Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Brown barrels full of water that's...grey? Not exactly

"Well, there we get into a gray area." "How gray?" "Charcoal."

I always understand greywater by what it is not: blackwater has sewage or bacterial contaminants in it. Potable water is drinkable. In between, it's grey. Or is it?

Over at the rain barrel story itself, a reader correctly points out that most people don't think of everything that's in between as greywater. Greywater is often understood as being from domestic processes - laundry, your kitchen sink, etc.

I was using the word in a way that's broadly accurate, but specifically misleading. I simply wasn't thinking about rainwater as potable. My reference to what rolls off the roof as grey had to do with its drinkability. Certainly the city of LA isn't treating this water as drinkable, nor are these residents. Still, in California, greywater has become an industry term - as a market evolves to help people modify their existing water systems.

Folks in Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine did drink - and make wine from - rainwater as John Rabe and I discussed earlier this year. But I grew up in an era when Kimberly's hair turned green after she washed it in a copper bowl on Diff'rent Strokes, so I don't think of rainwater that way. Especially after it hits a roof.

Fletch understands that grey has many shades. It's especially easy to confuse them in a radio story, it seems.

And now, Harold Faltermeyer, play us out.