Hi Umbra,

My new (to me) house has a somewhat larger than standard bathtub with jets. I rarely have time for a bath, but last night took the opportunity to indulge. I had a nice soak, in water heated by solar energy, but then I had a tubful — perhaps 50 gallons? — of relatively clean water that I would like to use on my currently thirsty trees, the only way I can justify an occasional indulgent soak.

How can I get the water from my tub to my trees without using a very awkward, cumbersome, and splashy five-gallon bucket (my current method)? Is there some kind of portable hose/siphon system for interior home use? It’s about 30 or 40 feet from the tub to the balcony overlooking the trees.

Kathy Byrne
Boulder, Colo.

Dearest Kathy,

You wrote this question and then wrote again with the answer. I must share with all the people.

What to do with all that water?

Photo: dynet

If you have a bathtub, and a window in or near your bathroom, and a yard, hose, or tank within reasonable reach of the window, you can easily capture and reuse wastewater from showering and baths.

The water of course has a name, gray water, and we’ve talked briefly before about diverting drains to lead to a gray-water system. And yes, there is the old bucket brigade approach. What Kathy wants is a third way: to sling a hose out the window and pump water outdoors without wrecking the post-soak relaxed state. This of course could be done with two people, one manipulating the interior hose end, perhaps closing it off while the second primes the siphon at the other end by sucking or running water up it. But after a bath one needs to slowly go to bed, not gallivant about in the potentially cold yard in a bathrobe while the neighbor’s cats gaze derisively upon one.

Kathy, gallivanting about on the web, found a British product, WaterGreen. It is a 3.5-meter PVC hose; one end attaches to the actual garden hose, the other is open and sticks in the tub. In the midst of the hose is a squeezable priming pump. You just squeeze it a few times and the water flows up, over, and down to the garden. Two immediate problems present themselves: one, can non-U.K. residents purchase this item (yes, at a premium); two, we have sworn off PVC. When Kathy wrote the second time she shared a further idea, of making one herself, and that might save us from purchasing PVC.

Looking at the WaterGreen website, and around the internet at other siphons and pumps sold for bathwater reuse, I conclude that making your own siphon requires two separate shopping trips.

First to the marine supply shop to get your priming pump. The WaterGreen pump is a marine-style priming pump that begins a siphon action; other systems I saw used a hand bilge pump of sorts. You’ll need to know the size of the outgoing fittings on the pump before the second trip, to the hardware store to get a rubber (not PVC) hose, the hose end fittings, and perhaps a hose clamp or two. One other way to reduce and reuse PVC would be a third trip to find a used hose at the thrift store and, like you would with the new hose, cut it to the size you need with a hacksaw.

Naturally, we should bike to all these locations, or at least group our errands.

Conservatively,
Umbra