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PostSubject: WATER AND WASTEWATER 1   Wed Apr 01, 2009 1:36 pm

Creating a healthier and more sustainable built environment
Website: www.ecoprojects.co.nz


Water Sources..........................post 1
Collecting and Storing Water...................
Designing a Rainwater Collection System....................
The Treatment of Water..................................post 3
Water Conservation in the Home ...................................post 4
Water Conservation in the Garden...................................................................post 5
Natural Cleaning Products..............................................................................................
Stormwater Control...................................................................................................
Wastewater Disposal......................................................................post 6
Alternative Wastewater Treatment ............................................................................
Composting Toilets....................................................................................................
Design Considerations for Composting Toilets.................post 7


There are many different ways of being supplied with water: town dwellers usually rely on
the municipal supply, whereas rural dwellers have their own independent supply, whether it
be from streams, springs, bores or rainwater.
All sources can be problematic if you are keen to have the healthiest water supply possible.
While municipal supplies are meant to be free from bacterial contamination (after all that is
why all those chemicals are there), it is not always the case, and many water suppliers have
inadequate monitoring. And while water from the sky or streams and bores are seen as
“purer” than chemically treated water, often the source can be contaminated, or bacteria
happily grow inside a storage tank.
So the first question to ask is “Where is my water coming from?” Then there are a number
of other questions to ask about the quality of the source.
Streams – the words of Victor Schauberger best sum up the ideal environment for
watercourses: “Water must be allowed to flow and mature in its own natural environment,
which amongst other things, pre­supposes a naturally grown forest containing a great variety
of species. Both single crop forestry and clear felling must cease. All watercourses, from
the little stream to the mature river, must have banks grown with trees and bushes to give
natural shade.”

Where does your stream come from? Does it flow through farmland or habited areas?
Ideally you should only take water from streams that flow through permanently
protected native forest from the headwaters to the point of collection. Forested land
not only filters rainwater before it reaches the stream, but absorbs excess moisture in
heavy rain and prevents flooding with its consequent silting.

Are there wild animals that could carry disease such as giardia in the water collection
area? It would be very difficult to prevent this form of contamination.

Will the stream be used for anything else, such as swimming/bathing? Where will
your wastewater go? You need to keep your drinking water intake above other
activities, and you need to consider others downstream, perhaps the intake could be a
communal one feeding several properties.

Does the stream dry up in summer? Perhaps a small dam may need to be constructed
to ensure a constant supply.
Springs and Bores – according to Victor Schauberger, water completing the full cycle and
emerging in a spring is the most energised, mineral rich form of water, but pumping it from
below ground before it has completed its full cycle gives you water in an “immature” and
possibly detrimental form.

What has the water travelled through before it surfaces as the spring? There may be
radioactive rock formations, excessive mineral content, or contamination from old tip

How can you collect water without destroying the innate spiritual qualities of a spring?
Some springs can be improved by the placement of stones so that people using it do
not muddy the edges. Others would be “vandalised” by pipes and man­made
contraptions for transporting the water away. Create a shrine out of your spring and
collect the water in an unobtrusive, elegant and creative way.
For streams, springs and bores you need to consider what the effect of taking the water out
of its natural pattern will be. (As well as putting it back.) For a single dwelling it may be


minimal, but larger projects and the cumulative effect of many different ones can make
quite a change to the original water course.
Rainwater – Drinking rainwater in any quantity before the invention of impervious surfaces
was virtually impossible. People used water sources such as streams and springs. This
water is quite different from rainwater. Rainwater is slightly acid due to dissolved carbon
dioxide and (occasionally) nitrogen, whereas spring water has permeated through the earth,
absorbing minerals and being magnetised by the earth’s magnetic field, which gives it a
slightly alkaline nature. Acid water is generally best for external use, being very good for
skin and hair care, whereas alkaline water is the healthiest for drinking. You may want to
test your tank supply. If the water is slightly acid, then you can always use an extra
treatment process to “activate” the water by adding minerals to the water that you drink.

How much pollution is in the air? Away from cities the skies are generally clear
enough for us not to have to worry about contamination from acid rain. But the New
Zealand fondness for living near the coast may mean at times wind­driven salt spray is
mixed in with the lashing rain.

