The area that I live in has been in a drought for a year or more. As such we now have water restrictions on washing the car, watering the garden etc. Initially I set up a drainage hose from the washing machine outlet to containers outside to enable me to collect the waste water so I could water the garden. This process worked fine except for the back breaking work of emptying the waste water (grey water) onto various places in the garden.

The next stage was to develop an automatic system that would distribute the grey water into the garden and have the following features.
1) Filter the water before sending it to the garden.
2) Automatic pump to allow water to be delivered to the high end of the garden.
3) Timer to prevent water stagnating in the tank.

The system uses a wheeled trash bin which is made out of 5mm thick plastic (nice and sturdy). Grey water comes into the top of the bin into a filter. When the bin fills to around 3/4 full, a water level switch triggers the pump controller to turn on the pump sitting at the bottom of the bin. The pump continues to operate until the lower water level switch is triggered.

The pump controller also has some logic built into the program to detect if water is in the bin but not high enough to operate the high water level switch. If this situation occurs, at 10 hour timer is started. If the water stays in the bin for 10 hours the pump will start and empty the bin. This stops the water from stagnating. I also have another timer that detects the run time of the pump. If the pump runs for longer than an hour (without any of the level switches being triggered) then the fault LED will be lit and all pumping will stop. This would indicate that the output pipe is blocked.
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beetpickles8 months ago
My plants love greywater! It's not recommended to use greywater on food crops that grow underground (carrots, potatoes, etc), but in general it is fine to use on the garden. The plants like the nutrients. I have a low tech system that delivers my laundry water to berry bushes and cherry trees: I am careful to use only Eco soap with no salts or phosphates and have a three way valve to send the water to the sewer if I need to use bleach or am washing something that's not good for them. My plants are very happy and growing like crazy!
lionelb1 year ago
What about using the dish-washer and clothes washing machines' waste water to flush your toilets .... hygienic too !
4 Pumps1 year ago

Good to see someone thinking ahead. You could use a similar system to pump grey water with a submersible pump. You could use a pump with a rigid float and a timer on the power source. This way you could set the system up with a much lower volume of water to get it started. It would also save you having to design a controller but it looks like you are pretty good with that anyway :)
hhamilton23 years ago
Since you have an interest in sustainability, you might like this as well.
How does this stuff work.
Does this project have a purification or afitration device.
harry884 years ago
harry884 years ago
does it have to run on ac i was thinking running it on solar pannels
slemke (author)  harry884 years ago
Just connect the 12VDC (I'm assuming the output is 12V) from the solar panel up to the AC terminals on the PCB. Don't use the AC transformer. This will then feed 12VDC strait into the voltage regulator. Don't worry about the polarity of the 12V from the solar panel as the bridge rectifier in the circuit will sort it out. Note that you may need to replace the resistor just above the relay with a wire link as I originally used a 12V relay which was running off 20V. Use a 12VDC pump.

for those interested in grey-water systems, check out Art Ludwig's 'laundry to landscape' system. It's similar to slemke's but uses the washing machine pump to directly deliver the water to the mulch-beds, bypassing the need for a sump/bilge pump. I believe Art also uses a fairly large bore pipe to avoid lint blockages.

