Greywater is domestic waste water generated from showers, baths, spas, wash basins and laundries which can be diverted for use on lawns and gardens. Toilet waste and kitchen sink greywater is excluded from being used in sewered areas as it is not suitable.
Council approval is NOT required for:
- manual bucketing
- connection of flexible hose to a washing machine
Council approval is required for:
- installation of an approved* greywater diversion device or treatment plant (by licensed plumbers)
- surface or sub-surface system
*Before you purchase a greywater device ask the manufacturer of the device for a copy of the product certification certificate. Council can only approve greywater diversion devices with this certification.
Definition of a greywater diversion device
The definition of a greywater diversion device under the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002 is:
- a diversion device with the characteristics mentioned in paragraph 1; and
- a filtering system that uses a coarse filter to remove solids from greywater.
For paragraph 1, the characteristics are that the device:
- directs and diverts greywater to sanitary drainage or a greywater application area;
- automatically diverts greywater from the facility to sanitary drainage if the facility does not work properly or at all; and
- allows the manual diversion of greywater from the facility to sanitary drainage.
Definition of a greywater treatment plant
The definitions under the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002 is:
- a greywater treatment plant means a treatment plant installed on premises for treating, on the premises, greywater generated on the premises.
Note: all Greywater treatment plants must have an approval from the Queensland Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning.
- Ponding of greywater
- Run-off into neighbouring properties
- Health risks
- Contamination of vegetables and fruits
- Run-off to and contamination of swimming pools
- Contamination of pets and children's play areas
- Contamination of soils with phosphorus, sodium (salt) and nitrogen from laundry detergents
- Damage to soil structure or inhibiting plant growth by using bleaches, fats and preservatives in household products
- Over-saturation affecting soil or killing plants
- Over-fertilisation of native plants
- Odours from build up of bacteria in soil excess run-off during wet weather contaminating surface waters
- Contamination of groundwater
- Blocked pipes and drains due to low water usage.
Reducing health and environmental risks
- Greywater should only be used in the garden
- Bucket water or use a flexible hose
- Change the areas you use greywater regularly to minimise toxic build-up
- Choose household products that contain low levels of Nitrogen and Phosphorus (NP on packaging)
- Do not store untreated greywater. Use within 4 hours
- Use the cleanest greywater as a priority
- Don't use sprinklers with greywater; only use subsurface irrigation systems (i.e. directly into the topsoil, below 100mm)
- Alternate with tank water to dilute toxic build-up
- Don't allow greywater to enter your neighbour's block. Make sure the greywater does not create a nuisance (i.e. generate odours, ponding or health risks)
- Don't put greywater on food plants (herbs, vegetables or fruit trees)
- Don't put greywater on lawns where children or pets are likely to play
- Don't irrigate with greywater during periods of wet weather
- Don't allow greywater to enter the stormwater system
- Use vinegar instead of fabric softener in your final rinse – it's kinder to your plants
Greywater versus wastewater
Greywater is different from wastewater. Household wastewater, also known as sewage, is composed of two distinct sources:
- Blackwater is contaminated by faeces or urine; it includes wastewater from a toilet, urinal or bidet, nappy-soiled laundry water etc.
- Greywater is the remaining wastewater from the laundry and bathroom. Kitchen greywater is not always suitable for gardens as there can be too much grease, oil and detergents.
Greywater may be permitted for use in non-sewered areas, and since the amendments to the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002 in August 2006, the use of greywater is now permitted (other than kitchen greywater) within sewered areas, under certain conditions to water domestic gardens and lawns. Keeping in mind that greywater is a source of salts and other chemicals as well as disease-causing micro-organisms such as bacteria, protozoa, viruses and parasites.
- that use of greywater is regulated and can attract a significant fine if contravened.
- to install an on-site sewage treatment facility or greywater treatment facility you must get approval from Council (refer to page 4 of this information sheet).
- you must use a licensed plumber to install diversion devices.
How to use greywater safely and effectively
Greywater use can be a sustainable and adequate source of water for lawns and gardens during dry spells. When using greywater, it is recommended that the home owner is vigilant and considers the following suggestions:
- when bucketing or using a flexible hose, spread greywater evenly by emptying in different locations or continuously moving the hose around. This will limit the potential for ponding or run-off;
- do not empty or position a flexible hose near property boundaries, stormwater pits or swimming pools;
- do not use greywater when it is raining or use on ground that is already saturated;
- avoid human contact and do not use around children's play areas;
- do not store greywater for any period of time, as bacteria will breed quickly and turn greywater septic, in as little as 20 minutes, causing potential odours and health risks;
- apply greywater to suitable plants and do not use on edible parts of vegetables or fruits;
- choose laundry detergents with low phosphorus, sodium and nitrogen contents;
- when the system is approved and the greywater diversion valve and irrigation system installed, ensure the filter on the diversion valve and irrigation links are clear and working effectively; and ensure the approved greywater system is regularly maintained and installed as per its design approved by Council.