How clean is your collection area? During dry spells, a roof can collect leaves, dust,
dirt, salt, guano and other deposits which are rinsed off during the first 10 minutes or
so of a rain shower. There are now commercially produced, simple “diverters” which
ensure the first run­off from the roof doesn’t get into your water tank.

What is your roof made of? You should consider the material the roof and spouting is
made of as it can leach unwanted chemicals into your water supply.
Collecting Water for Non­potable Use
Most councils are reluctant to approve the collection of rainwater for drinking if there is
already a town supply, generally for reasons of water quality. However, they are quite
happy to support the collection of rainwater for non­drinking (non­potable) use such as
water for laundry, toilet flushing and garden watering as this helps conserve their own
supply in times of drought.
For non­potable water you need take fewer precautions than for drinking or bathing water.
The materials used are not so important, nor is the treatment of the water. However, you
still need to have a first flush diverter and some form of filtering to keep the water
reasonably clean. It is handy to have a connection to the mains supply in case the tank runs
out, which needs to be fitted with a back­flow preventer.
If there is a tap connected to this water supply, it is best to have a notice of some sort to
warn people that the water is not suitable for drinking.


Water is a universal solvent – it readily dissolves chemicals as well as minerals, so the
materials you use to collect, transport and store water need to be selected to minimise the
loss of quality of the water. If your water is going to sit for a while in a tank, the potential
for it being contaminated by the material for the tank is higher. The best materials for
compatibility with water need the qualities of inertness and durability, yet be easy to install
and preferably not too expensive. A tank should be sited so that the water is away from
light and heat, to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Below is a list of materials used for roofing,
storage tanks, guttering/down­pipes and internal piping/fittings, and an assessment of their
suitability for water collection and storage

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PostSubject: part 2   Wed Apr 01, 2009 1:37 pm

Roofing Material
Avoid radioactive slate and lead flashing.
Clay Tiles
Avoid radioactive clay and toxic glazing or
Avoid treated timber, some timbers leach tannic
acid initially (6 months).
Avoid polluted soil & toxic dampproofing.
Colour Coated Steel
When it deteriorates particles may flake off.
Concrete Tiles
Initial leaching of cement, avoid chemical
additives for fast curing or toxic paint and toxic
glazing or colour. Paint protection coating
leaches off for several months.
Galvanised Iron
Galvanising run­off if unpainted. Avoid lead­
head nails and flashing etc, and toxic paint.
Synthetic Rubber
Material and sealant may give off toxic
Oil Based Products
Bituminous tiles or sheet may give off toxic
substances and increase the pH of the water
especially when heated by the sun, or by hot
water runoff.
Asbestos Cement
Deteriorates with age, releasing fibres.
Avoid treated timber. Some timbers leach tannic
acid initially.
Stainless Steel
Colour Coated Steel
Inside paint less toxic than outside.
Galvanised Iron
Galvanising run­off if unpainted. Avoid lead­
head nails and flashing etc, and toxic paint.
Leaching of vinyl chloride.
Internal Piping
Stainless Steel
Copper oxides may affect water quality if used in

hot water systems.
Leaching may affect quality and taste. Some
bacterial growth.
Leaching of vinyl chloride.
Leaching of lead.
Underground Piping
Avoid radioactive clay and toxic glazes.
Avoid treated timber. Some timbers leach tannic
acid initially.
Leaching of vinyl chloride.
Deteriorates with age, releasing fibres.
Storage Tanks
Porcelain, Glass
Avoid radioactive clay and toxic glazes.
Stainless Steel
Expensive? Find an old milk vat.
Avoid treated timber. Some timbers leach tannic
acid initially.
Initial leaching of cement. Avoid chemical
additives for fast curing and toxic paint.
Copper oxides may affect water quality if used in
hot water systems.
Leaching may affect quality and taste. Some
bacterial growth.
Leaching may affect quality and taste. Some
bacterial growth.
From a chart by Reinhard Kanuka­Fuchs
Keeping Water’s Natural Flow – Piping or directing water through straight channels is
technically efficient, but it is not the way it naturally moves. The spiraling figure­of­eight
motion created as it flows around and over rocks and round corners aerates the water –
energizing and cleansing it. The challenge is to get your water to your tap in a way that still
lets water flow in its natural way. Sculptural flow­forms, more often used for cleansing
wastewater, could be used. Some of my favourite tramping huts have a stream diversion
flowing past the door and back to the stream. Otherwise straight channels could have rocks
or triangular baffles (after designs by Victor Schauberger) in them to break up the constant
flow. Victor Schauberger also designed a timber pipe with copper or silver guiding baffles
that sets the water spiraling. It also reduces drag, and subsequent wear and tear.


