Greywater Treatment Systems

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    Kevin J. Gaughan

    Does anyone have any examples of greywater treatment systems that they have designed and seen installed? Are these systems effective? How much maintenance is really involved to keep them functional?

    Thanks for you help!

    Chris Whitis

    Are you looking for something like living machines? Here’s an example of what they are and I’ll give a brief description of the little I know….

    The system’s utilize plant material and fish to help break down and purify wastewater through a series of lagoons and constructed planting beds, usually in a green house environment. The last stage is usually a UV filter which purifies the water for release into open bodies of water. Solids are stored much like a septic system and require periodic pumping.

    We toured a system at PAWS Inc. just outside Muncie, Indiana back in college at Ball State. This was the headquarters of Jim Davis (Garfield) and was just outside of an area serviced by municipal sewer systems and the costs for him to run a dedicated sewer line for their facility was cost prohibitive. Their system was maintained by a full time manager who oversaw the day to day operations and took care of cleaning the various stages. A benefit they saw from the greenhouse was the year-round cuttings and floral displays the manager would put together for the main office. It was a pretty cool system and the manager thought it could be established on a larger scale, with cities employing the systems with a botanical garden as a community feature as the last stage.

    This may be totally unrelated to what you’re looking for, but thought I’d give it a stab…

    Miles Barnard


    I have a really good book that goes into detail (including detailed drawings, diagrams and calculations) about how to design and build rainwater catchment systems, graywater systems, etc. It’s called “Design For Water” by Heather Kinkade-Levario. You can also try talking to Paul Bassett of Hydrologix.
    Paul used to install irrigation system for Chapel Valley way back in the day and now design any system related to water.

    Hope this helps. Rainwater Catchment and graywater reuse should be something that LA’s take the lead on and push for every project. I’m hoping to do a rainwater catchment system for a residence ion downtown Annapolis in the next 6 months or so. If I do, I’ll share my experience.

    Jason Turner

    I had a company doing wastewater recycling, which arose out of necessity during a dought. I closed the company once the drought was over, as it is not my passion, but the experience has proven valuable.
    There are a vast number of systems on the market, most of which use a very similar system. Essentially, you are farming bacteria. There are two types of organisims, aerobic and anaerobic, and they are treated separately, and each type do a different job in the cleaning of water. The systems do work, and are fairly easy to maintain, requiring very little maintenance, more management of what goes in and quality control of what comes out.
    I could go into greater detail and send you schematics if it is of interest – I’m not sure what level of detail you are after.


    yes, Andropogon’s Sidwell Friends School is an amazing example


    Kevin J. Gaughan

    Jason, I really would enjoy some schematics. Just to give you a little more background on my request. I am currently teaching a class on sustainable design down in Costa Rica. Waste water is a big concern in the area because much of it is piped directly to streams or rivers. There has been some research done on reed bed greywater treatment systems, however, they require a fair amount of maintenance and I wanted to see what else is out there that works. I am looking for a system that can be applied at a residential and/or a commercial scale. Also something that is affordable, easy to construct without the use of machinery, and fairly easy to maintain. Schematics of such a system would be really great.

    Thanks for all the other responses as well…unfortunately, a lot of those would be outside our budget.

    Linda W. Jones

    Dear Kevin,

    I have a drip irrigation system that first purifies the combined greywater and blackwater then goes into a drip irrigation system, instead of wasteful leachlines. My system was designed by a septic system designer, and installed by a septic system contractor.
    My system is effective. The mainenance is normal.

    Linda Jones

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