Brad Lancaster – How to Safely Harvest Greywater

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Great Big Ideas & Takeaways:

Turn your once-used wash water or “waste water” into free “resource water” to irrigate your plants with this overview and how-to on different low-cos, and highly effective household greywater-harvesting systems.

  • Simple no tank, no pump, gravity-fed systems are emphasized.
  • Living systems are the focus so the soil and its life are the system’s filter, and the plants are the “pumps”
  • Learn how to safely harvest “dark grey water” the water from your kitchen sink.
  • Is it legal in my area to harvest of greywater?
  • What is the difference between “black water” and “grey water”
  • Discover some “no pump” methods for re-using water
  • What are the best materials to use when constructing your systems


About The Speaker:

Brad Lancaster is the author of the award-winning Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond and co-founder of Since 1993 Brad has run a successful permaculture education, design, and consultation business focused on integrated regenerative approaches to landscape design, planning, and living. In the Sonoran Desert, with just 11 inches of annual rainfall, he and his brother harvest about 100,000 gallons of rainwater each year on an eighth-acre urban lot and adjoining right-of-way. This harvested water is then turned into living air conditioners of food-bearing shade trees, abundant gardens, and a thriving landscape incorporating wildlife habitat, beauty, medicinal plants, and more.


The goal of his book series and overall work is to empower his clients and community to make positive changes in their own lives and neighborhoods—by harvesting and enhancing free onsite resources such as water, sun, wind, shade, community, and more. It’s catching on, as evidenced by the tens of thousands of practitioners and demand for Brad’s work around the world.

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QUESTION: What did you learn from or like about this presentation?


  1. Sharon Porter

    Love you presentation Brad! Thanks so much for doing ALL you do, to make these important techniques known 🙂

  2. Fayette

    Very informative presentation. Practical and user friendly.

  3. Carol Bevens

    brad, i really enjoyed this presentation, probably one of my favorites thank you

    1. Brad Lancaster

      You bet. I hope you learned enough to get started on planning a potential system for your place.

      1. Kim

        Thank you for all of this info!! If I had the money I would buy some property – put in community showers and washing machines and little huts to have the homeless live in and start to grow their own food too (a totally self sufficient area using everyone’s strengths to work together – everyone can do something).

  4. Jane

    OH NO! 76 min

  5. Jane

    GOOD IDEAS Thank you

  6. Pam

    At my previous residence I used to let the dirty washing machine water empty into buckets and I would haul those buckets outside to a rain barrel that I would fill to water the flowerbeds.

  7. Jeanne

    Every time I hear Brad speak, I learn many new things and review the old. WONDERFUL!

    1. Marjory Wildcraft

      Hi Jeanne,
      Yup Brad is awesome!
      Glad you got some new ideas out of it.

  8. shirley brooke

    some good ideas ty

  9. John

    If you call shower water gray, that must mean you never pee in shower. That is asking too much! lol!

    1. Brigitte

      Pee is goid for garden and in your compost as activator.

    2. Brad Lancaster

      Well, to be honest, I will pee in a shower that directs its drainwater/greywater to the landscape in the way I describe in the talk.

      That way I harvest the nitrogen from the urine in the soil, and the water from the shower dilutes the salts.

      “Wastes” turned into resources.

  10. Laura

    So engaging! I was surprised to find out that I’d been watching for 77 minutes! Time flew by! Awesome info! Thanks, Brad and Marjory.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft

      You are most welcome Laura!

  11. Lyda

    Do you know if any study has been done on the fibers that come off of the clothes being absorbed into to the fruit of the trees or any food the grey water is going to? I know there are studies of synthetic microfibers going into the ocean and into fish from our clothing. Can this be filtered somehow?

    1. Marjory Wildcraft

      Wow Lyda, I had no idea about the microibers. Yikes, the thing we are doing to this planet.

      I hope Brad jumps in here… but I’ll wing it for him. I don’t know about the fibers, but there have been studies about various pathogens not crossing the plant root membranes. Especailly for perennials.

      1. Bekki

        Thanks; Marjory for all these great videos!! Trying to figure out ways to improve our World; and at the same time save money. I will jump in their about synthetic fibers they did a study on the effects on the body and took Kira pictures of our Aura or electrical system,(soul) and found that when we wear synthetic fibers it causes our electrical system to jump away from the body and we lose energy. They then took kiran photograped our electrical system with natural fibers; cotton, linen, wool, silk… and our electrical system increased and appeared to be perfectly stable around our bodies. So, I don’t wear synthetics anymore; only wear natural fabric materials.

        1. Gail

          OMG, the end of my world as I know it!!! I have a ton of clothes (mostly from Goodwill) that I imagine are mostly all synthetic. Maybe I will stay home naked while I try to figure this out.

    2. Brad Lancaster

      From what I understand, there should be no problem with the microfibers and your plants. They should not uptake them.

      But by directing your greywater to your landscape, you will keep the microfibers out of the waterways and ocean.

      The synthetic microfibers don’t break down well, so they could slowly accumulate over time in your soil.

      To avoid the synthetic microfibers altogether, just don’t buy, wear, and wash clothing with synthetic fibers.