Collecting rainwater that is suitable for drinking is rather more sophisticated these days than
just directing your downpipe into a tank. To ensure the best quality water the following
principles need to be considered:

The roof material must be suitable for collecting potable water;

The spouting should adequate fall to ensure water does not pond;

Debris diverters direct leaf litter and larger debris items out of the flow of the water;

A first flush diverter diverts the first most contaminated rain water from the tank;

The tank must be able to overflow;

The tank should be vented;

Insect screens on rainheads and vents prevent insects and vermin entering the tank;

A tank vacuum kit will help clean the tank by sucking the dirtier water from the
bottom of the tank when it is full to overflowing.
Components of a Rainwater Collection System

Debris diverters – these ensure leaves and other debris is kept out of your water tank.
They are fitted to your spouting or downpipe to screen or divert leaves. There are
many different sorts available.

First Flush Diverters – when it hasn’t rained for a while, your roof has been
collecting, dust, dirt and debris instead. First Flush Diverters are designed to direct the
first few minutes of rainfall into the stormwater system, and then switch the flow back
to your tank, by which time the roof has been rinsed off, and the water that goes into
your tank is much cleaner. The basic principle is simple: a smaller storage chamber
has a tiny hole and during the rain shower it fills up and the overflow heads to the
main tank. Once the rain stops, the water drains out of the diverter.

Filters – it is essential to filter your water supply to keep solid matter out of your
plumbing system and fittings. Further treatment may be desired to achieve a higher
quality water supply, this is dealt with in articles later on.

Mains Supply Back­up – if you have mains supply water to your property, it is
sensible to connect to it for the times when your own water supply is low. Or else you
can use the mains supply for certain places such as bathroom and kitchen. Some City
Councils insist you use their water for drinking if it is available.

Back Flow Preventers – if your water supply is a combination of rainwater and mains
supply water, the mains supply water must be protected from back flow of your
untreated water into it if their own supply is turned off for maintenance.

Pumps – pumps are needed if there isn’t sufficient fall from your tank to your outlet
taps. They can pump to a separate header tank or directly to the outlets.

Tanks – generally a household needs a 25,000 litre tank. Some have a second tank for
back­up, but with water conservation measures and occupant awareness this shouldn’t
be necessary. If you are on municipal supply water but want a tank for garden
watering, a 5,000 litre tank will assist but may run out. If you want to use the water
for toilet flushing then a 13,500 litre tank is better, but size may be an issue in the city.
The Types of Rainwater Systems
Choosing the most suitable components for a rain collection system depends whether it is
set up as a dry or wet system.

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PostSubject: part 3   Wed Apr 01, 2009 1:39 pm

Dry System – an overhead pipe from the spouting to the water tank is what
characterizes a dry system. Once the rain stops the water drains out of the pipes. This
is usually only suitable for smaller buildings with one or two pipes to the tank.

Wet System – this is characterised by underground pipes between the downpipes and
the water tank, which is aesthetically more pleasing. As long as the top of the tank is
lower than the spouting, the water will siphon from ground level up to the top of the
tank due to the pressure of the water behind it. The pipes are fitted so that when the
rain stops the pipes to the tank do not drain out and remain full of water until the next
shower. The pipes must be fitted with screens at each end to ensure that insects cannot
enter and breed in the system. A wet system needs to be fitted with a First Flush
Water Diverter at the tank, with a capacity equal to that of the pipes plus whatever
amount is to be diverted from the roof, as the water that has been sitting for a while
may have deteriorated in quality. To lessen the amount of water to be diverted at the
tank, a downpipe First Flush Water Diverter can be fitted on the building to take the
required first flush from the roof.

