Upcoming Greywater Workshops – October 2011

September 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Joe's Washing Machine, hooked up to water trees and berries

In October 2011, Greywater Action are teaching workshops 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.

If you’re in Los Angeles, there are greywater workshops on Friday October 14th and Saturday October 15th – both at Los Angeles Eco-Village. In Santa Monica, similar workshops on Saturday October 8th and Sunday October 9th. Bonus workshop on humanure (composting toilets) on Friday evening October 14th. Workshop details below and at Greywater Action website« Read the rest of this entry »

New Greywater Report: Greyt Potential!

November 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

Pacific Institute's Overview of Greywater Reuse report - November 2010 - click to download 41-page pdf

Earlier this week, Los Angeles Times Greenspace tipped L.A. Creek Freak off to a new greywater report from the Pacific Institute. The new report is titled Overview of Greywater Reuse: the Potential of Greywater Systems to Aid Sustainable Water Management, released this month – November 2010. It’s available as a pdf download here.

If you’re not at all familiar with greywater, it refers to water from washing machines, sinks, bathtubs, etc. which isn’t clean enough to drink, but can be used to water landscaping. For some basic greywater background, read this article or watch this video. « Read the rest of this entry »

KPCC Video Showcases Creek Freak

November 16, 2010 § 2 Comments

KPCC everyday hero video focus on river, greywater, rainwater gardens, and eco-village. Click to watch video at KPCC Pacific Swell website.

LACF mentioned earlier that Southern California Public Radio KPCC, on its Pacific Swell website, acknowledged L.A. Creek Freak’s Joe Linton as an everyday hero. They also did a video portrait of me, featuring the L.A. River, my home laundry greywater system, rainwater harvesting terraces in my (neglected) garden, and Los Angeles Eco-Village where I live. Click to watch the latest creek freak video!

News and Events – 3 September 2009

September 3, 2009 § Leave a comment

Some stuff for local Creek Freaks to read, watch and do!

RECENT NEWS:

>Arroyo Lover recaps a great August for the Arroyo Seco including evidence that the re-introduced arroyo chub (threatened native fish) are alive and well!

>Excellent recap of the new state greywater codes here.

>I really enjoyed this StreetFilm about the Bronx River Greenway!

>There’s a lot of stories about and images of our devastating wildfires. Scary stuff. We’ll plan to do some analysis and the effects that they’ll be having on watersheds and waterways in future blog postings… but, for now, Creek Freak readers might want to check out Jessica’s earlier post on the fires. There are plenty of useful links at the bottom, and more links in the comments – one of my favorites is Ilsa Setziol’s piece Sparking the Fires.

 UPCOMING EVENTS:

>The National Parks Service is hosting a series of evening meetings about the future uses for the San Gabriel River and San Gabriel Mountains. Two already took place, and here are three remaining:
TONIGHT Thursday, September 3rd – Santa Clarita
Monday, September 14th in Glendora
Tuesday, September 15th in Palmdale

>Calling SGR bicyclists! On Thursday, September 10th at 6:30pm, the city of Seal Beach is holding a meeting to discuss plans for revamping their portion of the San Gabriel River Bikeway/Greenway. The meeting takes place at  the Seal Beach City Council Chambers at 211 8th Street, SB 90740.

>Creek Freaks may be interested in the September 11th and 12th talk and workshop by Mark Lakeman of Portland City Repair. It’s about how to bring communities together to create beautiful sustainable vibrant public spaces, without asking permission!

>Also on September 12th, from 3pm to 5pm in Studio City there’s a family event hosted by Save L.A. River Open Space – the folks who are pushing for a natural river park at the Studio City  Golf and Tennis site. Free food! Music!

>On September 15th and 16th, the LA & San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council and others are hosting a 2-day Compton Creek event: Compton Gateway: Symposium on Creekside Development.

>Coastal Clean-Up Day is September 19th! Clean-up sites all over including on local rivers and creeks.

