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New Greywater System at the AMI Urban Farm

By Katie Gilman, Phase II Fellow

At the AMI Urban Farm, we wash anywhere from 10-80 lbs. of produce each week. We employ the use of a 30 gallon wash tub and two 10 gallon wash containers for this job. At the end of the wash session, this water, containing soil and plant matter, is dumped and runs off into areas of the farm we don’t necessarily want it to. It causes quite a mess, as it doesn’t drain into the ground very quickly and could be reused in some other manner.

Reviewing this through our permaculture lens, we have an abundance of a resource (water) and an opportunity: Rather than seeing this as a problem, we can implement a creative system that makes the most of this resource -- and when designed correctly, needs little human interjection. Using our permaculture design skills, we have constructed a way to capture this water and funnel it off into holding area that will become a water garden, a microclimate filled with water-loving plants that can also clean the water.

Using shovels we dug two pit areas, each 6-inches deep, underneath the water-dumping area from our 3-bin wash system. We then dug trenches (two, that later merge into one) 6-inches wide, out from the catchment areas all the way to our new rain garden (20 feet from the dumping area). The whole system was gently graded toward the rain garden, the lowest point in the design. We filled the catchment areas and trenches with an inch or so of pea gravel and to ensure good drainage, threw in a piece of tubing where the two trenches merged into one and covered one end with a filter.

Other possible uses of this water could have been funneling it from our pack out station to water production crop beds, or into our perennial food forest. The sky is the limit when designing these types of things! People are also implementing greywater systems with water from sinks, showers, washing machines, or any lightly-used water that does not come from a toilet. Water can be sent through a filtration system or straight into gardens, depending on what they are watering and what is in the greywater. These systems can be primitive like ours, or more advanced depending on what you are going for.

If you’re interested in harnessing the full potential of your greywater here are some great resources:

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