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
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES GENERALIST
    Honor the Earth is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on identity. Indigenous people, people of color, Two-Spirit or LGBTQA+ people,...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Colorado Trout Unlimited seeks an individual with successful development experience, strong interpersonal skills, and a deep commitment to coldwater conservation to serve as the organization's...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Now hiring a full-time, remote Program Director for the Society for Wilderness Stewardship! Come help us promote excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship,...
  • WYOMING COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS COORDINATOR
    The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is seeking Coordinator to implement public education and advocacy campaigns in the Cowboy State to unite and amplify hunter, angler,...
  • ASSISTANT TOWN ATTORNEY
    Town of Jackson, Wyoming, $66,700 - $88,000 DOQ, full benefits. Law Degree Required. Rental housing options available. For a complete job description and to apply,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...