Hybrid System – This system is the best of both as it allows for buried pipes, but
means water does not sit around between showers. It only works if the ground is
slightly sloping. A first flush diverter is buried with the pipes and drains out to lower
ground. It lets the pipes fill up and the excess water siphons into the tank. When the
rain stops the pipes and diverter drain dry.
Marley have a comprehensive range of PVC components to create a rainwater collection
system. Contact: www.marley.co.nz or phone (0800) 627 539.
Davey Pumps supplies pumps as well as their “Rainbank”, which automatically switches
between rainwater and mains supply. This means you can use rainwater for certain uses,
and mains supply for others without any special plumbing. It has a built in backflow
preventer. Contact: www.daveynz.co.nz or phone (09) 914 3680.


No water can be regarded as totally “safe” these days and is best treated in some way. But
advertising and promotion of water treatment has pushed some people into a state of
hypochondria. If you are thinking of treating the water you drink or use in some form or
other, it is best to realise from the beginning the following things:

No system except distillation will create absolutely pure water;

Absolutely pure water is not what people need. Natural water has many inorganic
minerals essential for your body’s well being, as well as natural ionised energy;

With a good immune system, your body can cope with a certain level of contamination
provided it is not virulent pathogens, heavy metals or carcinogenic substances.
However, the very young, the very old, sick people and pregnant women do need to
take care.
Water treatment can be classified into four categories: filtration, purification, disinfection
and distillation. There are several other secondary water treatment systems, including hard
water conditioning, remineralisation, water energising and ionising.
Filtration – A filter is used to remove solid pollutants from the water such as sediment,
algae, rust, asbestos, and giardia. If it is fine enough (0.1 microns), a filter can also remove
bacteria and viruses, but the filters block up quickly with sediment.
Purification – A purifier is used to remove dissolved products in the water such as
chemicals, metals, heavy metals and minerals. Chemical contamination can be from
pesticides, acid rain and added chlorine. Aluminium sulphate is added to water as part of
the water treatment of municipal supply. Heavy metals can be picked up from ground
water. Natural minerals are beneficial and either should not be removed, or replaced.
Disinfection – Disinfecting water to kill pathogens such as bacteria and viruses can be done
safely with an ultra­violet light system or ozone treatment. This is really only essential if
you have an untreated water source. Municipal supplies are supposedly “bug” free,
although this is not always the case. Some city water supplies have much better water
ratings than others but this would not make disinfection a top priority for your water supply.
Distillation – A distiller heats the water until it forms steam then re­condenses it in another
container. This way all pathogens are killed, all contaminants are left behind, and all
volatile gases evaporated. The resultant water is pure, typically 99.5% ­99.9%.
Hardwater Conditioning – If your water supply is too hard, that is, has excessive mineral
content, there are conditioning systems available that do not soften the water, but rather
improves the physical condition of the water. It reduces the negative influence of minerals
without altering the chemical composition. It can be done either by electrical charging or
flow interference. The adhesive compounds surrounding the minerals are stripped, and they
are unable to stick to surfaces. This stops scale build­up in pipes, valves and boilers, stops
stains on bathroom fixtures, inhibits algae growth in tanks and pools, reduces tip burn on
plants and crops, and generally improves soil condition and plant growth. Contact:
Carefree Water Conditioners – contact Ecological Design Research Institute. Address: PO
Box 8232, Havelock North, Phone: (06) 877 4790.
Remineralisation – A regular supply of the basic inorganic minerals in their natural
proportions is essential to the function of the human immune system. Many people with
low immune systems change to filtered water and end up getting even fewer minerals than
before! Water is an ideal way to take in minerals so make sure you are getting as much as
you can. However, some countries and some parts of some countries are deficient in some

of the natural minerals. So no matter how much organic food you eat or home grown water
supply water you drink you still will not be getting what you need. So a remineralisation
treatment of your drinking water or a balanced mineral supplement will eventually bring
you back to good health. This can take quite a while though, so stick with it.

