Archive - Gray Water - SLV (2005)


From: Steve 'Water Log' Iddings
'Got Grey?'
Grey Water Reclamation Specialist for Shangri-La Village and Poly Paradise
(Home of the infamous Human Carcass Wash!)
Preparation Questions for Grey Water Management at Burning Man

I acknowledge you and thank you for thinking/planning ahead and for taking it on to hold a high standard for
Grey Water LNT! Good work!

1. You gotta COLLECT grey water, and bring buckets or something to collect it in and maybe some big pools or drums to put it in once you've collected it. This means you'll have to educate your people to recognize what is grey water and collect it.

2. Filtration: It's a very good idea to screen your grey or filter it in some way to simplify what you're dealing with, the fewer the chunks the better. I encourage you to filter your grey water as you collect it and to have a plan for how to clean your clogged filters. Bring a variety of types of filters to try. My favorite is a burlap sack draped over, and in, a laundry basket, it lets the playa dust through, but catches most other particles.

3. Disinfectants: The grey you collect may have a very minor biohazard with minute amounts of bacteria, mold, fungi, etc.. It's a good idea to disinfect it, and there are lots of methods. Be careful if you choose to use Iodine, it can leave a brown stain on the playa, which is why I use chlorine.

4. Treatment: There are lots of ways to 'treat' or 'reclaim' the filtered, disinfected grey water. My camp has generator power for me, so I like to use backyard pool chemistry with chlorine and acid re-circulating with pond pumps in a batch of 200 gallons for several hours. The chlorine and acid, over that amount of time, in high enough concentrations, act together to break down more complex chemical components, like dyes, soaps, conditioners, etc.. [Special Note about Treatment: I put in a lot of time and effort to get my grey water VERY clean and safe so that I can spread it on the roads of BRC, KNOWING that I will leave no trace whatsoever, because I didn't leave ANYTHING in the water that COULD leave a trace, ... this game is an art and is not for everyone.]

5. Evaporation tricks: I love to wick water up into the air with cloth dangling in the grey, but remember to secure it in such a way that high winds neither blow your whole rig over or spread untreated grey water around on untarped playa. Plus the wicking cloth should be white, otherwise you risk polluting your grey with cloth dyes. Two by fours and black polyvinyl plastic can make a nice flat wide evaporation pond.

A note about
Swamp Coolers: For water to be reclaimed and reused in a swamp cooler, usually you have filter out fine particles (like playa dust) and get rid of the oils (cooking oils, hair conditioners, skin lotions, and sunscreen) at a minimum or you risk mucking up your swamp cooler.

6. Hearts and Minds: Your biggest challenge might be education, getting all of your people to be conscious and knowledgeable, sold on the grey water plan, so that they not only collect every drop of grey, (instead of spitting their toothpaste on the ground) but they also know to bring it to your filter(s) and not just dump it straight into the evaporation pond (or treatment pond) with chunks of stuff in it, thus mucking up your evap pond and reducing evaporation.

Other factors:

  • Will you be doing any water events?

  • How many shower structures will you have?

  • Are you set up to capture every drop from showering, hand washing, cooking,

  • dishwashing, melted ice in ice chests, etc.?

  • How will you transport your captured grey to your filters and evap ponds?

Any estimate of how much grey your people will produce each day? All of my numbers are based on the fact that my camp does a water event called the Human Carcass Wash. Take away that water event and we might only average a pint or quart of grey per day, per person.

Don't trust the Earth Guardians' websites' estimates of how much water you can evaporate in a day, it's much less than that. Your evap pond should be as big as you and your people are willing to make it (give up precious ground space for it, haul in materials for it, build it, haul out the materials afterward, etc..)

THIS IS CRUCIAL!!! And, after the event is over, how will you get your unevaporated water out of your flat evaporation pond and into containers to be hauled off the playa? What containers are you planning on putting it in? Who's going to be hauling it off the playa? Another resource is JOTS, Johnny on the Spot, 775.826.5646, the porta potty pumping company. You can arrange with them to suck up your grey and haul it off the playa for a fee, but you need to have the water 'ready for pumping', being in a flat, spread-out evap pond may not work for them and their pumping hose, and they need to be able to get their truck in close to it.

Chlorine you say? For those of you willing to stay sober enough to handle dangerous chemicals, here's the inside 'scoop'. After years of experimentation, I've settled on using Wal-Mart's Jacuzzi Super Shock. It comes as powder in pouches. I transfer it to a wide mouth plastic jar for ease of use on the playa. I have a couple ways to measure my batches, but my primary processing pool holds 200 gallons or so. At an absolute minimum, I put in a quarter of a cup of Super Shock. Muriatic Acid is the standard pool acid. It comes in plastic gallon jugs, just like milk or water jugs, but the screw-on tops are designed to allow some air flow and pressure release,

Minimum for my 200 gallon batch is a hair less than a quarter of a cup, and sometimes I wait an hour before I add the acid after adding the shock. Early in the week of Burning Man, with simple, 'lite' grey water, these numbers work great, and I can let water recirculate for 24 hours to slowly do it's work. As the week progresses, the grey starts coming in higher volume and nastier quality, so I need more speed, therefore the Chlorine and Acid amounts jump up (possibly double or more) and the processing time shrinks to about 4 to 6 hours. A little acid goes a long way, it's really a catalyst to 'activate' the chlorine in the shock powder. Hence, when things get bad, a cup of shock and a half a cup of acid will probably take care of anything but motor oil in 6-8 hours of recirculation in a 200 gallon batch. And, did I mention that these chemicals are VERY DANGEROUS!!

Here's another website I like that has really interesting info from an entirely different approach to the technical side of water reclamation on the playa. I've only met these people on the playa occasionally, but I'm a big fan of their work:

Please, remember to come by and introduce yourself to me at Shangri-La Village, I'll be somewhere near 7:30 & Fetish, ask for PolyParadise and grey water processing. I look forward to meeting you.

Go Get 'Em, and kick some Grey Water Ass! WooHoo!

Steve 'Water Log' Iddings
'Got Grey?'