It’s important to know the difference between grey water and black water. Black water is toilet water that absolutely must go into the septic tank system. Grey water refers to all other waste water: sinks, showers, washing machines, etc. This water can be separated and reused to provide direct irrigation water to certain kinds of plants. This will help reduce the load on your septic system and at the same time recycle the water. However, grey water cannot be stored in tanks for later watering with a hose as bacteria can quickly grow when stored. It has to be sent directly to a drain field where certain plants can utilize the water, such as papayas, bananas, bamboo, etc. Here in Costa Rica, you will find that most “Tico homes” simply dispose of their grey water onto the road in front of their house!
Another thing to consider in plumbing your new home is your hot water supply. Avoid the “suicide hot shower.” This type of plumbing has its name for a reason. In these cases, hot water has been installed after the fact, resulting in a completely illegal, building code breaking 220V electrical line running inches away from your head while you shower.
Hot water heater options are aplenty here. For energy efficiency, I would recommend an on-demand heater which only heats up the water when it’s used. For heating these tanks, propane tends to be cheaper than electric to run and will keep your energy costs down. Perhaps best is to install a simple solar hot water heater on your property. While initially costly, it’s a free way to access hot water. Another option is build a water treatment plant which will take both your grey and black water and turn it into storable irrigation water. The initial cost is high, and the system does need maintenance and an electrical supply, but you will save quite a bit of water.
Is there any true price to saving water?