Here's the link...
gardenResQ5 years ago
Grey is now the new green. Grey water, if utilised immediately in exits your bathroom, is considered safe. However we need to be responsible with our grey water and how we use it. Go easy on chemicals in the bathroom when cleaning the bath and shower. Divert the grey water to the sewer if you have a family member with a "funny tummy" and never use a fine mist sprayer to irrigate with. Choose a low pressure pump with a sprayer that results in large water droplets. This consideration will prevent your grey water entering your neighbors garden as well as public walkways and storm water drains. As far as expense is concerned a good grey water product, one that does not store water but simply filters and diverts, should cost no more than $400.
Derin6 years ago
could you use grey water from the balcony? that would be rare but would still be good
is your picture a penguin from and the game club penguin?
Derin Derin5 years ago
it has its own official site though
This is a beautiful setup. Mine works off two trash cans, a hose and gravity. I simply haul my hose to the plants and set the timer on my watch. Our well went dry a year after we bought our home, so we haul in our own water. With a family of 7 we generate a lot of laundry & now we have a nice green landscape with a little bit of work. I do not recommend Borax . I have tested it two times, it will kill the plants. I use bleach occasionally ,so I don't worry about it. If it was regular I wouldn't dump it on your plants though.
boarder2k76 years ago
It seems like putting soapy water into the garden is going to have a detrimental impact on plant growth.
no in fact it will help as when you buy wetta soil and other wetting agents they contain similar materials and the soapy water is good to get rid of aphids
Actually, the soap (phosphate or otherwise) is a great fertilizer for your lawn or garden. You have to make sure you switch to organic soaps, use NO bleach or powdered detergents (which contain heavy salts) in order to use this system. But liquid detergent can be great plant food in a system like this. What you don't want to do is put grey water ON the plants, but water the ground by running the outflow into a shallow pit next to the plants, which is filled with bark, stones or other porous materials.
Alright yeah that makes sense, because I was thinking of the ramifications of putting all laundry water on the plants, and it didn't seem like it would be good. I guess you could add some sort of a bypass valve to the system to go into the regular sewer/septic system when you needed to use bleach or something in the load.
lilykoart5 years ago
Great Idea! i was looking into rainbarrels, but saving waste water especially from my washer is also a good way to get "free" water. i use a biodegradable detergent, plus borax powder, and a bit of vinegar in the bleach dispenser. wonder if borax would be ok for the plants? btw, borax is an ingredient used in the most effective ant killer...
Both borax and vinegar are good to help keep the ph adjusted. The Boron in the borax will help with the roots and any fruit growing on the plants
ausisit7 years ago
This is a great idea as the politicians restrict the water be used the water going up to form rain reduces so there fore less rain. I am going to use this idea it rocks.

Now if you put some sponge rox in your filter as directed at ausis sponge rox page you would be helping the environment greatly.

Reducing heavy metal bioaccumulation we understand is a big phrase to digest however it is described simply as follows: Heavy metal bioaccumulation such as in large fish they build up toxic levels of mercury which we all know is poisonous, our sponge rox help in reducing heavy metal bioaccumulation by trapping these poisons FOREVER...
Detoxamin the heavy metals out. google Detoxamin :)
Chelation = snake oil =stupid = detoxamin
RadBear7 years ago
I have three questiions. 1) Can you give us more info on your filter? 2) Does the detergent harm the plants or degrade the quality of the soil? 3) for electronically challenged folks such as myself is there a off the shelf pump controller available? Excellent idea, great executuion and a very good instructable!!!
Drew-Oz RadBear7 years ago
I've only just found this instructable and am reading the responses first, so this might be covered in the text, but...

Easy solutions..?

Laundry detergents generally contain things that gardens don't like in big quantities, such as salt and phosphorous, so best just to buy detergents that are formulated specifically for grey water systems. Here in Aus, there are an increasing number of brands that produce such a product, and it would appear the market is growing. If your supermarket doesn't stock these, maybe you could buy online. So detergent worries could be easily sorted when you buy. Hand soap or shower products (shampoos etc) are a little more tricky, so be cautious about using your shower/hand basin water too.

Pumps are used in the boating industry a lot, especially water-level-triggered bilge pumps. They're almost always 12V so should be easy to hook up to a common, or garden variety, mains transformer. Now unfortunately, as soon as you attach the word "boat" to any product, you can almost double the price, so you'll have to shop around, but there are loads of different models and capacities available. Why not Google it?

