DIY shower greywater

Just imagine...

...every time you take a shower, all the used shower water disappears, but instead of going down the drain, it is watering one section of your garden for you, automatically. All you need do, at some point during the day, is go outside and switch over the taps or hose (or whatever you use to direct the water to different sections of the garden each day) in readiness for the next day's supply of freely reusable water. Depending on the number of people in your household and the size and type of garden you have, you might never need to "do the watering" again!

Some figures...
  • One 3-minute shower using a water-saving showerhead uses about 30L of water.
  • For a family of 4, that's at least 840L of water per week
  • One square meter of vegetable garden needs 28L per week (in hot dry weather) - 30 square meters needs 840L.
How is it done?

The Big Bucket DIY project is not intended for older houses that have easy access to bathroom drainage pipes either under the house or on an outside wall. There are well-known, simpler, and easier methods for those. This project is designed specifically for the numerous contemporary suburban houses that have all their plumbing hidden away in the concrete slab that supports the house. In these cases, gaining access to shower greywater after it goes down the drain is a costly affair. It involves hiring a licensed plumber and dealing with the copious red tape associated with fee-based approvals and inspections.

The Big Bucket neatly sidesteps these complications and expenses by catching the shower water before it goes down the drain. The Big Bucket is not in permanent use (it is placed in the shower alcove only when the garden needs watering), and it does not connect to the existing plumbing of the house. Therefore, generally it comes under the health regulations for temporary manual bucketing of greywater. Please check the regulations that apply in your area. A state-by-state summary of regulations and links for more detailed information is available on the Alternative Technology Association website.

The Big Bucket can also be used if you are living in a rented house since no plumbing modifications are needed and there are no changes to the existing building (provided you don't choose to use the thru-wall fitting option). Since it is completely portable, when you move, you can take it with you for use in your next house.

Many people keep an ordinary bucket in the shower to catch and reuse the initial flow of cold water. Some use two rectangular buckets and stand with one foot in each while they shower. Some stand on the shower alcove floor but surround themselves with a whole lot of buckets. All these methods are good - except perhaps for the inevitable trail of drips one leaves across the floor when carrying the buckets outside - but I wanted to catch all the shower water. This was the genesis of the idea (and the name) for the Big Bucket.

Here is just one of the many possible variations of the Big Bucket (the initial configuration of my own setup):

In essence there are three elements to the design:
  1. Catching the water...
  2. ...getting it out of the house...
  3. ...and distributing it round the garden
Use the links above or the tabs at the top of the main page to read about various design options you can mix and match to create a shower water reuse design that suits your own particular house and garden.

PS: I must admit I've not yet quite achieved the above dream of a completely automated system - but, after a couple of years of use and evolution through various configurations my current setup comes extremely close. I'd say my third and final Big Bucket configuration (described on the ...getting it out of the house... page) 99% achieves the above dream.


  1. Well keep it up! Soon you'll achieved your dream just keep on pursuing it.....this will help may homeowners on conserving water.

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  2. You have a good observation that lead you to a great improvements. I am so impressed what you renovated inside your bathroom.

  3. Reuse greywater to flush your toilets!

  4. As an owner of a water harvesting company myself, I'm extremely impressed with the work you've done here! Wahaso—Water Harvesting Solutions designs and builds systems that capture rainwater and greywater, treat it, and apply it in toilet flushing, irrigation, cooling tower make-up and more. Check out our website!