Most everyone today is familiar with the concept of recycling. Cans, bottles, plastic and other items are commonly recycled to preserve resources, cut manufacturing costs and protect the environment. But there is one resource that is not being recycled nearly as much as it could be, and that resource is water.
Water is wasted at an alarming rate each day in the U.S. and across the world. According to Columbia University’s Earth Institute, we only use 10% of our water for drinking and cooking, pouring the rest down the drain. Considering that one-fifth of the world does not have water that is safe to drink, and the fact that there are ongoing water shortages across the U.S., there has never been a more important time to save water.
Water recycling and refiltering are important steps on the road to sustainability, cost savings and environmental responsibility.
A Much Needed Solution – Water Recycling & Refiltering
The majority of the water discarded in homes – shower water, bath water, toilet water – is considered wastewater. For decades’ wastewater has been treated as the name implies, as waste to be thrown away as quickly as possible. But modern filtration and treatment technologies provide new ways of using wastewater to transform it into something useful. Instead of throwing out the majority of the water that comes through your home or business, you can turn wastewater into a usable resource.
While some industries use wastewater for things like irrigation and manufacturing, most households and smaller businesses do not recycle their wastewater, and thus miss out on both cost savings and a major opportunity for helping the environment.
The Benefits of Water Recycling & Refiltering
Recycling and refiltering water offers serious benefits for individuals, families, businesses and the environment. Some of the benefits include:
While there are initial costs up front for installing water recycling systems and minor electric power requirements to operate these systems, the overall costs are less than the savings from using so much less water. Recycling your water means that a much greater percentage of the water you purchase goes to good use. You buy a lot less water when you recycle.
Beginning to recycle your water is also an investment for the future. Should a drought occur in your area, or water become more scarce for other reasons, it will become more expensive. The less water you use over the long term, the more money you will save.
The water that comes through your tap must meet minimum standards to ensure purity and quality, but you can usually make your water even better using high-quality filtration systems. When you install the right filtration systems, you can make sure that every bit of water you use meets your standards for health and safety.
A lot of energy is required to produce clean water and get it to your home. When you recycle your water, you cut down on your water use and therefore the energy necessary to produce more water for your needs. Some water recycling systems go even further to save energy, capturing the heat from your shower and sink water to be used in your home heating system.
Humans are not the only creatures that need water to live. Every plant and animal, every ecosystem requires water to function in some capacity. As human populations have grown and our demand for water has increased, we have been using more and more of this life-giving resource. Not only do we use a large portion of the available freshwater, we discharge our wastewater back into the environment where it can cause considerable damage.
By recycling your water, you lessen your impact on the environment. You produce far less wastewater, and require much less fresh water because you use virtually every drop that comes through your home.
Water recycling helps the environment by:
- Decreasing diversion of water from sensitive ecosystems
- Decreasing discharge of contaminated wastewater to sensitive water bodies
- Reducing the amount of pollution that is sent into the environment through contaminated wastewater
- Reduce the need for excessive fertilizer use in agriculture
How is Water Recycled?
There are several ways to recycle water, ranging from extremely simple options to complex, multi-stage processes. For example, a basic way to recycle gray water would be to use a bucket to capture water from your shower to use later for watering the garden. A more advanced version would be installing a gray water collection system in your home that would capture the water, filter it and connect to your irrigation system to supply water to your landscape.
Some examples of water recycling include:
Gray Water for Irrigation
Gray water comes from showers and kitchen sinks. If you use soaps and cleaners that are designed for minimal environmental impact, you can use captured gray water directly as irrigation for lawns and gardens. It can be difficult to limit your soaps, detergents and cleaning products to those that can go directly on your plants, though. You can also install systems that will filter gray water before you use it for more control over what goes into your irrigation system.
Gray Water for Household Use
Gray water can also be used for things like flushing the toilet, cleaning the car or other cleaning tasks. The gray water just needs to be filtered sufficiently for whatever purpose it is to be used for.
