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Grey water treatment using sand filtration

1.1 Background


Population growth coupled with ever increasing urbanization, and in many cases a parallel rise in specific water demand, results in continuous growth of water demand in many regions around the world. Today many large urban areas, even in regions that were traditionally considered as water ample suffer from water scarcity (Li, et al., 2009). Moreover, the increasing demand from municipal and industrial sectors has led to increased competition for water and we are now witnessing that water which used to be for agriculture purpose is getting diverted to the urban and industrial sectors. This necessitates the development of additional resources, e.g., exploitation of more distant (surface water) and deeper (groundwater) sources, construction of new dams and long conveyance systems, and seawater desalination. Utilizing these new sources usually involves high direct costs (construction, operation and maintenance), and is likely to result in high indirect costs, including increasing negative environmental effects.

Therefore, lowering the overall water consumption has recently become an important issue for water utilities and regulatory bodies. This could be achieved by a combination of different measures such as increasing the efficiency of water supply systems (lowering real losses), installation of water efficient appliances, raising public awareness to water saving and reusing water as an alternative resource (UNESCO, 2003).

With the increasing demand for freshwater and increasing water scarcity, the reuse of greywater may be an important environmental and economical initiative strategy for saving water in our world, especially in the horn of Africa where drought is having its severe effect the most. Water scarcity, poor water quality and water related disasters are the three main concerns that people living in this part of Africa and elsewhere in the world are facing currently (UNESCO, 2003). Improving water quality and mitigating water scarcity are closely linked to greywater management. Household greywater can be reused as a means to conserve potable water and to reduce demands on wastewater treatment.

Although there are numerous definitions of greywater, greywater can be defined as the wastewater generated from baths, showers, hand basins, washing machines, dishwashers, laundry facilities and in some instances kitchens (Ledin et al., 2001; Eriksson et al., 2002; Ottoson and Stenstrom, 2003).

Greywater is a valuable water resource, if used in an environmentally friendly manner, where public health is taken care of (Moyo and Mtetwa, 2002). It may be reused for landscape irrigation, on gardens, trees and lawns. It's a waste to irrigate with great quantities of drinking water when plants can thrive successfully and healthy, on used water containing small bits of compost. Since greywater contains some nitrogen and phosphorus (Eriksson et al., 2002; Morel and Diener, 2006), it is also a potential source of nutrients for plant growth, particularly for users who cannot afford fertilizer. Thus, use of treated greywater for irrigation contributes to a more balanced food diet and relieves the household budget (Akinbamijo et al., 2002). Treated greywater can also be used in household for applications that do not require drinking water quality, for example toilet flushing or washing laundry depending on the technologies utilized in the treatment process (Friedler, 2002; Jefferson et al, 2004). Unlike a lot of ecological makeshift measures, greywater reuse can be part of a fundamental solution to many ecological problems and will probably play an important role in the future.

The reuse of greywater is being increasingly practiced in a number of countries, whose water crisis is less critical. A number of these countries have carried out assessments of greywater reuse practices and investigated the technical means of reuse as well as the health and environmental implications (Brissaud, 2007). The following are typical examples where information on greywater reuse has been found, and where greywater reuse is currently being practiced.

Studies in Australia were carried out to assess the potential for greywater reuse there. The findings of the studies concluded that significant water savings could be made from the responsible reuse of greywater provided adequate safeguards were followed (Jeppesen and Solley 1994; Anda and Matthew 1997).

Cyprus has initiated a subsidy program for households that wish to install greywater reuse systems for domestic landscaping and toilet flushing. There is also documentation of

greywater reuse at certain hotels and at least one sports facility (Redwood, 2004). Dual plumbing systems have also been introduced to allow the reuse of greywater in toilet flushing (Kambanellas 1999).

Greywater reuse is also practiced in Japan on a scale that ranges from the use of simple hand basin urinals in residential properties that flush the bowl using water from hand washing, to complex recycling systems in office blocks. In Tokyo, greywater recycling is mandatory for buildings with an area over 30,000 square meters or with potential reuse of 100 m 3 /day (Hanson 1997).

