Grey water systems- anyone know how to install them?

I live in drought stricken Townsville where we’ve had a drought for a number of years the councils response is to impose water restrictions, so you are not allowed to water your garden more than twice a week for an hour. Consequently the garden is dying. I thought an answer would be to install a grey water system and collect the used water from showers, washing machine etc. however, the plumber has told me the council will charge me $16k for approvals. This seems outrageous. But on further investigation it appears that council has not approved a single grey water system. So it may be true can anyone help with some advice and experience on recycling domestic water please?


Hi isbryce,

I do not know about the local regs and bylaws where you are from but have installed several grey water reuse systems in WA including my own house and application is the same as for a sewage treatment system and my own council waived the fees on my install, none of them came close to a third for the system and install including fees but your situation may be different. There is also greywater treatment systems as opposed to reuse systems and these are more expensive and regulated.
There is also a chance you will have to relay the drains to seperate your grey and black water which could be costly or alternatively If you are not on main sewer you could upgrade your current septic system to an ATU type and reuse the water from that, although a big costs it may be easier than relaying drains if there is a lot of restoration work required.
I have only used one type of greywater reuse system AWWS if you want to google them they should be able to put you in contact with a local agent/installer. Also search whirlpool forums a wealth of info on all different types of systems from the owners of them giving good and bad opinions.

Good Luck OP


Great info there Outback Plumber. Many thanks for the contact, too. Something affordable!

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I installed my own- greywater tank from Clivus Multrum and an absorption trench (along with a composting toilet). We have clumping bamboo planted next to the trench, and it thrives on the greywater, and produces useful bamboo poles for us.

A few years ago I asked a plumber about moving my laundry and he said it would cost about $5000 because we would have to dig up the floor and put in a new floor drain. This didn’t sound right to me so i did some research and found if I used a laundry sink with a built in overflow (like my existing sink that he saw) then a floor drain wasn’t required. In the end the job was done for less than $1000 by re-routing a few pipes. This tends to be my experience with the building industry in general.
Do some research if you can, often the “standards” are not available to the layperson which is a pain in the arse.
I checked out the greywater thing a while back and found in our area that once the water went past the drain cover it was considered sewage and illegal to use on the garden. So basically I can plug the drains then pump the water to the garden but i decided that using fresh water was probably cheaper and more environmentally friendly than using electricity to pump grey water around. Another regulation was that I couldn’t store the grey water for more than 24hrs.

our problem here is that the Council doesn’t let you water the garden, so we have to think of innovative ways to keep plants alive

We used to just run a hose from the washing machine out into the yard, and move the hose around regularly. Make sure you have phosphate free detergent or you will kill most things.

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You have some good suggestions above.
It looks like you would have to do it ‘illegally’ until your council gets up-to-date.
Using a ‘catch’ system like described above and watering by an underground system would minimise problems with council.
Funny story:
Some time ago, before re-use was seriously considered, I worked for a council in western NSW. It had had recycled water (primary filtration only) into parks etc. for some time - very successful.
One day some maintenance was being done on the potable reticulation system in town, so the residents had been warned of a temporary shut-down.
During that day, a resident rang the council to ask when the shut-down would be starting. We then realised that that house was connected to the recycled grey water system and quickly ‘corrected’ the mistake.
HOWEVER, the house has not experienced any health problems that would be caused by unsafe water ! Interesting?

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Some cautions:

If you are running the drain hose from your washing machine to outside be careful not to burn out the motor. The motor is only designed to pump a certain distance horizontally and vertically. Check the limitations in the washing machine instruction manual or contact the manufacturer.

Don’t run the grey water to plantings that you eat. e.g. don’t run it to a vegetable garden.