Greywater system(s); anyone had them set up recently?

Hi, with the continuing drought, we want to do as much as possible to save water. We are thinking of: laundry-to-landscape, shower-to-landscape, and rainwater catchment.  Has anyone had any or all of these done, and would you recommend the company that you hired to install them?  What was entailed, and about what was the cost?  Appreciate any guidance (for hiring, and what to ask - we would not be doing the setup ourselves). Thanks!

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Hi! We just had a shower-to-landscape system installed by Greywater Landscape Design (https://www.greywaterlandscapedesign.com/rainwater-catchment) and I would recommend them. Joseah was very responsive via email, quick to schedule a time to come out and consult on our property, and thorough in answering all our questions. I really enjoyed working with him and learned a lot in the process. The whole system cost ~$4500 and it includes 17 basins throughout our property with independent valves so you can really control where the water is going. The whole installation only took one day and they didn't harm any existing plants in the process. The crew was very friendly and professional. Of course, it's so dry out here that now we are looking into rainwater catchment, as well. But we wanted to start with greywater since that is water we are using already. You can find more referrals for installers on the greywater action website. I'm happy to talk by phone if you have more questions, feel free to message me -- and good luck! This is such a worthwhile project to take on right now. 

I just set laundry to landscape up at my house, still actually in process. It was pretty straightforward, there are q bunch of books (waterwise home) and YouTube videos to help. There’s also a list of installers on the Greywater guerrillas website. 

Our neighbor installed one and it killed all of the plants.  The only thing growing now are weeds. Everything they try to plant dies within a few weeks.  If you install a greywater system make sure it's not going to kill all of the native plants.

Re all the plants dying:

Most soaps and detergents are sodium-based, and sodium is toxic to plants.  In addition, sodium salts react chemically with many kinds of clay in a way that really messes up drainage. (We did an experiment with this in soil-science class, and a little salt water turned my drains-okay sample into impermeable goo.) Once the sodium has gotten stuck to the clay minerals, it won't leach out.

If sodium caused the neighbor's dead plants, an effective solution is application of garden gypsum -- this is a natural mineral that has the effect of replacing the sodium with calcium (via the magic of cation exchange), thus fixing the drainage issue, and isn't toxic to plants. (if they were native plants, they may have died because of overwatering.)

To use graywater without sodium means using sodium-free soaps, which means either Dr. Bronner liquid soap (not their bar soap) or Oasis biocompatible soaps (https://www.bio-pac.com/oasis-biocompatible-cleaners/) -- Oasis dish soap is available at Berkeley Bowl.  These soaps contain potassium rather than sodium, and potassium is a plant nutrient. Potassium and sodium are both monovalent cations, and potassium can still affect clay soils much like sodium, so I would still occasionally apply gypsum.