In Amman, Jordan, an extensive survey of urban farmers revealed that 40% use greywater to irrigate their gardens. It is reported that households treating and reusing of greywater has benefited the local community in many ways, accounted for by increased product yields, as well as reduced water and fertilizer costs (Faruqui et al., 2001).

1.2 Characteristics and Quality of Greywater

The characteristics of greywater produced by a household varies according to the number of occupants, the age distribution, the cultural habits, lifestyle, household demography, health status, type of household chemicals used etc (Martin, 2005; Friedler, 2004). Greywater contains micro-organisms, chemical contaminants (e.g. nutrients and salts) and physical contaminants (e.g. dirt and sand) (Morel & Diener 2006). Its contribution to domestic wastewater is 6075% of the water volume (Friedler and Hadari, 2006), and includes 9 14%, 20 32%, 1822%, and 29 62% of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and organic matter, respectively (Kujawa-Roeleveld and Zeeman, 2006). The typical volume of greywater from a household varies from 90 to 120 liters per day. The volume depends on factors such as lifestyle, living standards, customs and habits, water installations and the degree of water abundances. The volume of greywater in low income countries with water shortage and simple forms of water supply can be as low as 20 to 30 liters per day (Lopez-Zavala, 2007).

Generally, the quality of greywater can be categorized by its source, namely kitchen, bathroom and laundry greywater. Each of these sources produces greywater with slightly different composition. These compositions are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1: Composition of greywater from kitchen, bathroom and laundry sources (Morel & Diener, 2006).


Kitchen greywater contributes about 11% of the total greywater volume. It contains food residues, high amounts of oil and fat, including dishwashing detergents. In addition, it occasionally contains drain cleaners and bleach. Kitchen greywater is high in nutrients and suspended solids. Dishwasher greywater may be very alkaline (due to builders), show high suspended solids and salt concentrations.


Bathroom greywater (bath, basin, and shower) contributes about 55% of the total greywater volume. It is regarded as the least contaminated greywater source within a household. It contains soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, and other body care products. Bathroom greywater also contains shaving waste, skin, hair, body-fats, lint, and traces of urine and faeces. Greywater originating from shower and batch may thus be contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms.


Laundry greywater contributes about 34% of the total greywater volume. It contains high concentrations of chemicals from soap powers (such as sodium, phosphorous, surfactants, and nitrogen) as well as bleaches, suspended solids and possibly oils, paints, solvents, and non-biodegradable fibers from clothing. Laundry greywater can contain high amounts of pathogens when nappies are washed.

When compared to black water, greywater has a comparatively higher temperature and readily degradable pollutants. Thus, it needs to be immediately treated after collection. If untreated greywater is stored for long periods, oxygen deficient conditions will develop and scum will be formed which can float or sink in the collection tank. Also studies indicate that bacterial population also increases with longer storage time (Lehr et al. 2005).

Greywater quality is usually measured by non-specific parameters such as biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), suspended solids, and bacteria content (Ottoson and Stenstrom,


Despite greywater variations by source, some consistent observations have been reported in literatures and the values are summarized in Table 2. The high variability of the greywater quality is due to factors such as source of water, water use efficiencies of appliances, individual habits, products used (soaps, shampoos, detergents) and other site specific characteristics.

Table 2: Typical greywater characteristics (Jeppesen, and Solley, 1994)








Suspended Solids

















<0.1 0.8




<1.0 25.4


Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen





Total Phosphorous

















325 1140


Hardness (Ca & Mg)










1.3 Problem Statement

From an environmental perspective, reuse of greywater can have several benefits in the management of water resources. The benefits of well organized greywater management are that it offers a tool to reduce demand for fresh water resources, diversify water sources and enhance reliability of access to resource; it can reduce volume of wastewater discharged into the environment and subsequently reduce the amount of pollution to enter the hydrological cycle (Friedler, 2004; Sutherland 2008). Greywater reuse can also reduce energy required to

transport water from the point of production to the point of use and hence reduce greenhouse gas emissions (due to energy savings).

