Your questions about Gray Water

a gray water irrigated landscape

a gray water irrigated landscape

In this Los Angeles Magazine interview Laura Allen from answers some common questions about using and installing gray water systems in Southern California. Reading this will give a better understanding of some of the systems we have currently installed at the L.A Eco-Village and the systems you could use on your own home.

DIY toilet top hand washing sink

toiletlidsink-bWhen you think of toilet water, you don’t necessarily associate it with clean hands, but the water flowing into the tank is not the same as the water sitting in your bowl. It’s much cleaner. In fact, it’s the same water that flows out of your sink faucets. So why not make use of this water before it gets dirty?

In Japan, most toilets are equipped with water saving features such as a little flush/big flush options and toilet lid sinks. This allows clean water to flow through a faucet before it fills your tank for your next flush.

Here in the states, you can buy a toilet lid sink, which is fairly pricey, or you can make one yourself for a small fraction of the cost. Here’s one that federico made with repurposed materials (see photo).

The Materials. We found the bowl at a local thrift store for $3.99. The wood for the lid was from a discarded piece of furniture donated by our friend Josh. The copper was harvested from an old broken refrigerator. We lined the bottom with rocks I had saved from an old lucky bamboo pot. The other parts (1/4″ plastic tubing, rubber rings, short pipe piece) were lying around from other projects. You can buy all of these parts fairly easily.

Because federico is pretty crafty, he didn’t follow any particular instructions to make this, but I did find a helpful how-to on Instructables here if you want to make your own.

Here are a few photos of the building process.


Federico drilled a hole at the bottom of the metal bowl and attached a short pipe.


He cut a piece of wood into the same shape as the original lid, and attached a piece of plastic to hold the lid in place. He drilled 2 holes in the lid — one for the copper tube which serves as the faucet and the other in which to nest the metal washbasin’s drain.


Here’s the inside of the toilet tank. Federico detached the beige tube that directed the incoming water into filling the bowl. He then attached a 1/4″ tube to divert the clean water and attached the other end of the tube to the copper faucet.

And here’s a video of the water saving device in action. Happy flushing!

October Greywater and Composting Toilet Workshops at LAEV

Laura Allen lays it down - Photo:

Coming October 2011, Greywater Action are back! They’ll be teaching workshops at L.A. Eco-Village and elsewhere in Southern California. Greywater Action are the great folks formerly known as Greywater Guerillas, then they changed their names after the state of California went and made greywater legal. These are the folks who installed (and taught how to install) my home washing machine greywater system that I wrote about here.

Greywater Action teach an introductory (morning) and advanced (afternoon) greywater workshop at L.A. Eco-Village on Friday October 14th. That evening they give a presentation on humanure (composting toilets) on Friday October 14th at 7pm. There are also similar workshops in Santa Monica on Saturday October 8th and Sunday October 9th. More workshop details below and at Greywater Action website.   Continue reading

Dateline LAEV: Greywater Article in CSMonitor

Laura Allen lays it down - Photo:

There’s a good greywater (or “gray water” ) article by Gloria Goodale in yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor online newspaper, entitled “Gray water’s grass roots.” It’s mostly about the 5-day training course that was taught at eco-village recently. The folks who taught the course were the Greywater Guerillas, er… now called Greywater Action, but still equally phenomenal people. Here’s an excerpt, follow the link for the full article:

Eco Village, near Koreatown, Los Angeles

If water is the next battleground for a globe facing dwindling water resources, then this 1960s-style community center at the northern end of Los Angeles’s Koreatown is at the forefront of the fight.

On this day, Laura Allen, cofounder of Greywater Action, a group that encourages conserving and reusing household water, is in her fourth of a five-day workshop teaching Californians how to reclaim and recycle what has been dubbed “gray water.” Typically, gray water includes the discharge from washing machines, sinks, showers, and tubs, which is then used to provide moisture for outdoor plants, from backyard rosebushes to large orchards.

While progress has been made – many institutions, corporations, and municipalities around the world use gray water – activists say there’s still a long way to go. And it’s groups such as Greywater Action that are helping to drive change.

For earlier ecovillage greywater coverage see this article and these videos.

This week: TV Appearance and Sustainability Talk

Federico and Yuki's sign appearing on network news, click to view

Federico and Yuki's eco-village sign appearing on network news, click to view

Los Angeles Eco-Village appeared briefly on yesterday’s network news (6pm KABC Channel 7), in coveage of California’s changing greywater laws. Click here for an earlier longer blog entry on one of our washing machine greywater systems. The TV clip focuses more on complicated high-tech high-cost systems… but it does show the equally dependable low-tech low-cost unpermitted Greywater Guerrillas style system near the end.

Unrelated but also this week: on Friday night, eco-village hosts a talk by longtime eco-village architects and leaders Ian MacIlvaine and Victoria Yust of Tierra Sol y Mar.  The free talk and slide show entitled “Old Ideas that should be new again…and other dreams for L.A.” will be Friday, July 31, 2009 at 7:30 pm at L.A. Eco-Village. As shown in this earlier post, Ian’s design work has been critical in our negotiations with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Upcoming Events: Chris Carlsson, Greywater Guerillas

The inimitable Chris Carlsson

The inimitable Chris Carlsson

This Friday, February 6, 2009 at 7:30 pm at Los Angeles Eco-Village presents a talk by Chris Carlson, speaking on topics from his new book Nowtopia:  How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists, and Vacant-Lot Gardeners are Inventing the Future Today.  The requested donation is $5 at the door.  Plenty of bike parking.  LA Eco-Village is located at 117 Bimini Place, LA 90004.   Reservations recommended either call 213/738-1254 or email

For excerpts from Chris’ book, see this bicycling article at Alternet or this gardening article at the LA Eco-Village Garden Blog.

Greywater Pond - from the Rhizome Collective in Austin Texax

Greywater Pond - from the Rhizome Collective in Austin Texax

And if that wasn’t enough mischief for your short month, on Friday, February 13, 2009 at 7:30 pm, we present the Greywater Guerillas who will teach us all How to Disengage from the Water Grid.  The requested donation is a whopping $10 (though you can pay what you want – no one turned away for lack of funds.)   Reservations required – call 213/738-1254 or email