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Re: agricultural use of gray water

  • Subject: [cg] Re: agricultural use of gray water
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2003 16:55:15 -0700 (PDT)

Hi, Judy,

Good questions. I like the Oasis website:


In short, gray water is a great idea in theory and
pretty tricky in practice, especially in a community
setting where you are combining sources of water with
little control of what's going into the stream.

The general rule is that gray water should go first to
ornamentals, next to tree crops, and only in a pinch
on vegetables like tomatoes, corn, beans,  etc. I find
that many folks don't like to use it on lettuce and
root crops, where you are likely to splash the edible
part of the crop. 

A household can 'swap', using gray water on
ornamentals and fresh on vegetables, but this may not
be of much value, I think, in most allotment-style
community veggie gardens.

Maybe one exception would be setting up a composting
area using gray water on the compost. But, again,
might be tricky in a community garden setting.

Finally, sodium build up and pathogens can be a

Other water saving options that may help are mulching,
adding compost to soil to improve water retention, and
various irrigation systems (though these can have
their own issues - drip systems for instance. Death by

Oasis suggests not holding water for more than a day
and moving it into the soil as quickly as possible,
since soil is the best way to break down residues etc
in the water. If you do hold it, be very careful about

I agree with Oasis that for most of us, simpler is
better in a gray water system. I'd go on a field trip
to see some - Boulder must have some, as well as
Arizona and New Mexico. California has 'em, with a law
to go with it. Anyway, good luck (from a very wet NC
this year...)

Don Boekelheide
Charlotte, NC 

Greetings all,
I am the educational coordinator @Denver Urban Gardens
(D.U.G), the 
Denver-based non-profit responsible for over 70
community gardens in 
Denver & 
surrounding areas. One of our endeavors is a CSA
(currently 3 acres in 
certified organic, situated on 140 acres of historic
land). Denver 
approximately 9-11" of rain/year and we are
investigating the use of 
gray water for field irrigation. Denver's severe
drought (even with our 
mind-boggling blizzard this year) made us wonder if
there would be any 
water at all 
for our gardens & farm. I would appreciate hearing
from any folks that 
investigated (including scientific studies) using
alternative water 
sources for 
irrigation. Thanks much for any help.
Warm regards,
Judy Elliott
Denver Urban Gardens
3377 Blake St., Suite 113
Denver, CO 80205
home email: worms4u@aol.com, home phone: (303)922-4096
work email: dirt@dug.org, work phone: (303)292-9900

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