Recycling Indoor Water in the Garden

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Now that water conservation is a part of everyday life in California, it is more important than ever that Californians be water-smart. Landscape water needs offer an opportunity for water conservation and there are lots of ways to get creative with how we save our water. One way you can be more water-wise is to recycle water used indoors and put it to use in your garden.*

Water that is recycled this way is called greywater—gently used water that may contain traces of dirt, food, grease, hair, and some mild household cleaning products. You can water your garden with greywater at any time, even if it does not coincide with your local water district’s watering schedule. Recycled water is a great way to maintain a healthy garden while following watering restrictions.

There’s no need to run out to your yard throughout the day to water your plants. You can set up a lidded plastic storage bin or bucket in a convenient location—for example, outside your back door or in the bathtub—to hold the water to use when you’re ready. Better yet, set up and label two storage bins—one to water edible plants and one to water ornamental plants. Don’t let greywater sit for more than 24 hours, however, or bacteria can develop. Put it to use in your garden as quickly as possible and your plants will thank you.

Materials List:

  1. One or two plastic storage bins with lids


  1. Save Clean Water for Edibles: Water edible plants, using only water that is free of any soaps or cleaning agents. Here are some of the ways you can capture water that otherwise might go down the drain to use on your edible plants:
  • Wash your fruits and vegetables over a bowl.
  • Collect unused drinking water.
  • Use a bowl or bucket to save water in the sink or shower while you’re waiting for it to heat up.
  • Save water that you use to cook vegetables or pasta. (Be sure to let it cool before watering the garden!)
  • Re-use the water from a freshwater fish tank. That water contains nutrient-rich fish waste that will not only hydrate your plants but feed them as well.
  1. Use Greywater for Ornamentals: Water ornamental plants with any of the captured water listed above, as well as water that has been used to wash dishes, clothes or yourself as long as the soaps and detergents used are biodegradable, non-toxic, and free of salts, boron and chlorine bleach.
  2. Avoid Blackwater Completely: Do not recycle water that has come into contact with feces, either from the toilet or diapers; that is considered blackwater, which can carry pathogens and should never be used in the garden.

The benefits you will see in your garden will far outweigh the effort you put into recycling water. Once you establish the habit of saving, those little bits add up to many gallons of water saved.

*Do not recycle water that comes from a system that has a water softener installed. Most water softeners use salts that can be harmful to plants.