteered to teach the workshop.

Many hands makes the work light. (much kind free labor too) There's Linda who offered to write the article in the middle. -Thanks to you too Linda!
And also thanks as always to Deborah Pendrey. Without you Deborah there would be no Ojai Green Coalition! Cheers and thanks again everyone.


Jo said...

Great blog. Glad I found you. You have been bookmarked.

christine Brennan said...

Wow, Thanks Jo, just visited your Full Moon Barn site and want to be there! It looks beautiful.