Echo Park family goes gray as part of its green project *

The city’s restrictions on water use had Steven Amato and Maria Galante worried about how they were going to keep their large Echo Park garden, planted with everything from tomatoes and herbs to fig and lemon trees, green and lush. After some research into water conservation and some shopping, the couple created a low-tech system to collect so-called “gray water” from washing their dishes as well as bathing their young sons. The gray water is then used to irrigate their garden.

Their system is pretty simple and consists of biodegradable soaps for washing; small buckets to collect water inside the house and, outside, a large 32-gallon trash fitted with a spigot, pump and hose. It all cost about $100 and a day to set up, said Amato, who owns an ad agency. “We have been reusing an average of 50-70 gallons a day,” he said in an email. “We cut last month’s water bill by almost 50%.”

After keeping the garden green, Amato and Galante now want to share their low-tech gray water system with neighbors – at least 200 of them. Earlier this year, they submitted their Low Cost Gray Water Program to the national Green Effect contest, which awards winners $20,000. The Echo Park couple are finalistists and would use the $20,000 to set up the program and monitor its use among 200 Los Angeles households. The four winners are scheduled to be announced on Wednesday. But it seems like some folks can’t wait to start.

“We get a lot of people saying they had no idea that 50%-80% of residential water could be reused,” Amato said. “They all want us to come over and help them get started.”

* Update: The Amato-Galante entry was not selected as a winner.We lost but we still feel like winners,” Amato said. “We’ll keep up the gray water and will help any one get started if needed!”

Related story:
* A solution to California’s water shortage goes down the drain. LA Times

Image from thegreeneffectnationalgeographic.com

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