Every Drop Matters: Crash-Course on Water Conservation


“To put your hands in a river is to feel the chords that bind the earth together.” 
– Barry Lopez

We residents of the UM FLAT care. We care about our place. We care about our chickens, our garden, our cob oven, our solar panels. We care about our studio and all of the tenacious student and community groups meeting there each week.

We just care a lot…about a lot.


Recently, the six of us have been brainstorming about how to use water more efficiently. Water’s a big deal. The human body can consist of up to 75% of the stuff. So, while California and other states/countries are experiencing some of the worst drought conditions in recorded history, this is an opportunity for all of us to think critically about this precious resource, this flowing gift we so often take for granted as something limitless, clean, and cheap. Here are some quick, digestible bits about taking water seriously:

Grey Water. What’s that? Grey water is untreated wastewater collected from bathtubs, sinks, showers, clothes washing machines. If you can properly store it, you can use for reusing (flushing toilets, watering plants, etc.)

Where else is grey water being used? The Pacific Northwest has certainly been a leader in capturing water. The Southwest—Arizona particularly—has been leading the charge is passing legislation to make it legal to use grey water extensively in residential neighborhoods. (More on Arizona’s laws.)

What’s up with Montana and grey water use? A touch of history:

  • 2007: 16 counties in Montana were designated as suffering from severe drought. Really escalated talks about water conservation here. Grey water reuse was determined to be an act of climate change adaptation.
  • End of 2007: Montana legislature passed, allowing single-family residences to reuse gray water.
  • 2009: “Single-family use” was removed. All building types free to use greywater.

As long as you keep your grey water inside the home, there are no permits necessary for using grey water. You must apply for permits once the grey water goes outside. Irrigation seems to be the most sensitive issue around Montana DEQ regulations of gray water. They just want to regulate what contaminants get into the aquifer.


 What’s the FLAT is doing to conserve water?

  • Water Manager. One member of the house is in charge of monitoring monthly water use, making recommendations for daily water conservation, and implementing a functional water project. 
  • Water Catchment Barrels. Several water barrels are set up to catch water from drains. This is used for our chickens and garden. A faucet has been added to make the barrels more user-friendly.
  • Grey water Sink-to-Toilet. The FLAT currently uses a dual-flush system (you know: half flush for yellow, full flush for brown), and the backhouse cottage will be installing a sink-to-toilet grey water system. Imagine a sink on top of your toilet’s water basin. After doing your business, your flush triggers the sink to turn on. You wash your hands and that hand washing water then fills the basin to be used for the next flush. Nifty, right?
  • EnergyStar Appliances. Our washing machine works on low-water use.
  • Low flow showerheads. All showers in the front and back houses have low-flow heads to minimize waste. We barely take showers anyway, but it’s good to have them.




More Links/Inspiration to Learn More:



One Comment Add yours

  1. POPS says:

    nice job Nick…with continuing education such as yours….it can happen!
    mighty proud!

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