Water Energising – The “Living Water” technology to produce energised water was first
developed by an Austrian naturalist and inventor, Johann Grander, born in 1930. The
extraordinary health giving and cleansing powers of energised water have been known for a
long time, due to the work of Viktor Schauberger in the early 20
Century, but nobody has
been able to duplicate nature’s way of implanting the range of vibrational frequencies into
water to energise it like a mountain spring which bubbles up out of the ground and then
tumbles over rocks and waterfalls as it winds its way down a mountain stream. This water
is full of vitality, sparkling and fresh – it has energy.
Water loses its natural bio­energy through chemical treatment, pollution, and being forced
through straight channels rather than its natural regenerating figure­of­eight patterns. The
Grander Unit is a small stainless steel box that is hooked up to your water supply and passes
on electromagnetic frequencies at a homeopathic level to the water passing through it,
restoring its natural bio­energy.
Energised water is much easier for your body’s cells to absorb, increasing the uptake of
nutrients and the expulsion of waste. It rejuvenates the blood, acts as an anti­bacterial agent
and improves skin tissue. Not only do humans benefit, but plants and animals show marked
improvement, beneficial bacterial activity increases in effluent disposal, and less corrosion
occurs in pipework and water containers.

Water Ionising – Water ionisers separate the ions that make up the water and the minerals
in the water and separate the water into acid and alkaline. Acid water is good for using
outside the body, as well as for watering plants. (Rain water is acid.) Alkaline water is
good for taking internally. Both sorts help with the curing of diseases, the removal of
accumulated waste in the body and the general reversal of ageing. Harald Tietze has written
a book on the subject, called “pH Youthing – How to Reverse the Ageing Process and Cure
‘Age’ Related Diseases”, based on healing treatments from Russia and Czechoslovakia.
What to Look out for in a Water Treatment System

All systems should have a filter down to 1 micron;

Purification needs to be selective, that is, not remove naturally occurring minerals,
otherwise remineralisation needs to be part of the treatment for drinking water;

Disinfection is required for untreated water supplies;

Treatment generally should be as the water enters the house, so you can use bathroom
water to clean your teeth. Minerals and ionisation can be for specific use such as
drinking water or bathing;

Decide yourself which secondary treatment system suits your needs, if any!

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PostSubject: part 4   Wed Apr 01, 2009 1:39 pm


there are times when water is in short supply, and excessive use of water
overloads wastewater systems, so general water conservation practice is important. Also,
water service providers are starting to charge for actual water consumption so the less you
use the less you pay.
The following water saving tips are from the Metrowater Water Conservation Advisory
Service, and are guidelines for the average household.

Check your bathroom taps for leaks – dripping tap can waste a lot of water, up to
5,000 litres per month.

Don’t leave taps running unnecessarily. 10 litres of water a minute runs through your
taps when they’re turned on.
In the Bathroom

Turn off the tap when you are cleaning your teeth. Remember the old camping trick –
wet your brush, then use a rinsing glass.

Turn off the tap when you are shaving. Try filling a small container with water, or just
filling the bottom of the basin to rinse your razor.

The bath is a big water user. Try partially filling it, or leaving the water for the next

Showers are more economical than baths. You can save even more by having shorter
showers, limiting yourself to the time it takes to wash and rinse off.

Consider installing a water efficient shower­head (which restricts the flow to less than
10 litres per minute) or installing flow restrictors.

The toilet can use up to 11 litres per flush. Install a dual flush cistern if you don’t
already have one, or install a water saving device in your existing one.

Make sure your cistern is properly adjusted and not leaking into the toilet bowl. This
can be done by putting a few drops of food colouring in the cistern and checking to see
if it appears in the bowl after a period of non­use.
In the Kitchen

Use a plug in the sink when you wash vegetables.

Thaw frozen foods in advance rather than under running water.

Use your waste disposal unit sparingly, when it is full or when cleaning up at the end
of the meal.

Microwaving, steaming, or using a pressure cooker for your vegetables are water­
efficient options.

Keep a jug of drinking water in the fridge. Running taps to get to the cool water
wastes 10 litres per minute.

Some dishwashers are efficient, but typical ones use 125 litres of water per load. Wait
until you’ve got a full load before you run it.

When washing dishes by hand, rinse them in a sink of water rather than under a
running tap.

In the Laundry

Save your washing up until you have full load, or set the controls for a partial load if
you are doing less.