Web references:
There is a gardening programme that has been airing in Aus for years. They publish "fact sheets" about all sorts of things:

Check out these guys too:

Heck! Why not just Google "grey water"...?
Boat bilge pumps are one of those tools that you keep find more uses for. I've used Rule (brand) pumps from online suppliers (cheap) for everything from basement sump pumps to watering saplings in remote locations, spraying, etc. My first $15 pump (no auto shutoff) served as a garden sprayer, running off my 12v tractor btry, for almost 10 yrs -- until I drove over it. I think the auto shutoff for their 350 model (350 gpm with no lift) is another 12 bucks. I use another for the homemade rock waterfall in my front yard. They have a built-in filter that's easy to clean, but if there's a lot of crud in yr gray water it might be best to rig up some pre-filter to save constant fiddling with it. Usually you can find better prices for their hosing if you buy sump pump hose instead of from the boat yard; adding "boat" in front of something really does multiply the price, usually. One of my neighbors whose well went dry for six months used one of these (bigger model, 1000gpm) to fill water barrels from the river every evening, to water his livestock (and himself). I'd do an instructable on the big rock waterfall (total price $45), but am too lazy to take it all apart. Basically two 7-dollar mortar tubs, the pump & a 12v supply, and a scrap of old garden hose. Plus the rocks to hide it all. Anyone could figure it out, tho. The advantage of the boat pump in this application is that you can easily change the water level it kicks on at by just hanging the pump at different levels in the container, since it operates electronically by sensing when it's sitting in water -- thereby not having to muck about with moving floats that hang up, etc. -- and cheap toggle switches can be easily rigged up for different uses. I also feel better with only 12v going into wet environments, rather than 110v. Call me chicken .... Bilge pumps should be listed right along with duct tape & baling wire -- essential for the survival of mankind.
These guys have a pretty good selection of various kinds of AC and DC pumps at decent prices. I shop there a lot because they're local, but they mainly do business via web and mail orders.
I also feel better with 12 volt going in wet environments
Derin smokehill6 years ago
chicken(you asked for me to call you chicken)
Yep, the drought has really changed peoples lives in Australia (and i guess its for the better). When I went back a few months ago I was amazed at how water-conscious everyone has become. I think you Yankees could learn a lesson from us
Aussies RULE
Yeah but we're so freaking far away from anything except Asia and New Zealand.
DonQuijote7 years ago
excuse me if i misunderstood, 'cause I'm in a hurry right now, but, you ARE using the waste water of your washing machine to water your garden.. right? is that not harmful to the plants, considering the detergent you use for washing?
shwa DonQuijote7 years ago
if you use gray water for plant irrigation,just be sure to use biodegradable detergents no sodium and no softeners,your best bet is to use it on the trees and shrubs,and not on the plants you eat directly like lettuce or legumes.Yeah I would like to know more about the filter.
slemke (author)  shwa7 years ago
Yes I use biodegradable detergent and now only use either cold water or warm water in the washing machine. Definitely no hot water (I could put a temp sensor in the bin to prevent the pump from working if the water's too hot).

The plants seem to be growing better with the gray water. I also use a lot of mulch around the plants to stop evaporation. As the water is delivered underground via seepage you can water the vegetable garden. If you where delivering the water above ground, this wouldn't be a good idea as the waste water could sit on the leaves etc. After all you put manure in your soil.

The filter is made from plastic fly screen material normally found on windows (to keep insects out). I sewed the screen material so it forms a bag. The opening of the bag is mounted on a 6" circular aluminum frame. The filter doesn't filter chemicals rather it stops lint from clogging up the tubes and pump. The cleaning sensor is a float that moves up and operates a switch when the filter gets so clogged with lint that the water overflows over the top of the filter. Note you have to mount the sensor and the top of the filter above the high water level to prevent false triggering.