Marcela Olivera of Cochabamba, Bolivia

Marcela Olivera of Cochabamba, Bolivia

>On Saturday September 19th from 4pm to 6pm, Food and Water Watch hosts a talk by Marcela Olivera, a water activist from Cochabamba, Bolivia. The Cochabamba story is really inspiring – locals organized to reject multi-national corporation control of their water. Come hear and discuss with Marcela Olivera. It all takes place at the Memorial Public Library, 4625 W. Olympic Boulevard (between Highland and Crenshaw), L.A. 90019.

News and Events – 12 August 2009

August 12, 2009 § 2 Comments

Some recent coverage of items that might be of interest to our fellow creek freaks – scroll down for events:

>The Los Angeles Times Greenspace Blog entry Trapping the Rain highlights the Natural Resources Defense Council’s new report A Clear Blue Future: How Greening California Cities Can Address Water Resources and Climate Challenges in the 21st Century. The report  is about Low Impact Development “LID” and how we can build smarter to save water and energy.

>Los Angeles westside property owners can trap your own rain if you apply for the city’s new rainwater harvesting program. If you’re looking to set up your own rain harvesting system (like Homegrown Evolution details here) check out creek freak’s favorite water harvesting expert Brad Lancaster‘s recommendations for selecting the least toxic hose

 >Homegrown Evolution reports on the recent approval of California’s smart new greywater law, designed to make it easier to reuse your greywater. Greywater is “used” water from your washing machine, sinks or showers. Mr. Homegrown will  be teaching a greywater workshop this Sunday – see below. Soak in creek freak’s washing machine greywater system here.

>The San Gabriel Valley Tribune covers the new master planning underway for the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area – 1200 acres where the San Gabriel River and the Rio Hondo squeeze together behind the Whittier Narrows Dam. Also, the Pasadena Star News reports that the Altadena Foothills Conservancy is doing the early planning work to create a new trail system along the Eaton Canyon Wash, which could connect from the foothills above Pasadena all the way down to the Whittier Narrows.

Bixby Marshland - photo from LACSD

Bixby Marshland - photo from LACSD

>The Los Angeles County Sanitation District website profiles the Bixby Marshland – a 17-acre remnant wetlands located near the intersection of Figueroa and Sepulveda in the city of Carson. They’re looking for volunteers to help steward the site.

>The City Project is about to unveil new proposals for Griffith Park on the East Bank of the Los Angeles River – a future Los Angeles River park on the Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks 28-acre Central Service Yard, located at the end  of Chevy Chase Drive in North Atwater. The city is already planning to restore a small remnant creek in one corner of the site.

>Federal stimulus money is helping make the Los Angeles River healthier (though creek freak would like to see it do a whole lot more!) Funds are being used to provide trash capture devices that prevent trash from getting into the river (via Spouting Off.) They’ll be installed in about a dozen downstream cities from Vernon to Montebello to Long Beach. There’s also some federal funding planned for reworking the “Shoemaker Bridge” where the 710 Freeway crosses the Los Angeles River near downtown Long Beach. The project includes doubling the size of Cesar Chavez Park. Let’s hope that it doesn’t hasten the expansion of the rest of the 710 Freeway – a huge threat to restoration on the lower river

>An odd little video featuring a homeless man fishing by throwing rocks into the Los Angeles River (thanks Jeff Chapman.) See creek freak’s earlier post on fish in the L.A. River

>And, for bridge geeks, Blogdowntown reports on the city of Los Angeles’ Cultural Heritage Commission instructions for the city’s bridge engineers to consider more preservation options as they plan to demolish (*sob*) and replace the monumental 1932 6th Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River. The proposal is to widen and straighten the bridge into freeway proportions. Creek freak feels a wave of despair just writing about this wrong-headed project and its “let’s destroy our heritage while bringing way more cars into dense urban areas” mentality. Here’s a grim rendering of the proposed “3-dual tower cable supported viaduct.”

Proposed 6th Street Bridge Replacement - click for link to larger version - from Blogdowntown via Flickr

Proposed 6th Street Bridge Replacement - click for link to larger version - from Blogdowntown via Flickr

Upcoming events to explore and get involved with local creek freaks:

>The excellent documentary movie Tapped shows today and tomorrow at the Arclight theaters in Hollywood. Showtimes hereCreek Freak’s review here.

