From: Nancy Farghalli, NPR
Published June 9, 2009 10:34 AM

Recycling 'Gray Water' Cheaply, Safely

A severe drought out West continues to threaten farms, fish, and water supplies to nearly everyone. Tighter water restrictions went into effect this month in much of Southern California, and the federal government issued a directive last week that could cut water delivery to farmers and residents in the state by 7 percent.

But some believe California is missing out on a key conservation method that's already available.

Susan Carpenter breaks California state plumbing code three times a week. Her accomplice is her washing machine. Rinse water from washing machines usually goes into the sewer — so what if you could recycle it? That's what Carpenter does, using it to water plants at her Southern California home.

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The gray water lapping up Carpenter's dirty clothes will soon be lapped up by her passion fruit trees — and no, the fruit won't taste like Tide. She uses a special type of detergent that doesn't contain salt or boron, compounds which dehydrate plants.

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So how does Carpenter's system work? She's hooked up a valve that drains the water outside to a garden. Roughly one million residents in California use a similar type of gray water contraption. Some of them have been trained by Laura Allen, the co-founder of Gray Water Guerillas in Oakland.

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