Greywater technology helps Californians monitor water usage

July 7, 2023
As water scarcity becomes more acute, local agencies across California, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, now promote grey water projects to reduce water use.
Raffi Krikorian lives in Palo Alto, California, with his wife and two children. His passion? Bringing innovative technology to life. He worked at Twitter when it was brand new and developed the first driverless car fleet for Uber. Today, Krikorian is chief technology officer and managing director of the Emerson Collective, the foundation created by Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs. The Collective’s drive is to make the world a better place through technology, art and communications. 

The Krikorian family lives in California. To more closely monitor water usage, they turned to a new method. Greywater recycling was one of their objectives, as well as a system requiring low maintenance, as typical home-based filtration systems often require frequent cleaning of the filters and other components.

“We’ve been in a megadrought for years, so we are really interested in every single conceivable method to reduce our water usage and make sure that our water impact is as low as possible,” said Krikorian.  

He and his wife determined that installing a Hydraloop -- a device that collects, cleans and reuses greywater from sources around the house -- was one of the best things they could do. So last year, the Krikorian family was one of first in the United States to have a Hydraloop water-recycling device installed in their home.  

The family now saves 25-45% on tap water and wastewater, regardless of rainfall. 

 “We’ve dramatically reduced our water usage; I can see it in our water bills every single month,” Krekorian said. “The system brought a stop to potable tap water going through our toilets and our washing machine.” 

Krikorian has remote access to the device through a mobile app. This allows the family to change priority settings and to put the device in ‘holiday mode’ but also gives them real time information about water savings and tips to become even more water conscious. 

The technology 

Hydraloop is a device that collects and cleans the water from showers, baths and washing machines as well as condensation water from tumble dryers, heat pumps and air conditioning units. The water can be re-used for toilet tanks, washing machines, garden irrigation and topping off swimming pools. The Krikorian household installed the Hydraloop H300, a standalone device for a single-family household with four to give people, with a cleaning capacity of 95 gallons per day.  

The patented treatment process takes place in a small unit that removes dirt, soap, and other pollution from greywater without filters, membranes or chemicals. To get certified water quality, the system combines six different technologies: sedimentation, floatation, dissolved air floatation, foam fractionation, an aerobic bioreactor, and disinfection of the cleaned water with powerful UV light.  

Water enters the unit from the top via a 40 millimeter connection. Any sediment is collected at the bottom of the processing tank and channeled directly into sewer pipes. All floating dirt like soap solids and hair is trapped and collected in the central chamber and then diverted to the sewer stream via a skimmer.  

At this point a cloud of microbubbles is released and travels upwards in the center tank, carrying suspended solids and organic matter up to the skimmer where they too are removed via the waste pipes. Foam fractionation (often used to clean aquariums) lifts soap, shampoo, conditioner to the top for skimming.  

Afterwards, an aerobic bioreactor treats the water in an upper tank and is passed through UV light for disinfection. Any stored water will pass through the UV light every four hours. A distribution system at the base of the tank sends the recycled water to the toilet, washing machine, garden or swimming pool for re-use.  

Installation 

Currently the installation of such a greywater recycling system into a new build requires “recycle-readiness,” which means that the dwelling or building should be equipped with additional greywater piping that brings greywater to the device and that distributes the treated water to different outlets like toilets, washing machine or garden. During new construction, the costs for extra piping are low and the benefits are high. Incorporating ‘recycle-ready’ piping not only future-proofs the building (e.g., anticipating changing water legislation in the future, a trend already gaining momentum in regions with water scarcity) but it also improves the value of the real estate and adds points for sustainability certifications such as LEED.  

The installer uses Hydraloop’s calculator app that takes into account variables including project scope, specific water usage, and anticipated customer demand to determine the most efficient unit size and system set-up. The units range from compact, fridge-like stand-alone devices that fit the water usage profile of a single-family home, to modular, scalable, custom systems that cater to water treatment needs of hotels, sports facilities, multi-family homes, airports and more.  

Usually, owners install their water-recycling systems in an equipment room, cellar, or garage. But because of its slim design, others place it in their hallway, kitchen or even living room. In the Krikorians’ case, the device was a retrofit and was installed in a small shack outside the main building, as the device must be protected from harsh temperatures and direct sunlight.  

Greywater use gains momentum 

The Krikorians are not alone in their thinking. As water scarcity becomes more acute, local agencies across California, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, now promote grey water projects to reduce water use. Some regions have grants available for homebuilders and homeowners to implement greywater systems. 

Sustainable impact 

The sustainability impact is what drew the Krikorian family towards saving water in the first place. 

“I have two young children; they are six and nine,” said Krikorian. “They were asking me: why do we flush our toilet with fresh water? And I told them: we don’t! Because of the system we flush with recycled water. And I was able to explain to them: Water is not renewable. This is the way we should think about water usage, and we are now an example of how it should be done. That was a great educational point for my kids

About the Author

Melissa Lubitz

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