Front loading machines use half as much water as top loading machines (and less soap
powder and power as well).
Water Use
Cleaning teeth
5 litres
75 litres/5 minutes
Full bath
200 litres
Full flush toilet
11 litres
Half flush toilet
6 litres
Garden hose (on full)
250 litres/5 minutes
Dishwasher (single wash)
40 litres
Top Load Washing Machine (full load)
200 litres
Front load Washing Machine (full load)
100 litres
Dripping tap
260,000 litres per year


Keeping your garden alive over summer requires a lot of water, but there are ways of
planning, planting and maintaining your garden that use much less water. The following
water saving tips are from the Metrowater Water Conservation Advisory Service.
Water in bare soil evaporates quickly in the sun. Cover your soil with a good layer of mulch
(at least 10cm thick) to reduce evaporation by up to 75%. Add more mulch from time to
time as it breaks down.
Coarse mulch such as chunky bark chips, pine needles, fallen leaves, rocks and pebbles is
the best protective blanket for your soil and helps prevent water loss. Fine mulch such as
sawdust, compost, lawn clippings and fine bark chips can suck moisture out of the soil and
into the top layers of mulch where it is easily evaporated by the sun and wind. Keep the
mulch away from the base of plant stems to prevent collar rot.
Soil Structure
Plants grown in sandy soil need lots of water. Clay soil is exactly the opposite – often water
logged in winter and rock hard during dry summers.
The remedy for both soil problems is organic material. To improve the soil’s structure add
plenty of compost. Organic matter swells up with water, storing it for later release.
Eventually the sand will hold moisture better and clay soils will drain better in winter and
won’t dry out as much in summer. The deeper you dig in the compost, the better the soil
Water Efficient Planting
On a bright summer’s day a large sunflower can transpire 12 litres of water! Choose water
efficient plants when planting your garden to save on water and time spent watering.

Avoid plants with large, soft, dark green leaves as they usually need a lot of water.

Choose water efficient plants, characterized by grey or light coloured leaves or small,
tough or hairy leaves.

Some plant species such as succulents, agaves and bulbs are expert at storing water in
their leaves, stems or bulbous roots.

Choose plants grown in dry regions such as coastal New Zealand, Australia,
California, South Africa and the Mediterranean.

Plant large shrubs and trees that have deep root systems to access water from the
cooler sub­soil.

To make watering easier and more efficient, group the soft­leaved water lovers from
rainforests and cloud forests together. Keep the dry­tolerant and tough species in the
more exposed areas of the garden.

Lawns often demand a lot of water. There are dry­tolerant grass species, but they are
vigorous and apt to invade gardens. Redesign unwanted or unused sections of lawn
into paved areas or water efficient gardens.

Pots, Tubs and Barrels
Use the right container size, small containers are prone to drying out. Unglazed terracotta
pots dry out quickly, so either use glazed pots or treat unglazed ones with a moisture proof
seal on the inside.
Use a good quality potting mix (not soil) and add some pre soaked water crystals for
efficient moisture retention in the containers. Put mulch on top of the potting mix.
When containers have dried out give them a good dunking in a bucket of water, it can take
hours for the potting mix to re­saturate.
In summer place saucers under your pots and tubs so that excess water will be kept in touch
with the mix for a prolonged period of time. This allows a better, thorough wetting of the
potting mix after the plants have been watered. During wet winters turn the saucers upside
down for better drainage.
Plant Care, Preparation and Maintenance
The way we treat our soil and plants can contribute significantly to water conservation.

Plants with deep root systems can access moisture at deeper levels in the soil. Dig
deeply when planting and add plenty of compost. It’s best to deep dig in winter as the
summer sun dries soil out very quickly.

Get rid of weeds competing for moisture and replace them with your own composted

Prune back excessive foliage in spring to minimize transpiration. Don’t fertilise too
much (especially nitrogenous fertilisers) as this encourages new, soft, green growth
which increases transpiration.

Don’t pamper your plants by frequent watering. Let them struggle, make more roots
and search for moisture in the soil – this will make them more resilient and resistant to
drying out. The golden rule is to water less frequently but thoroughly.

Set your lawn mower a notch or two higher (5­10cm of grass is ideal). This prevents
scalping and subsequent excess evaporation of the lawn. Use less fertilizer and add
more organic matter such as with a mulch mower. Water the lawn just enough, so that
the grass roots go deeper.
Clever Watering
Remember it is the roots of the plant that need water, not the leaves and not the paths,
paving and driveways! Wet leaves encourage plant diseases and wet paths are a waste of
water, so make sure your watering devices are aimed or adjusted correctly.

