I did something crazy last week.
I asked my husband to cut the plumbing from underneath the bathroom sink so that I can catch the water. The sink now drains directly into a bucket.
It always feels a little rebellious to do things differently than you’re “supposed” to.
My purpose was to use our “grey water” to refill the toilet tank, instead of the tank filling with fresh water from the well. When we switch to solar power, we’ll be hand-pumping our water, so I need to find ways to conserve water in order to reduce our trips to the pump.
We showed the kids the bucket, and explained to them the importance of not letting the water run, and to check the bucket after every use to see how full it is. If it overflows, that wouldn’t be good. The low-flow faucet adapter we installed has cut our sink water usage in half, so that’s been a huge help.
We turned off the water to the toilet and our experiment began.
We’ve been doing this for about a week now, and I’ve made a few surprising discoveries…
1. We don’t use nearly as much water in the sink as I thought we did. I thought for sure we’d fill the bucket at least once a day (as a family of six, with a toddler who loves to play in the sink). I had no clue how much water we used to wash our hands, brush our teeth, etc. It ended up taking us a week to fill a 3 gallon bucket 3/4 full.
It is a good thing that we don’t use as much water as I thought we did in the sink. But it’s not good for my little experiment. 1) We aren’t getting enough grey water from just the sink to flush the toilet as often as we need to (which is not after every use). 2) The water started to stink after sitting in the bucket for a couple of days. I considered putting a few drops of bleach into the bucket, but I don’t want that going into our septic system (and our ground for that matter) and ruining the microorganisms at work in there.
So we ended up having to turn the water back on to the toilet tank so that we could flush it when necessary.
2. Our “grey water” is more like brown water. I knew my kids got dirty, but I had no idea their hands were so filthy! It never crossed my mind that the water we would be catching would be so nasty. The first time I poured the sink water into the toilet tank I was horrified to find that it was as brown as mud. And then of course every time we would flush the toilet would fill with muddy water.
No good. That is so not gonna work for me.
So now it’s back to the drawing board. I still want to catch our sink water, but I’ll probably use it to water plants instead of filling the toilet tank. Maybe I can use rain water to fill the toilet, and just keep a small bucket in the bathtub to use as needed. I can’t stand the thought of using all of that energy to pump water at the well, just to fill the toilet tank. There’s gotta be a better way.
I’d also like to add a half-gallon jug of sand to the toilet tank, to displace the water and use less per flush. I was checking out a Dual Flush Converter which may be another option to consider as well.
If we were starting over in an off-grid cabin or something, I’m thinking a composting toilet would be very appealing as it doesn’t require water for use.