Grey Waters: Red Jugs and Bathtubs and Ugly Buckets

Welcome back to the grey waters! More in our series of sharing what we do around here. The spirit of these is not “HERE IS WHAT TO DO DOUBLE-STAMPED IT”, but rather “Here’s what works for us — hope you find it helpful!” We’re an open-source homestead. 🙂 Try, learn, share, repeat.

Let’s get started. Here’s few of the no-tech grey water systems we’re currently using around here:

The Red Jug

Behold its bespeckled majesty. The red jug keeps it real.

Behold its bespeckled majesty. The red jug keeps it real.

The Red Jug is a watersaving method we more-or-less drifted into. We have a nice glass carafe, but we got a big red plastic jug for when littles come to visit. It just took awhile for us to put it away again after one of those visits, and I popped it under the tap to catch the water while I was running it to get it hot.

The jug now lives full time on the counter beside the sink. Anytime we are running the tap for “a second” to get it hot or cold, the red jug is there to catch that water. It’s been a real eye-opener for just *how* much drinking water would run straight down the drain without it. Even when it’s just “a second”.

I drink a lot of tea, and that’s our primary use for the water in the red jug. We almost never fill the kettle from the tap now. The little bits and pieces of running the tap here and there keep the red jug pretty full, and it turns over pretty quickly. (I also enjoy sipping on a nice mug of boiled water, cuz I’m a weirdo.) We’ll also use the red jug water as boiling water for cooking — to boil pasta, potatoes, eggs. It’s super handy, a convenient vessel, and it feels great to know that fresh water is staying in use, rather than shooting down the drain.

Bathtub Reservoir Pond



We have a beautiful freestanding tub in a beautiful bathroom put together by the previous owners, who had great taste.
We also live on a well, and taking a bath uses a heck of a lot of water compared to a short shower. So baths are a special occasion, and sometimes seasonal if its an especially dry year.

But we also work hard, and the ol’ joints appreciate an occasional soaking.

The other thing that uses a heck of a lot of clean, drinkable water, is flushing a toilet. Even water-saving toilets like the ones we have use 4+ litres of drinking water every time you flush. It is madness that any house is designed for us to defecate in potable drinking water. Never mind that nearly all houses are designed that way. The water line that supplies the toilet tank is the same water line that supplies the drinking taps. Madness.

Many of our grey water hacks are attempts to work around this. The tank needs to be filled with water in order to flush, but that water could come from anywhere. So we keep a jug in the bathroom, and after one of us has had a bath, we won’t drain the tub, but instead use it like a little grey water lake. When it’s time to flush the toilet, we fill a jug with tub water. Then when we flush, we pour that water into the tank. If we wanted to be hardcore, we could shut off the water intake to the toilet tank and fill it all from the tub. But pouring in a jug still significantly affects how much water the toilet draws, and is the kind of simple patch that is easy to do.
It takes days before we’ve even really dented the water level in the tub, which really hits home just how much water is in that bathtub.

The Big Ugly Flushing Buckets

5 gallon buckets and blue tarps… now you’re homesteadin’!

5 gallon buckets and blue tarps… now you’re homesteadin’!

The Big Ugly Flushing Buckets are just what they sound like — big 5 gallon white plastic buckets that sit in our bathroom. They function much the same as the bathtub reservoir — we pour jugs from them into the toilet tank as flushing water. You could definitely argue that these buckets make the place significantly less classy, but I’d counter that there’s not much that’s classy about pooping in drinking water.

We have a bunch of these buckets, and they get filled lots of different ways. One of the biggest is when we swap out our chicken waterers. We change the chicken’s water every day to keep it fresh, though the chickens don’t drink anywhere close to a full waterer. That means we have a reservoir of water that wasn’t touched by the chickens, but that has been sitting outside for a day. Instead of dumping it straight down the drain (and filling the septic tank), into the ugly flushing buckets it goes!

I have some plans for both elaborate (sensor-based) and simple (gravity-based) hacks to retrofit grey-water to our toilet tanks. And one day we may try out composting toilets. But “perfect” is the enemy of “done”. Every jug we pour into the toilet tank today is one jug more of drinking water not wasted.

“The earth, the air, the land, and the water are not an inheritance from our forefathers, but on loan from our children. So we have to handover to them at least as it was handed over to us.” Mahatma Gandhi

Next time: More from our little Chicken Gardeners.