>This Sunday August 16th at 11am, Homegrown Evolution offers a greywater workshop called “D.I.Y. Greywater: Hack Your Washing Machine

>Friends of the Los Angeles River is hosting a few upcoming Los Angeles River clean-ups. On Saturday August 22nd they’ll be at the Sepulveda Basin, and Saturday August 29th at Taylor Yard. There will also be river sites at this year’s Coastal Clean-Up Day coming up on September 19th.

Greywater Fame!

July 28, 2009 § 9 Comments

 

Joe Linton, Greywater Guerilla appearing at about 1:50 in this 2.5 minute video from KABC TV

Joe Linton, Greywater Guerilla appearing at about 1:30 in this 2:11 minute long video from KABC TV

Los Angeles Creek Freak’s washing machine greywater system (shown and explained at length in this earlier blog entry) gets its fifteen minutes of fame – appearing on KABC TV network news yesterday. How many of you have seen your laundry circling on the six o’clock news?!?

The state of California is changing its greywater law, and I plan to do a more thorough blog entry updating our readers about that news soon… but for now, I’ll send readers to Mark Haefele’s excellent recent opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times. “Nothing is cuter than two kids bathing in a tub, but once you pull the plug, they say you have toxic waste.” 

If you’re thinking about setting up your own greywater system (which is actually fairly cheap and fairly easy and fairly wonderful) see the Greywater Guerillas’ website (their workshops are excellent) and Art Ludwig’s excellent book  Creating an Oasis with Greywater: Choosing, Building and Using Greywater Systems. I recently read Ludwig’s book and found it very clear, well-written, and even laugh-out-loud funny in places.  Read his common mistakes section before you install!

News and Upcoming Events – April 9 2009

April 9, 2009 § Leave a comment

Artist Linda Gass Wetlands Dream Quilt - click image to see more of her work

Wetlands Dream quilt by artist Linda Gass - click image to see more of her work - copyright Linda Gass

Creeky News:

>Rainwater harvester Brad Lancaster tours the Tujunga Wash Greenway and Stream Restoration Project.   More on the water harvesting front: Alternet tells about multi-benefit rainwater harvestingin Africa; the L.A. Times explores harvesting rainwater in Downtown Los Angeles.  Lancaster’s blog features a very good guest blog entry by Julia Fonseca critiqueing the use of crushed rock (decomposed granite.)

>Frederick Reimers‘ excellent article about the Los Angeles River kayak expedition is finally on the web (after appearing in print last December in Plenty magazine).

>Minnesota Public Radio talks about why the Red River floods Fargo.  (Thanks Judith Lewis.)

>The L.A. Times reports that California may approve new more civilized greywater regulations.  Creek Freak Joe Linton is still loving his unpermitted greywater system.

And for bridge geeks only:
>Bridge Photo of the Day blogger is working his way down the Los Angeles River
>Is Pasadena’s Colorado Street Bridge over the Arroyo Seco haunted?

 Freaky Events:

Cheong Gye Cheon river in Seoul South Korea - Photo: Wikimedia

Cheong Gye Cheon river in Seoul South Korea - Photo: Wikimedia

Dr. In-Keun Lee,  Assistant Mayor of Infrastructure of Seoul, South Korea, will be giving a talk about the dramatic revitalization of the Cheong Gye Cheong.  Seoul, South Korea, actually removed a dozen lanes of double-decked highway to daylight the historic creek that was buried below.  The free open-to-the-public talk takes place from 2:30pm-3:30pm on Friday April 17th, 2009 at the Edward R. Roybal Board of Public Works Session Room (Room 350) at Los Angeles City Hall – 200 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, California 90012.  Entrance is on Main Street.  Easy access from the Metro Red Line Civic Center Station.

Bloggers Joe Linton and Damien Newton teach you how to use lots of cool free stuff on the web at our Internet Skills Class on Tuesdays April 21st and 28th.

President Obama invites you to clean-up the Los Angeles River at Taylor Yard on Saturday April 25th.  Then go back and do it again at Friends of the Los Angeles River’s La Gran Limpieza at more than a dozen sites on Saturday May 9th.