The float switches I purchased are from a company in Australia called Jaycar . The vertical float switch for the filter is from Altronics

Hope this info has answered most question.
boocat slemke7 years ago
You're idea is marvelous! Thanks so much. I can't believe this never occurred to me. I can easily set something up from the washer water line. Terrific.
herebus boocat5 years ago
I just read an article from ReNew (Aust), the research from this suggests not to use hard soap (cake soap), as it has to much salt (sodium) which can impact on the soil structure, however body wash is OK, so is shampoo and conditioner.
I've personally used detergents in hydroponic systems (not that its the best thing to use) the plants love the stuff just use unscented
I have been using wash water for this past summer to water my pumpkins, they, and the surrounding plants ( peas that I forgot I planted last year! ) are doing just fine. I just move my hose somewhere else when I want to bleach something, I don't use any special detergent. If I am not mistaken, detergents don't contain phos. anymore.
love it but way to complicated for me to, how much for u to build me one, LOL
mensmaximus7 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
What the hell are you talking about? Please don't post when drunk.
Dah, I go to many public meetings and city council meetings. Take me on. LOL. Wake up before you post and Google what I said.
A truly appropriate response would only get me banned.
i'm totally with you my man
I long ago gave up arguing with those half-educated eco-geeks who slept through their high-school science classes. Like their attention span, life is too short. I suspect "mensmaximus" (rather an amusing screen name, considering its Latin translation) waxes ecstatic over electric cars, pretending that electricity grows on trees and does not pollute the air. Ironically, the only electric power that is close to non-polluting is nuclear-generated ... that nasty source that the eco-freaks have been opposing adamantly for decades. Sometimes, no matter how "nice" and apolitical one tries to be, some people just can't pass up the opportunity to inject their political weirdness into their comments.
Er...the mining and processing of uranium ore into just the yellow cake stage alone generates similar levels of carbon emissions as that of a regular coal burning power station would (when compared to the electricity that can be generated by the uranium ore that is mined). So even from the beginning of the process, nuclear power is already running at a carbon deficit.

And then the yellow cake has to be transported (usually around the world) to be further processed into fuel rods, and then transported again to the power stations. Then once the fuel rods are spent, they have to be transported again to a "waste disposal" site (often around the world once more). So think about all those emissions.

And then nuclear waste just sits there waiting to cause who knows what sort of environmental damage in the future (afterall, the waste disposal sites have to be geologically stable for a few thousand years to be safe). Do you know what will happen in 500 years time? 1000 years time? No-one does: nuclear waste is a time bomb in in so many ways.

Oh, and don't think that all this processing, transportation and waste storage is done for free. It's all highly specialized so it all comes with a highly specialized price tag too. Nuclear power generation is frighteningly expensive and so it has to be subsidized by governments (ie our taxes) just to keep it going. Nuclear power stations run at a loss. A BIG loss. So instead of more of our tax money going into useful things like schools, hospitals, public transport, renewable energy etc, it goes toward propping up a financially unsustainable business model that in the real world would have died 50 years ago.

Oh, and then there is the overpriced cost of construction of the power plant as well (being specialized as it is), and then once it's de-commissioned, the entire site is a no-go zone for decades. Once-valuable land just sitting there doing nothing.

So sure, the point-of-generation of electricity in a nuclear power station has less emissions than anything else, but mate, you have to look at the whole picture - and they don't teach that in high-school science class.