Recycling Wastewater for Agricultural Use
Wastewater is recycled on a large scale for agricultural use, which involves filtering it to remove contaminants. As with other water recycling, the water is filtered based on how it will be used. Solids can be separated from wastewater for use as fertilizer as well.
Recycling Wastewater for Industrial Use
Some industries actively seek wastewater for industrial use and/or recycle the water they use. Typically, they will filter the water to a level of purity required for the specific application.
Advanced Treatment to Produce Drinking Water
While it is natural to have doubts about turning toilet water into drinking water, modern treatment systems are capable of producing water pure enough to exceed all water purity and safety standards. There are several different processes used on a large scale in San Diego, Singapore, Namibia and other parts of the world. In areas where water is scarce, it is increasingly common to see systems that take every drop of water used by people in the area and filter/treat that water for drinking and other uses.
Using wastewater as drinking water requires multi-step, complex filtration and treatment processes. There are several different systems in use that use different steps to produce water clean enough to drink. In general, the systems filter wastewater for contaminants, disinfect the water and use other methods to purify it to the point where it is of equal quality – or of higher quality – to regular drinking water in the area.
How Is Water Refiltered?
Water filtration involves pushing water through various filtration mediums to remove impurities. The tap water that comes through your faucet has already been filtered and treated before it gets to you, and you may put the tap water through another filter before you use it. When you are recycling your gray water, you must refilter it before you use it. Fortunately, modern filtration technology simplifies the recycling and refiltering process greatly.
Refiltering involves catching water as it is used, passing it through a filter and storing the filtered water or using it directly. The type of filter used will vary depending on what you want to do with the water you are recycling. Filtering water for use on the lawn requires simpler filtration systems than filtering water to be used for drinking, for instance.
Types of Water Recycling Systems for the Home
Gray water recycling has been popular in certain businesses for some time now, but it has only recently begun to catch on in the average home. New recycling systems are available that fit seamlessly into the modern home and are rarely noticed by the homeowner. They are easy to maintain, efficient and as time goes on they become more and more cost effective for most homeowners.
There are several different systems available, including:
- Whole house systems – You can install a system that captures and filters all the gray water produced in your home, from every sink, shower and bathtub, then return the filtered water to your taps. Larger systems require more of an investment and a place to store the water, such as in an underground tank. However, once you have a whole house system installed, you may be able to reduce your water usage by around 50%.
- Bathroom system– Smaller systems are available that capture the water from the bathroom sink and bath and return it the toilet for flushing. These systems are much less expensive than a whole house system, but they are still able to cut water consumption by up to 30%.
- Bathroom system with heat capture– An upgraded bathroom system can also capture the heat from the water and return it to your home heating system.
Lessening Your Environmental Impact Through Conscientious Plumbing Services
Installing even a simple gray water recycling and filtration system means you will be reducing your water usage substantially. But there are more fixes you can make around your home that will help reduce your water usage that are often easy, but may be overlooked. Many times, homeowners do not realize that their plumbing systems are in need of maintenance and repair. You may have a water leak – or more than one – that over time leads to a great deal of wasted water.
Everything from a leaking faucet to a water heater leaking can cause waste that is unnecessary. Fortunately, many of these problems are easy to fix. Kitchen faucet repair, water heater replacement (with a more energy efficient model), sink plumbing and other services are relatively affordable and can be done in a short period of time.
At MET Plumbing, we can help you understand your water recycling and refiltration options, install a recycling system for you, and conduct a maintenance check on your plumbing system to ensure that no water is being wasted. We can make your home more efficient, environmentally friendly and affordable to live in.
Contact MET Plumbing for All Your Water Recycling Needs
As the best plumbing company in the Houston area, we are your resource for water recycling and refiltration. Please contact us today for a free consultation. We are happy to talk over the phone or meet with you to discuss water recycling for your home or your business. Our knowledgeable team can design a custom plan for your home and your specific water-saving goals.
We look forward to speaking with you!