In addition, in areas where there is scarcity of water for instance arid, semi-arid regions and highly populated areas recycling and reuse of greywater is a viable means to cope with the water shortage (Jamil, and El-Dessouky, 2008.). Also in areas that are rich in water resources water recycling is important, because it aims to sustainable consumption of water resources.

Even if reuse of greywater is not considered a priority (for reasons of abundance of freshwater resources), appropriate greywater treatment prior to its discharge could significantly reduce water pollution. Greywater contributes to half of the total organic load and up to two thirds of the phosphorous load in domestic wastewater (Sutherland 2008). Thus, treating greywater before its discharge into aquatic systems will significantly contribute to protecting the environment and improving public health and living conditions of communities relying on these freshwater sources, be it for drinking, domestic, recreation or irrigation purposes.

Despite these benefits, greywater reuse has not been widely practiced in Ethiopia, possibly because

cost of water is low;

there are no regulations covering the quality of recycled water;

poorly treated greywater deteriorates rapidly when stored;

poor public perception regarding to sustainable use of water resources;

lack of public awareness regarding to the economic and environmental value of adequate greywater management .

Compared to other aspects of environmental sanitation, such as toilet wastewater or solid waste, greywater traditionally receives the least attention. In urban and semi-urban areas of low and middle-income countries, greywater is most often discharged untreated into drains or sewers, from where it mainly flows into aquatic systems. This leads to oxygen depletion, increased turbidity, eutrophication as well as microbial and chemical contamination of the aquatic systems and may also pose public health risks and negative aesthetics (i.e., offensive odor and color) and environmental effects (Morel & Diener 2006). In addition, reuse of

untreated greywater can cause harmful impacts on ground water and soil quality. The main effects of reuse of untreated greywater on soils are: a tendency to raise soil alkalinity, salinity and reduction in the ability of soil to absorb and retain water (Garland et al, 2004). As a result, efficient and reliable delivery, storage and treatment systems are required in order to enjoy the various benefits that reuse of greywater offers.

A wide range of treatment technologies varying in complexity and degree of treatment have

been applied and examined for greywater producing effluents with different qualities. These

treatment systems have been designed for several reasons such as to (Kujawa-Roeleveld, and Zeeman, 2006; Li et al., 2009):

protect humans from contact from any harmful effects that greywater may pose;

treat the wastewater to minimize contamination of soils and water bodies;

prevent direct discharge of untreated wastewater to the groundwater or surface water;

minimize the generation of foul odors;

to remove substances which may clog the irrigation network, and;

recovery of otherwise lost nutrients beneficial for plant growth.


treatment system is considered efficient if it produces the required effluent quality, simple


operation with a minimum maintenance, and affordable due to its low energy consumption

and low operational and maintenance costs. Thus, it is the objective of the present study to

design greywater treatment system with the aim of coming up with an efficient, simple, and affordable treatment system with safe effluent for irrigation purpose.

1.4 Objective of study

The main purpose of the present study is to design a greywater treatment system (for irrigation purpose) which is within the capacity, both financial and technical, of the benefiting community to operate and maintain. It is also the objective of the study to develop

a socio-economical treatment method which can play a significant role in a sustainable greywater management in the community.

Specific objectives


to assess the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of domestic greywater


to set up pilot scale greywater treatment system


to provide data on the quality of treated greywater


to raise public awareness in water reuse strategies and transfer greywater treatment technology to the community


Scope of the study

The current study aims at providing a comprehensive description of the issues related to greywater and its appropriate management. It also demonstrates the use of sand filtration as one of the means for sustainable greywater management systems for households and neighborhoods. The study also aims at encouraging national, regional and municipal water and environmental sanitation authorities to integrate greywater management into their development policies and programs in order to alleviate water scarcity at different parts of the country by considering the possibility of reuse of greywater.


