A welcome outlier in what we have noticed as a dearth of sustainable reads on the shelves of major booksellers, The Water-Wise Home is a well-executed guidebook that is primed to have more than just a ripple effect on home water conservation. Authored by Laura Allen, the co-founder of the water advocacy organization Greywater Action, this 2015 book is a contemporary do-it-yourself (DIY) resource that should be on the required reading list for engaged homeowners.
Subtitled as How to Conserve, Capture, and Reuse Water in Your Home and Landscape, Part 1 of this book covers the fundamentals of water. This includes topics such as the inherent flaws in the typical municipal water system, and practical methods of saving water in the home and landscape.
Of course, the concept of a water-wise home is well articulated. “A water-wise home conserves and reuses water to create ecological and efficient water systems,” writes Allen. “It can even be water-neutral, meaning that no more water is consumed in the home than is collected from the rain …”
A water-wise home conserves and reuses water to create ecological and efficient water systems. — Laura Allen
Long-time California resident Allen then gets into the mechanics of the holistic water-wise home in Part 2, by dispensing crystal-clear DIY guidance for the planning, design, and implementation of different systems. Well-crafted words are supplemented with relevant illustrations at every turn.
The DIY section on greywater system planning and installation is exceedingly well done, covering the topic broadly and deeply over its nearly 100 pages—the most comprehensive and sensible coverage around greywater reuse we have seen to date.
For example, do you want to understand how to build your own laundry-to-landscape (L2L) greywater reuse system? Allen will get you there, one step and one component at a time. The setup she describes captures greywater from the drain hose of a washing machine, then diverts it to a nearby landscape. Allen notes that this particular flavor of L2L system “… Can be built with off-the-shelf parts, doesn’t alter the household plumbing, and doesn’t require a permit in many states.”
Similarly, prescriptive advice is provided in the section on rainwater harvesting, where guidance includes the construction of rain gardens and the installation of various types of rain barrel systems. And while there are excellent guidelines given on the design and planning of complex whole-house harvesting and filtration systems, Allen suggests you may want to consult with a local installer if the scale of the project grows beyond what you are comfortable with.
In case you are feeling flooded by too much information here, you might want to begin with one of the practical water-saving tips Allen offers on page 31, such as “Turn the water off while shaving. Fill the bottom of the sink with a few inches of water to rinse the razor.” Then move on from there.
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