I dislike the use of fossil fuels as much as the next person, but for the time being, they're what we have to deal with and nuclear is not the answer - it's part of the problem.
i'm with the next guy, that's REALLY wrong.
I'm sorry, but that's not correct.
Hi Smokehill, I just noticed Drew-Oz gave a reply to nucear. Sorry my replies weren't whatever. Words are launched rockets, i don't know where they land, what they said or why I launched them. I have constructed the largest model of the Hindenburg in the world and know that it is more efficient than truck transport. I have studied the mag-lev with the accepted conclusion of a two level car/truck NA network. As I have a long term interest in food security, I am looking at calorie requirement to grow and transport any food product versus a grow/eat local option. How many calories are created by composting all grocery store and kitchen scraps? How many calories to transport it to agricultural fields vs urban gardens. I am concerned about food lobbyists. The carbon tax is a hot political election topic in the fall federal election in Canada, the media is saying. What I learn from posters such as yourself on this thread has been time well spent.
You're the kind of person I hope never makes it to a position of authority.
What's absurd is how many resources Ethanol-heads are willing to devote to keeping those cars moving. "Hey you! Don't eat those plants, we could use them to DRIVE!"
mossDboss6 years ago
why not just re-use this water for the wash? You could filter the water through sand and maybe a bed of carbon. Re-use the water a few times for the wash then for the garden?
kurobankai6 years ago
Good Idea 4 my FYP...hehehehehe.... will do it in Malaysian mechtronic style
Bardouv6 years ago
Great work with the instructable. I did something like this a couple of weeks ago. I have my washing machine and both showers hooked up to a system similar to yours. We never had to add a timer, we just ran it whenever and if the soil got too wet in one spot we moved it to another.
servant746 years ago
Great project. ... From what I remember in the US, they stopped selling phosphorus based detergents many years ago (1970's?). I have thought of using air conditioner water that comes from de-humidification. But I think (but don't know) if it has to many dissolved metals to be safe. Yea, the Ausies, NZ, and middle east folks all have a different perspective on water. The western (non-CA) US used to (think pre-1950's). Also recycling in OZ is taken to a level I have NEVER seen in the US. ... For some things like this, I would like to see the US should follow the OZ and NZ folks. In OZ (Australia) there seems to be a push to build nuke power plants, but they have the resource of land that would make huge solar farms (and possibly wind farms) pretty near possible. I am sure they are looking into it. From what I have read it seems like the nuke plants are being politically pushed... such is life in our world today.
What program did you use for the schematic
slemke (author)  thermoelectric6 years ago
Eagle from CadSoft.
I use the feeware version that limits the size of the PCB to 8cm x 10cm and only 2 layers.
ScottSEA6 years ago
Excellent Idea, great instructable. Well done. Have you considered solar to drive the pump?
Katanaman6 years ago
Is it possible that instead of a pump to drain the water that you could just make use of gravity by driling a hole at the lowest point possible and just attaching a rain water style lever faucet? Also water won't stagnate as long as it has movement, so once again with use of gravity, it might be possible to just run a narrow tube from the bottom to the top so it might keep a constant flow, thus creating a perpetual movement from the weight of the water. Just a thought.... (another Aussie idea).
askjacob7 years ago
I really like this. Some people have commented on it being complex - unless you know a bit of electrical and mechanical stuff - then it seems to be a rather elegant and basic system. For those who are commenting on the power this uses, consider this: the system is about water first and formemost. Secondly, if you believe that sewer systems use gravity alone, and has no pumps, processing, filtration, sedimentation tanks, transfer pumping .... whew, more than a bit of power is used there! Most likely far more so than the small pump used here to water the garden....
This project is probably my next step. Drawing water like our forfathers did was, and still is, back breaking work. I used grey water from the shower and rain barrels (when possible) to water edible plants. I hear that plants are excellent filters and most bath products are relatively harmless. Thanks for the instructable!
lewiso17 years ago
The problem I have with grey water collectors/recyclers is that you take water away from the system which can be officially recycled and (I think) put back into dams. You're not really saving any water for your city/province/whatever, you're actually taking more water from the already precious little reserves.
Well, if it's percolating down through the soil and back into the water table, it's going to be "used" again anyhow. It's just taking a detour from the city sewer system into the water table they draw from. For those of us with well & septic, it's just another detour back into the well. No loss, no gain, except for saving the electricity we'd use to pump thru the garden hose.