There will be various materials to be used and methods to be employed under the present study in order to construct the treatment system and carry out analysis of raw and treated greywater. The main issues to be considered under the present study are raw and treated greywater characteristics, technology performance, and costs. Greywater characterization will be essential part of the study as it plays a key role in the design and operation of treatment facilities. The characteristics will be determined in accordance with several sets of laws that define several physical, chemical and biological characteristics of greywater

2.1 Materials

2.2.1 Septic Tank

Septic tank can serve as a starting point for the treatment and reuse process of grey water. The process taking place in a septic tank is an anaerobic one and provides only partial treatment, serving the purpose of largely removing the settleable solids in the greywater and

effects a partial reduction in the COD or BOD load entering the next stage in the treatment process. Figure 1 shows the different zones present in septic tank.

Figure 1 shows the different zones present in septic tank. Figure 1: Septic tank zones for

Figure 1: Septic tank zones for two-compartment septic tank (Morel, and Diener, 2006)

2.2.2 Vessels


Header vessel The header vessel is the part which collects the waste water and distributes it linearly to the filter vessel. Since this is the highest point of the device, it provides the hydraulic head to the whole device.


Filter vessel The filter vessel is the part which holds various filter material, including stones, gravel and fine sand. In between the layers, a filter cloth will be used in order to prevent the filter materials from mixing and so that the layers could be removed easily from the vessel whenever there is a need.


Storage vessel The storage tank serves as a reservoir for the treated greywater before being utilized for various purposes, including for cleaning, washing machine, toilet flushing and irrigation.


Plant media

The plant media can serve as a structure to trap moisture in which plants can anchor themselves, grow and utilize the effluent. The soil can also provides a structured medium in which biological organisms can flourish and consequently serves as a filter and bio filter in which contaminated water can flow through and be treated in much the same way as a sand filter functions.

2.2.4 Plants

Since the unit will run almost continuously is it a good idea that the plants should be able to take prolonged periods of watering without detrimental effects. The system can simulate a wetland in some respects. Thus, it would be possible to plant species which are common in constructed wetlands, such as cattail (Typha latifolia), reed (Phragmites australis), sedges, water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and Pontederia are used all over the world and are quite effective in the uptake of metals (Faruqui, and Al-Jayyousi, 2002; Garland et al., 2004).

2.2.5 Filter material

Filter materials allow waste water to pass through them so that suspended particles and bacteria become trapped in the sand. Normally, three different types of filter materials will be

selected for the present study, including stones with average size of 20 40 mm, gravel with

average size of 8 12 mm and sand with average size of 0 2 mm (Jefferson et al, 2004; Morel, and Diener, 2006; Ravindar, et al, 2003).

When selecting the sand grain size to be used as sand filter, there are a couple of dynamic parameters which must be taken into consideration, including hydraulic retention time (HRT) and susceptibility for clogging which affects the filtration efficiency and functionality of the system. Thus, a careful balance between these parameters is needed to be established in order to optimize the maximum filtering vs. minimum maintenance relationship to be achieved (Ravindar, et al., 2003).

2.2.6 Grate separator

The purpose of the grate separator is to keep the filter material up so that the water can flow

freely to the bottom of the filter vessel and prevents possible blockages. Normally, the separator has holes of size of 3 mm with 6 mm distance from each other and it will be located at a height of 5 cm from the bottom of the filter vessel.

2.2.7 Pipes and Hoses

The purpose of having pipes and hoses is to transport the raw and treated greywater from one

component to another component within the system and beyond.

2.2.8 Gate valves

Gate valve will be attached to the bottom of the septic tank in order to facilitate desludging

whenever required.

2.2.9 Concrete

Concrete will be used for construction of basement and foundation for the treatment system.

