Graywater Systems

Home Inspector with Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area InterNACHI 10041206

Graywater systems are designed to re-use water that has no waste in it for watering plants, trees, etc. The use of graywater systems can be very beneficial. It can lower fresh water usage, reduce the amount of chemicals and energy at water treatment plants, it's less of a strain on septic tanks, great for plant growth, and can help with the recharge of groundwater.

I had an inspection recently where the homeowner designed his own graywater system. He had the bathroom sink, tub, the kitchen sink, and the washing machine tied to his graywater drain line to the outside of the house. The problem with this baby is it merely drained out to the backyard! Discharging right into the grassy area behind the house. The end of the drainline was uncovered! Well, it was covered with snow but virtually uncovered. 

Graywater systems should discharge into the soil below ground level. They also should not be discharged directly onto any edible things like fruit or vegetables. In practice, grey water legality is virtually never an issue for residential retrofit systems because everyone just bootlegs them. However, grey water legality is almost always an issue for permitted new construction and remodeling, unless you're in a visionary state such as Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Montana, Oregon, and California.

This guy just ran a new line and capped off the original drain line. See the cap on the end, and the little trap he installed as a water seal in the picture? (We'll talk about that gas line with the horizontal drip leg another time)

There was no design here, probably done without much thought. He had good intentions I'm sure, but a little research would have gone a long way. I have not seen many of these type systems, but I knew right away something was wrong with this one!

The simplest thing for this guy to do is reconnect the original drain line to these fixtures. I believe that is what the buyer will ask them to do, or to redesign it to make it safe and effective. That will be a re-inspect that I am looking forward to!

For more information about graywater systems and their uses, see:




Posted by

Fred Hernden 


 Superior Home Inspections





 Albuquerque, Rio Rancho New Mexico and surrounding areas...


“My mission is to provide superior quality home inspections to my clients to ensure peace of mind so they can confidently make the largest investment they may ever make!"


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John McCormack, CRS
Albuquerque Homes Realty - Albuquerque, NM
Honesty, Integrity, Results, Experienced. HIRE Me!

Very smart and educational information for those in the Albuquerque and other desert scape areas Fred.


We are looking to our HOA to install a graywater system at our private community park.  Not sure what the verdict will be but with water being liquid gold in NM it should pay for itself quickly.  


Jan 11, 2016 01:24 AM #1
Rich Cederberg
eXp Realty - Albuquerque, NM
eXp Realty Agent Albuquerque

Hi Fred,

I see this in Albuquerque's east mountain area from time to time. Usually they drain downhill and further away from the house, but I'm used to seeing them open.

I gave a presentation about social media for a group of home inspectors on Saturday morning, I used you of an exmaple of what to do online. Keep up the good work!

I love the horizontal drip leg, is that a problem? lol.


Jan 11, 2016 02:39 AM #2
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

John - In Florida we had a huge reclaimed water facility that was very nice! You can water anytime you like. So it can be done! It's a pretty huge project but it saves our most precious resource... water!

Rich - Not surprised they are open up there, I would bet there are no permits to back up that work :-)

Where was the presentation meeting? I got no notifications or saw anything online... I would haved loved to have been there. But thanks for the props!! Gotta keep it up... I'm still the new

The drip line should be vertical so sediment can drop down into the leg before it goes into the units and possibly clog the orifaces inside.

Jan 11, 2016 05:19 AM #3
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

You mean like the washing machine those people plumbed onto the driveway in my other post?  That's pretty gray!

Love the size of the drain line connecting all those places!  Huge!

Jan 11, 2016 06:13 AM #4
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Jay - Yeah, that's gray indeed! It was definitely a mess, how did you like the bricks they used for support and slope? Nice, they are loose for quick adjustment!

Jan 11, 2016 08:06 AM #5
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

There is a lot of red tape getting city to approve it. I saw a guy modified his wash machine and added a trashcan as water retention tank in the basement ceiling. It is connected to water his CA garden. He used a phosphate free detergent.  Very practical. Will it pass city code. Nop!   

Jan 18, 2016 02:17 PM #6
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Sam - I think it depends on where you live, but they probably wouldn't think using a trash can as a holding tank is appropriate 

Jan 18, 2016 10:40 PM #7
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