Iday Fixee7 years ago
First, thank you very much for this post. This is a great straightforward starting point for me to take ACTION on not wasting water. In the meantime I have been learning other versions of Grey WAter installation. If you are living not too far away from California USA, please visit the Ecohouse in Berkeley (web link to They are giving free tours of their Grey Water System - A LEGALLY PERMITTED SYSTEM, BY THE WAY - on an ongoing basis. Next tour this Saturday October 7th. For those who are interested but too far away to visit, please see the booklet "Creating a Grey Water Oasis" by Art Ludwig. I have no plumbing background, but am slowly teaching myself how to overcome my intimidation, crawl under the floor, and tie into household pipes, then running the water into a wood-chip mulch filled pit dug into the ground (this is another version of your filter idea). After the the mulch pit, the water then travels into the garden. The Ecohouse recommends fruit trees to be planted by the mulch pits, as a smart landscape design move. (greywater from the bath has a high nutrient content. Might as well turn that into fruit and shade while it's being safely filtered of bacteria and pathogens) This "Mulch-pit" type of system can be gravity fed or pumped, depending on the house foundation and the incline of the land obviously. In regards to SPUUT's post perhaps there are some pedal-powered people out there who can post ideas for us on operating our water pumps from a bicycle. Let's keep this topic thread going!
spuuut7 years ago
Im in Sydney in Australia and we have similar H2O conditions, the detergent in the wash is all pretty biodegrad now and the conc. would be low anyway so I save it in the same OTTO (garbage) bins and then just bucket it onto the plants as necesary. By using a bucket to distribute the water I get a sporadic workout, save electricity, and I get to rip out any weeds I find. I dont know how virtuous it is to be saving water and then expending electricity to spread it around,especially in a domestic situation? But if we all did our bit , it should make a difference. Good effort to raise the issue !!
ve2vfd7 years ago
Excellent project!!! When I used to be an inspector for the city's Dept of Environnement, enforcing watering ordinances during droughts was part of my job and a citizen had set up a similar system (though NOWHERE as elaborate as yours!) to recuperate and re-use his washing machine and bath/shower water. He made a point of showing me his system when he saw me eyeing his beautifull green lawn (the only not-dry and burned one on his street) in the middle of a severe draught. You get 2 thumbs up from me! :D
boocat ve2vfd7 years ago
BATH water!! I have a friend who's husband is a plumber!! Yeah! I'm going to look into this. My mom's on water rationing again and she hates it.
auntyzoom7 years ago
Pretty complex... I simply have a long hose attached to my washing machine drain hose (I use an old knee-high "nylon" stocking as a "filter" which is easily & frequently replaced as needed) & whenever I do the laundry, I water the garden, the "lawn" (hah!) & etc. Over years of doing this (20+) I've noticed that (1) anything growing in "my path" appears to really love either my dirty clothes or the chemistry of my washing machine output and (2) that doing my laundry at night seems to have a direct effect on water pressure going into & coming out of the washing machine. I'm on a gravity feed system originating from a seep spring. However, the bottom line is: EVERYTHING that's growing on this property has, is and does respond happily to being inundated with my gray (washing machine) water. I see no point in storing it (with all the attendant bells & whistles) - just USE it! Works for me. Which of course is not to suggest it'll work the same way for everyone.
Or, to simply things if you live on a steep slope, as we do, you can just reverse the direction of your waste pipe out through the siding and through ABS to whatever area of the yard you want. We have ours going to the trees and blackberries. Seems to be working fine.
nitinpandit7 years ago
Great. Would love to know more about the filter and maintenance requirements. Now make sure you use bins made from recycled materials and put some solar cells on top for the pump.
Ohm7 years ago
That is one heck of a system, in Aus I think you could set up a business making those things as the water problem is so bad, I know because my Grandmother is in Sydney and they have gotten real anal about all that. I like the design of the unit as well, it is very well setup and professional looking and on wheels so it is easy to move around, or at least when empty.
CyberBill7 years ago
Great instructable! Where did you get those water level sensors? I'm going to be working on a simple water level relay switch to disable a water pump in a well and this instructable has even more than I need! :)
Great instructable and a very worthwhile project. Cheers, Pat. Pending
uguy7 years ago
awesome project, very well done, great pix. Thanks for sharing.
uguy uguy7 years ago
I'd like to know a little more about your filter.
mdmoose297 years ago
this is pretty dang spiffy. very cool project. and lots of details were nice!