2.2 Methods

2.2.1 Description of the operation principles

The septic tank and the header vessel will be arranged in such a way that the untreated greywater will flow through a pipe to the header vessel by gravitational force. At the bottom of the header vessel there will be a hose that leads to the bottom of the filter vessel. This hose transports untreated greywater to the filter vessel. Then, the water goes under a grate

separator and from there it continues flowing upwards to the top of the filter vessel where

there is an outlet connected to a hose. The greywater filtrates slowly through the filter

material which will be placed on top of a grate separator to the top of the vessel. Layers of

stone, gravel and sand will be used as filter materials. Stones with average size of 20 40

mm will be placed on top of the grate separator to a height of 100 mm. The second layer will

be filled with gravel having an average size of 8 12 mm until the layer reaches 150 mm in

gravel height. Finally, a layer of 300 mm fine sand with average size of 0 2 mm will be

added on top of the gravel.

From the top of the filter vessel, the purified greywater will be flowing through a hose to

smaller containers or plant boxers. These containers can be used for planting plants that has

characteristics of purifying water. Finally, these containers can be attached to the storage tank

with hoses where the treated water will be stored temporarily before being utilized for various

purposes. The process flow diagram of the treatmentsystem, graphical process of the

greywater through the filter vessel and the greywater treatment system as a whole are shown

in figures 2, 3, and 4, respectively.

Septic tank
Septic tank

Header vessel

Filter vessel Plant beds
Filter vessel
Plant beds

Storage vessel

Re-utilized for various purposes

Figure 2: Process flow diagram of the system

2.2.2 Assembly and testing of the treatment system

Before starting testing of the system, all the components of the treatment system will be

installed accordingly. After all the elements of the system are in order, then testing of the

treatment system will be done with tap water in order to see that it will be operating without

any difficulties when the greywater flows into the system.


Characterization of raw and treated greywater

The purpose of greywater treatment system is to collect, store and reduce the organic and hygienic load of greywater to the standard of being safe for reuse. Thus, both the raw and treated greywater will be characterized in terms of various parameters, including BOD 5 , COD, total solids, pH, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, total phosphorous, potassium, heavy metals and trace elements, and indicator organisms (fecal coliforms and fecal streptococci) using standard scientific methods.


Dimensions of components



septic tank will have a dimension of 1.2 m x 0.6 m x 0.6 m



header vessel will have a dimension of 0.6 m x 0.5 m x 0.5 m with an inlet

diameter of 25 mm.



filter vessel will have a dimension of 0.6 m x 0.5 m x 0.7 m with an outlet

diameter of 25 mm.



hose connecting the vessels will have a length of 0.6 m long leaving 0.1 m space

for water to flow to the bottom of the lower vessel. The diameter of the hose will be

5.0 cm.


At a height of 0.15 m from the bottom of the filter vessel, the grate separator will be placed. The thickness of the separator will be 5 mm and will have holes with size of 3


at a distance of 6 mm.



size of the plant beds will be 0.5 m x 0.3 m x 0.5 m with inlets and outlets to

connect the containers to each other and to the storage vessel. The diameter of the

inlets will be 25 mm located at 3 cm from the top and the diameter of the outlets will be 25 mm located at 3cm above from the bottom of the plant beds.


The storage vessel will have a dimensions of 1.2 m x 0.6 m x 0.4 m with an inlet having a diamter of 25 mm near the bottom and an outlet with diameter of 25 mm


the top to the vessel.


The pipe to transport the greywater from the septic tank to the header vessel will have

a lenth of 1 m and 40 cm diameter. Another two pipes will be required to transport the treated water from the filter vessel to the plant box and from the plant box to the storage vessel. Each of these pipes will have a length of 0.75 m and 1 in diameter. In addition, four small pipes each having a length of 15 cm and 1 in diameter will be

used to transport the water b/n adjecent plant boxes. Moreover, a pipe having a length of 2 m and diameter of 2 in will be used for desludging of the septic tank.

ix. The gate valve which will be used to facilitate desluding of the septic tank will have a size of 2 in.


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