In a recent guide, ‘Waterwise Queensland: Gardening with greywater’*, published on 26th April 2008, Queensland minister for Natural Resources and Water, the Honourable Craig Wallace hopes to popularise grey water in home gardens.
During the ongoing drought in SE Qld, home gardeners have grabbed their buckets and answered government calls to reduce their mains water consumption. Ten per cent of homes in Brisbane now have rainwater tanks. Residents have met and often exceeded the Water Commission’s 140 litre personal daily use target.
Unlike other Australian states it wasn’t until two years ago, when dams were near record lows, that the use of grey water was legalised in Queensland. Prior to July 2006, residents spilling a cup of tea outdoors were criminals.
In 2003 ’Bellis’ was ‘undeclared’ so legally we’re the only unsewered rural block in suburban Brisbane. The minister hides behind some of the organisations who helped with drafting…but how many of them have nearly five years experience in using wastewater?
The potential value of this publication dries up when the minister revealed yesterday that the guide “is intended for the home gardener who would generally be using untreated greywater on their garden”.
I started using untreated greywater in England in 1975 – years before the term had been invented – and have never had a problem with the results in food growing or ornamental gardening in WA, NSW…or here in Queensland. Read on to discover why…
ACCESS DENIED: INFORMATION THE MINISTER WON’T REVEAL TO GARDENERS
What Queensland’s gardeners are really thirsting for is accurate information about how to produce good quality greywater that’s safe to use on the plants they love to grow. Plants like citrus and other fruit, vegetables and herbs and ferns, all of which the minister firmly believes will be killed by untreated greywater use.
Three critical things the minister won’t tell Queensland’s gardeners:
1. Buy Australian-made genuinely biodegradable soap, shampoo and household cleaning agents.
The minister doesn’t want gardeners to be aware that the Australian Standard for the biodegradability of household cleaners, like laundry powder, only applies to the active ingredient. This standard doesn’t apply to any fragrances, surfactants, enzymes and many other chemical additives found in mainstream detergent brands. As long as the active ingredient complies to this Australian Standard these chemical cocktails gain official approval, no matter how long they take to degrade in our environment, and irrespective of how much harm they cause to plant, soil biology or waterway health.
2. Use bleach based on hydrogen peroxide.
Chlorine bleaches form carcinogenic chloramines in the soil when they make contact with organic matter. Chlorine and chloramines harm plant and soil health, yet bleaches based on hydrogen peroxide rapidly and harmlessly biodegrade into water and oxygen.
3. Use fat-free greywater.
Avoid pouring cooking fats and oils down the drain. Apart from clogging your sink and keeping your plumber busy, greywater containing these substances can harm the leaves of soft plants, like flowering annuals and vegetables. You wouldn’t spray these kinds of plants with white oil, so don’t change your standards with cooking fats and oils in grey water. Fats and oils will eventually fully biodegrade, so pour them in a hole in the ground, half a metre deep, and let nature take its course.
HIDING IN FULL VIEW
When times get tough, society is capable of rapid transformation, but perhaps not this minister. Dozy Wallace has failed to keep abreast of cultural change and technological advances in Queensland during the two years it took his ministry to fumble this greywater guide.
Hiding in full view on television and regularly reported in the print media (by News Ltd newspapers and its ‘Gardening Australia’ magazine) a national gardening audience has seen Queensland Conservation executive member, Jerry Coleby-Williams, growing and eating 101 of the plants Wallace and his misinformed ministry believe cannot be grown with grey water.
Celebrating seven months without using any mains water at all, this Bayside household has been using Queensland technology, an Aqua Nova wastewater plant, to treat not just greywater, but sewage as well and using the wastewater for food growing.
Participating in the CitySmart Innovation Festival 2008, ‘Bellis’, Brisbane’s Sustainable House & Garden (www.jerry-coleby-williams) will reveal the secrets of practical, water-wise gardening gained over five years of unprecedented drought.
Gardeners are invited to see Queensland water treatment technology in action during Open Days on this weekend, 17th – 18th May, and 9th – 10th August 2008.
Make Open Day bookings through The Australian Open Garden Scheme. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reference: ‘Waterwise Queensland: Gardening with greywater’
Executive Member, Queensland Conservation
13th May 2008