Bike the Emerald Necklace on the San Gabriel River and the Rio Hondo with the city of El Monte’s Tour of Two Rivers bike rally on Saturday May 16th.  Then bike the Los Angeles River on the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s River Ride on Sunday June 7th.

Watering Trees from my Washing Machine

March 13, 2009 § 7 Comments

That's my washwater, flowing out onto a mulch bed!

That's my washwater, flowing out onto a mulch bed!

A few weeks ago, the Greywater Guerillas visited the Los Angeles Eco-Village. They delivered a public talk, and held a workshop where we installed two basic greywater systems. Both systems pipe washing machine output water to water trees and plants.

What is greywater? It’s basically any waste water that we generate from our sinks, bathtubs or washing machines. (Blackwater is from the toilet – and that’s another story.) For most Angelenos, right now, all this water gets combined into our sewer which takes it to big energy-intensive “water reclamation” (aka: sewage treatment) “plants” (factories.) A few of these are along our local rivers: the Tillman Plant in the Sepulveda Basin, and the LA-Glendale Plant. The local plants discharge tertiary treated wastewater (nearly as clean as drinking water) into our rivers, creeks, and the Pacific Ocean. For the L.A. River it’s generally not such a bad thing – adding unpolluted water helps keep the river’s wetlands wetter. It makes up for missing natural flows that we’ve dammed and otherwise blocked.

Mostly we import this clean/fresh water from other regions at great costs (fiscal, environmental, energy), then we use it once and send it down the drain. One way to conserve water is to re-use greywater on-site. There are many ways to go with greywater… from simple to very complicated. For this blog entry, I’m going to tell one story: how my new system works. If you’re looking to do your own system, you might want to check out resources on the Greywater Guerillas website, or read Create an Oasis with Greywater: Chosing, Building, and Using Greywater Systems by Art Ludwig.

Joe's Washing Machine

Joe's Washing Machine

Here’s my washing machine today, sitting in the back room of my second story apartment at eco-village. It’s a front-loader, which is generally a bit more water and energy efficient than a top-loader. You can see the greywater piping at the top behind the machine – the end of the machine’s black flexible-pipe outlet has been hooked to a T-valve (see close-up and explanation below.)

Note also the piece of paper taped to the front. I had guests in town staying at my place last week, so I put up a small sign that reads: “GRAY WATER / Washwater drains to garden / No conventional soaps or toxins.” When you do a greywater system you can’t use regular detergent (not even your basic eco-detergent) because they can accumulate salts or other toxins in your soil. There are a few different biocompatible detergents available at local health food stores. I use Oasis laundry detergent which is specially formulated for greywaters systems.

One problem I’ve had is that the down-pipe (the connection to the sewer) doesn’t really work in my apartment. If we hook the washer up to the sewer, then it leaks into the apartment below me. What I did in the past to get around this was to set up a very rudimentary system – which is an example of how NOT to do greywater (and is not pictured here.) I set up the washer to drain into a 50-gallon plastic tub. From the tub, I used a hose with a quick-connect to siphon drain the water into the garden. The system basically worked, but has many drawbacks and hassles. Most notably that the water in the tub gets rather nasty and smelly after a while (needs to be washed out periodically, probably every month if you don’t want it to smell at all.) I lived with it for nearly 10 years. It was a bit more convenient and much more eco than toting my laundry to a laundromat, but right now, I am very happy to have a reliable eco-friendly system that I don’t have to actively siphon the last load’s water before starting the next load. I do suggest that “tankless” systems are the way to go… and never set up anything where you let greywater stand for any length of time.

Close-up of the 3-way Diverter Valve above the washer

Close-up of the 3-way Diverter Valve above the washer

Back to the new system. Here’s a close-up of the “T” that is right above the washing machine. The valve is called a 3-way diverter valve. Normally there would be one more pipe extending horizontally to the right in this image – which would allow me to send water to sewer when I wanted to (by just turning the red handle.) As I mentioned, the sewer connection leaks, so for now, we didn’t connect to it. We included the valve though, in case we ever repair the down-pipe. I used a black plastic-tie to wire the red handle into the only proper direction – sending the water that’s coming up the black pipe leftward into the white pipe. The water then leaves the building.

