Gray water, green living

  • Brian Moore

    Mark Skalny
 

NAME
Brian Moore

AGE
50

KNOWN FOR
Conserving water by watering his garden with a homemade backyard shower and simple "gray water" plumbing.

HE SAYS
"We think of the countryside as (the place to live) off the grid, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. I’d like to demonstrate that it is possible to leave a small footprint in the city."

Brian Moore once watered his backyard cottonwood tree with a garden hose. Now he waters the tree with his shower — while he’s bathing.

In a 1940s-era neighborhood about four miles from downtown Phoenix, Moore has retrofitted his home so that most of the water he uses is used again. The "gray water" from his washing machine and bathroom sink flows into his garden. His seedlings also get a drenching from the outdoor sink where he washes vegetables from his garden — as well as from the shower he built in his backyard.

Shielded from his neighbors by a cloth partition, Moore bathes on a platform he made out of a pallet salvaged from an alley. A hose with a spray nozzle, slung over a nearby tree branch, delivers a steady stream of water warmed by the desert sun. Temperatures in Phoenix allow Moore to bathe this way from May through October, but he’s considered installing tubing that would collect enough solar heat to extend his outdoor showering season by a month.

Moore estimates that he spent less than $50 and about 40 hours to replumb the house, which he has lived in for four years. With a little help from friends, he simply rerouted a few pipes, following state and county regulations that prohibit the "re-allocation" of bacteria-filled water from the toilet and the kitchen sink. He has been experimenting with his do-it-yourself gray water system for more than a year.

"We’re using the earth’s resources faster than they’re being replenished," says the elementary school music teacher and director. Moore grew up with good examples of thriftiness: When he was a child in New Jersey, his grandmother mopped the floor with used dishwater, and his dad, a sheet metal mechanic, built his own set of four makeshift solar panels to warm water in a homemade stainless-steel tank.

Moore trained to be a Benedictine monk in New Mexico, although he never took final vows. He says some of his friends call him a minimalist, while others wonder about his quality of life. Moore, however, says he’s very comfortable. "Some things I do take more time," he says — erecting and refolding his shower partition, for example — "but I don’t feel deprived."

Though Moore has yet to see a decline in his water bill, he says his solar set-up saves money on natural gas for heating the water. Pointing to Phoenix’s projected growth — some 4.15 million people total by 2010 — and the city’s dependence on the overused Colorado River, Moore hopes to encourage his neighbors to adopt similar water- and money-saving strategies. He spreads the word about sustainable water and energy use among his co-workers at St. Gregory’s Church and Elementary School, and through fellow members of the Phoenix Permaculture Guild. Living more sustainably makes sense, he says, because "drinkable water isn’t as abundant as we think."

The author writes from Paonia, Colorado.

High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League (ICL) is seeking a dynamic community engagement assistant. The individual will work to identify and empower members, supporters, volunteers, and others...
  • VOICES OF WISDOM 2019 SOUTHWEST
    May 25 & 26 At the bank of the Colorado River, at Riverbend Park in Palisade, Colorado, the Sacred Fire Community in the Grand Valley...
  • PHILANTHROPY COORDINATOR
    Wyoming Wildlife Federation - collaborates with the Executive Director and staff to ensure the effective implementation of all philanthropic activities. https://wyomingwildlife.org/hiring-philanthropy-coordinator/.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    HawkWatch International is hiring an Executive Director to lead the organization. The next leader of this growing organization must have: 1. Enthusiasm for conservation, birds...
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Home Resource is a non-profit community sustainability center. We work with, in, and for the community to reduce waste and build a more vibrant and...
  • COUNTRY ESTATE NEAR KINGS CANYON AND SEQUOIA PARKS
    Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • BRN DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
    Borderlands Restoration Network 501c3 is hiring a full-time Development Director. Description and job details can be found at https://www.borderlandsrestoration.org/job-opportunities.html
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST NEW MEXICO
    Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921
  • ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING MANAGER
    The City of Fort Collins is seeking an Environmental Planning Manager in the Natural Areas Department. The Department has an annual budget of approximately $13...
  • WEB DESIGN AND CONTENT MANAGER
    We are seeking an experienced designer to be the team lead for web development and digital media. Part creator and part planner, this person should...
  • CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
    at RCAC. See the full description at https://bit.ly/2WJ3HvY Apply at [email protected]
  • GRASSROOTS ORGANIZER
    The Utah Rivers Council is looking for an energetic individual with strong communication and organizing skills. The Grassroots Organizer works to ensure our campaigns are...
  • JOHN DEERE SNOW BLOWER 24"
    Newly refurbished and tuned. Older model, great condition. Gasoline engine. Chains on tires. Heavy duty for mountain snow. Call cellphone and leave message or email.
  • STRAW BALE, ADOBE, TIMBER FRAME, HEALTHY HOME, NEAR LA VETA PASS, CO
    unique custom home in Sangre de Cristo Mountains of CO near La Veta Pass, 3 bed, 2 1/2 bath, private gated park, two hours from...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, KANIKSU LAND TRUST
    Kaniksu Land Trust, a community-supported non-profit land trust serving north Idaho and northwest Montana, is in search of a new executive director. The ideal candidate...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Flathead Lakers are seeking a dynamic, self-motivated and proven leader to be our next Executive Director (ED).
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Blackfoot Challenge, a renowned collaborative conservation org in MT, seeks our next ED.
  • COPPER CANYON MEXICO CAMPING & BACKPACKING
    10-day tour from Los Mochis airport, 2/nyts El Fuerte, train, 2/nyts canyon rim hotel, 5/nyts camping. 520-324-0209, www.coppercanyontrails.org.
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, ALASKA
    Earthjustice is hiring for a Staff Attorney