Using greywater for gardening from homes in sewered areas
- 'Home' means a single detached dwelling not sited on commercial or community property.
- 'Sewered' means you are connected to the Council's sewerage system (i.e. no septic or on-site treatment).
- 'Greywater' is the wastewater from the shower, bath, basins, laundry and kitchen. It does not include wastewater from toilets or bidets which is called 'blackwater'. Greywater from kitchens may have more contaminants than other types and should not be used in the garden.
*Greywater contains micro-organisms such as bacteria, protozoa, viruses and parasites and also contains nutrients and salts from detergents and soaps. If not carefully managed, it has the potential to cause health risks and environmental problems. It is illegal to recycle greywater if it causes an odour for neighbouring properties, ponds or causes run-off, or if it presents a danger or risk to health.
PDA: Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002
QPWC: Queensland Plumbing & Wastewater Code
SReg: Standard Plumbing & Drainage Regulation 2003
How greywater will affect my garden soil and plants
Contaminants in greywater can have damaging effects on soils, plants and animals, groundwater and local waterways. Trial greywater use on a small section of the garden to see what effect it has on the soil and the plants before using all over garden. To avoid causing long-term damage to your soil and plants, move the hose around regularly rather than leaving it to discharge to the same place.
Clay soil absorbs water at a slower rate than sandy soil; therefore it is recommended that greywater is applied slowly to prevent ponding or run-off from the garden surface.
Some plants may be affected by the change in soil conditions caused by using greywater, so an occasional use of tank water as an alternative is a good way to avoid such problems. Identify the sensitivity of plant species (especially native plants) to contaminants found in greywater before using it. Ask your local nursery for more information.
Consider testing your soil regularly for pH, salinity, conductivity and chemical levels. This will tell you the suitability of the soil to absorb greywater, as well as allowing you to monitor the ongoing effects of the greywater on the soil environment and plants. See your local nursery or hardware store for more information.
Property safety when neighbours are using greywater
As long as your neighbour is following the guidelines in this brochure, appropriate reuse of greywater is not considered to be a health threat to neighbouring properties. Any unhealthy use of water becomes subject to health department and plumbing regulations and can attract contravention orders and associated fines.
Greywater installation and approval requirements
How to apply for approval
Home owners wishing to apply for installation of a greywater diversion valve or treatment plant, which may collect greywater from a laundry, basin, bath and shower waste must include the following for the assessment for a Council approval:
- Form 1 under the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002.
- A site plan showing:
- the location of the greywater application area.
- the distances from the greywater application area to the following.
- the boundary of the premises.
- proposed or existing buildings or structures on the premises; any impervious surface on the premises, including, for example, paths for pedestrians and paved areas.
- the connection from the greywater treatment plant or greywater diversion device to sanitary drainage.
- Information showing a greywater diversion valve or treatment plant that has appropriate certification and approvals.
- A soil and site report accompanied by a design from a Certified Designer of what proposed fixtures will be connected to the greywater diversion valve or treatment plant and the proposed method/position of the irrigation system.
- Payment of the prescribed application fee.
All greywater applications are assessed under the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002 and the Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code for compliance to ensure any potential risk to public health and the environment is minimised.
Steps to undertake before installation
Check with Council to ensure any device you put in place is approved for use. There are some products advertised and on sale that have not been approved for use in Queensland. Always have your devices and systems fitted by a licensed plumber.
Application fee (Open the 'Planning and development fees and search 'greywater')
Under the legislation there are offences and potential fines for illegal plumbing installations and misuse of greywater. Offences under the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002 include the following:
- Installation of a greywater diversion device or treatment plant without prior Council approval;
- Installation of a greywater diversion device or treatment plant without a current plumbers and drainers licence; and
- Installation of a non-approved greywater diversion device or treatment plant.
The home owner must ensure:
- The greywater does not cause an odour;
- The greywater does not pond or run-off causing a danger or health risk to anyone; and
- The kitchen waste is only discharged to Council's sewerage system.
Information for plumbers
The greywater guidelines for plumbers can be found on the Department of Housing and Public Works website. It has information which can help plumbers assess whether the home owner has suitable and sufficient land to distribute greywater. Plumbers should use the guidelines to give advice on the purchase and installation costs of greywater systems, prior to the home owner making an application to council.
Further information can be found in Council's INFO 019 What is Greywater Information Sheet.
There are no rebates available any longer. The Queensland State Government scheme ended on the 31 December 2008.