  12. Dawna

    Would have been nice if he would have talked about ideas for areas that have freezing weather and snow cover. I plan on doing a graywater system on my place and am looking for ideas on ways to do it that will not freeze in the winter months. I don’t want an Ice Rink. I am doing a composting toilet, so, no black water.

    1. Brad Lancaster

      The systems I describe in the talk can all be used in climates with freezing winters.

      At minimum, the three-way valves (or the multi-pipe washing machine set up) I describe can be shut off in the winter months, thereby directing the greywater in the winter months to the septic or sewer. When things warm up you can then redirect the greywater back to the landscape.

      FYI, my brother’s system in cold-winter Flagstaff, AZ (7,000′ elevation) directs greywater out to the landscape all year round. And since the greywater comes out of the house and drain pipe well above freezing, it melts the snow and ice and infiltrates the well-mulched soil in the basin, rather than freezing on the surface.

      Things may be different in places like Minnesota with a deeper, longer winter cold; but again you can always redirect the greywater to sewer or septic in the winter months – as I show you how in the talk.

  13. Care

    Invaluable information and references to great resources!!!

  14. Crea Tiveone

    Love, love, love Brad’s enthusiasm! Enjoy his teaching style & appreciate his teaching opportunities on failures as well as the successes. We all learn better from missteps, especially when they’re not yours! Thank you, thank you.

  15. Brigitte

    This was awesome and flew by with great, useful content, training, meaningful/relative photos all along so you can SEE and learn. Best of all he also explains the pitfalls, mistakes and shortcomings that can happen, BUT he doesn’t stop there…. He explains and shows the FIXES and theory, skills behind proper functions! This guy LOVES what he dies, a big kid in adult body. Let’s all do the “Butt Dance…”. If you don’t know what tgat us then you need to explore more. 🙂

    1. Marjory Wildcraft

      Thanks so much Brigette,

      We love Brad too!

      Yes, I have done the Butt Dance!

  16. Brigitte

    Suggestions: Strain kitchen sinks with affordable stainers and put into plastic container with lid and collect thst with green waste form kitchen and hair from hairbrushes from self and pets and use in your compost!

    1. Brad

      Yes, that is definitely a best practice, since it removes much of the organic matter from kitchen sink water, which turns it into “dark grey water” or black water, and necessitates harvesting it with more precautions than regular grey water.

      Reducing the amounts of fats and oils you send down the kitchen sink drain is another good practice.

      Bascially, it comes down to remembering that there is no “away” in the phrase “throw it away”. Everything comes back around in our life cycles. And we can manage our “wastes” in such a way that they transform into more problematic wastes – or into beneficial resources and food for other life.

      1. Blackthorn

        “there is no “away” in the phrase “throw it away””

        Thanks for the great presentation and this reminder!

  17. Denise

    Excellent presentation. Brad you are very knowledgeable and have a wonderful teaching style. Thank you!

  18. Maxine Ogles

    Thanks lot of useful information which might save our lives someday…

    1. Marjory Wildcraft

      You are spot on about that… I like to focus on solutios (versus problems) but we do live in very precarious times. And yes, all this info may be life saving at some point.

  19. Sheila Fontaine

    Wow this was a great class. I learned so much. Seeing how you can use your gray water . How to save shower water and flush the toilet with it! So many ideas from small to bigger projects.May be life saving in the future. Thanks again.

  20. Sara

    Wonderful presentation and so informative! Out of curiosity- how much does this cost on average with an infiltrator system per person using water in a household? Or what have some of your costs been on systems you’ve seen? I know this is going to vary a ton but just trying to get an idea. Thank you again!

  21. JJM

    Growing up on farm the laundry and kitchen drains fed into a shallow ditch on a moderate slope. Always had great volunteer tomatoes.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft

      Hi JJM,
      thanks for wriiting in! Good example.

  22. Kristin

    Such an informative presentation! I’m halfway through volume 1 of your book and being enlightened and inspired on almost every page! When using kitchen sink water is it safe to have raw meat “juice” be included? For example, the plate where meat has been thawed has residual liquid and so possibly any number of bacteria as well. Can that go through a proper dark gray water system or is the system reallly meant for a vegan lifestyle?

    1. Brad Lancaster

      Glad you are enjoying Volume 1.

      An appendix in Volume 2 describes and illustrates the KRD system for kitchen sink drainwater.
      You will see there, that the kitchen sink drainwater is directed subsurface into an infiltration chamber. Meat “juice” should be no problem there as no one can then come in direct contact with it. The soil and its life will then beneficially utilize and transform it.

      Meat eaters can use the dark grey water system.

  23. Janice

    Be careful in some areas is is against code to harvest grey water. We had a nice system set up and the county came by and said we had to route everything into the septic because it was against code to use the grey water. 🙁 Maybe the neighbors were jealous because we were growing stuff and they weren’t >:( It also forces you to use more water, which the county charged for.

    1. Brad Lancaster

      It is always wise to check in and see what it legal and allowed in your area.

      And then to work to change codes if they are not working.

      See the Greywater Harvesting page of my website for examples of good codes you can show your local authorities to help enlighten and shift.

  24. Mary

    Very nice over view. Thank you!

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