Greywater Pipe from the Second Floor to the Ground

Greywater Pipe from the Second Floor to the Ground

Outside, here’s what the pipe looks like. The washing machine is behind the window at the top left.

The pipe comes horizontally out through the wall, then makes a turn downward. There’s a little one-way air-vent device extending upward at that T (it’s white with a black top.) I have to confess that I don’t entirely understand what kind of vent it is, nor how and why it works, but it’s supposed to prevent an inadvertent siphoning that could suck water from the delivery pipe back into the washer.

There’s another T below that (it’s right below the wiring and above the door – with a red handle.) This valve is for a potential future container wetland that I fantasize about doing in this area someday.

The pipe continues between the back doors of my unit and my downstairs neighbor’s.

At that point we needed to get across a very tiny courtyard space. We sawed through the concrete to get below grade (so the pipe wouldn’t be trip hazard.) We ran the pipe across underground, then came back to the surface. This does create a small sump spot where some water collects and sits. The Greywater Guerillas suggest that this won’t be a problem because it’s a very small volume of water that won’t sit for too long before the next load of laundry completely flushes it. It might get somewhat gunky if I go on vacation and don’t do laundry for a few weeks.

Our excellent handyman, Dale Kreutzer mortared in over the pipe, adding a strip of tiles for decoration. I like that the tiles serve to draw attention to how the system works. One of my many missions in life is to reveal water processes that we generally tend to hide.

Greywater Pipe along base of wall

Greywater Pipe along base of wall

As the pipe resurfaces it makes a turn to run along the base of the wall of the building. (I’ve stepped across the small courtyard and am taking this photo from my back door – the tile over the underground pipe is visible in the bottom right corner of the picture.)

The pipe transitions from the rigid (and somewhat environmentally nasty) white pipe to the more flexible (and less environmentally nasty) back tubing. The real names for the materials are in the book and website referenced above.

Greywater Pipe continues around base of wall

Greywater Pipe continues around base of wall

The tube follows the base of the building, turning right at the opening of the courtard, continuing along the back of the building.

In the upper left corner of this photo, there’s another T-stub for a future project. We’re beginning to take up some of the concrete in this area, which was formerly dedicated to parking, but will soon be a garden.

The pipe then goes through a gate and below a sidewalk (not pictured, but imagine another tile strip, though we haven’t gotten to it, yet) to emerge into a garden space. The area watered is along a fence. We dug a very small trench there, filled that trench with mulch. We planted blackberries along it (they’ll grow up the fence.) There’s a also a pair of feijoa trees (sometimes called pineapple guava) there. The trees are actually pretty drought resistant and do fine with the rainwater available here, but they will be happier and will yield more with added water at their roots.

Greywater "Emitters" running along mulched trench

Greywater "Emitters" running along mulched trench

The “emitters” are small T-joints which you can see in this image (or in the close-up photo at the top of the blog entry.) There’s a fence to the left (where the blackberries are beginning to grow) and a path to the right. The mulch trench runs along the left half of the photo – between the fence and the mostly-exposed black pipe.

It’s most clear from the photo at the top of the entry, but the greywater is indeed discharged into the air, then immediately soaks into the mulch bed, so there’s no standing water. If the end of the pipe is underground, then you can have problems with roots growing into it. There are fancier ways to discharge below ground – again see the book and website listed above.

You don’t want to use greywater on things like potatoes (where you eat the roots) or lettuce (where you eat the leaves that grow very close to the soil surface.) It’s best for perennials like trees or vines or even tomatoes. There’s a small health risk which can result from eating something that’s been contaminated by directly exposure to greywater. If you set things up right and keep them maintained in working order the risks are negligible.

The system has been up and running for about a month now and is working great!

(In the spirit of those 3-way diverter valves, this entry has been triple-cross-posted at the L.A. Eco-Village Blog, the LAEV Garden Blog and L.A. Creek Freak. Apologies to folks like my mom, who I am sure reads all three.)

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