Water in the early morning or evening when temperatures are lower to avoid water
loss through evaporation.

Avoid sprinkler systems with nozzles that deliver a fine droplet size or mist, as most of
the water will either evaporate before hitting the ground or drift away in the wind.

A perfectly aimed garden hose or watering can will deliver the precise amount of
water at the right spot, with no run­off. A soak hose system covered by mulch or a
dripper system are efficient “automatic” alternatives to hand watering, but use a tap
timer to combat “forgetfulness”.

Consider installing a water tank to collect rainwater for the garden. Water tanks
collect your roof run­off and keep your garden green for free. Water tanks also help
the environment by taking pressure off the city’s storm­water system.

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PostSubject: part 5   Wed Apr 01, 2009 1:44 pm

Smart Irrigation

Automatic watering or irrigation systems are prefect for the time efficient gardener. But
these systems need monitoring and adjusting on a regular basis to make them efficient all
year round.

Know your irrigation system well and plan exactly where the nozzles are going to be
situated. Dry patches in the garden are an indication you need an extra nozzle, don’t
over spray the garden to compensate.

Keep the system free of blockages, repair leaks immediately and maintain the nozzles.
Use nozzles with large droplet sizes to minimize spray­drift loss.

Automatic tap timers are clever gadgets, but they don’t know when it is raining
outside – avoid sprinkling during nature’s free watering sessions.

Lawns need a different watering regime and usually more water than properly
mulched garden beds, so separate the two areas in the automatic watering system.

Change the system’s settings from season to season depending on rainfall, to adjust to
your garden’s actual water requirements.

Regularly check the operating pressure of the system.

Some irrigation systems (especially soak hoses and pop­up sprinklers) need to be fitted
with a testable backflow device to prevent cross contamination with drinking water.


Advertising has made you believe that you need a different type of cleaner for every job that
needs to be done. We buy separate products for air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners,
scourers, glass cleaners, basin and bath cleaners, tile cleaners, mould removers, dishwasher
detergents, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, floor cleaners, polishes, disinfectants,
bleaches, carpet cleaners, oven cleaners, and drain cleaners. Then there is the list of
everything you need to keep your own body clean.
There is quite a range of natural cleaning products available, both for personal and
household cleaning which will help take the load off the environment. But you can go one
step further, especially if you are very sensitive, or are putting your waste water into a
sensitive environment. It can also save you money and unnecessary packaging.
A small selection of simple, natural ingredients can do most cleaning tasks quite
satisfactorily. These are white vinegar, baking soda, borax, washing soda, mineral oil, cake
soap, soap flakes, corn starch, cornmeal and herbs. Here’s a trip back to the basics:
General Cleaning
All purpose cleaner – mix 3 tbsp washing soda with 1 litre (4 cups) of warm water. Rinse
with clean water. Alternatively, mix a 50:50 solution of white vinegar and water. No need
to rinse.
Disinfectant – mix ½ cup borax with 1 litre (4 cups) of hot water.
Glass cleaner – mix a 50:50 solution of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Dry with
a rag. Finish by polishing with newspaper for extra sparkle and a non­fluff finish.
Air freshener – simmer vinegar or herb mixtures (especially rosemary) in water.
Dishwashing – Dissolve 1tsp – 1tbsp of washing soda in hot water. No bubbles!
Alternatively, use bar soap in a wire holder/shaker. For fishy dishes, add 1­2 tablespoons of
white vinegar as well. For very greasy dishes and stuck pans sprinkle with baking soda
directly onto the slightly dampened area and leave overnight if necessary. Soaking pans
overnight with salt and potato peelings works too. Use simple measures such as wiping
excess grease off with absorbent paper towels or used paper napkins, rinsing your dishes
first, washing the cleanest items first and renewing the dish water. Save on drain cleaning
by not washing food scraps or pouring fat down the drain.
Dishwashing powder – Mix 1 cup borax with ½ cup baking soda.
China cleaner – scrub cups and mugs with a little baking soda and a dampened cloth to
remove tea and coffee stains.
Brass and copper cleaner – use lemon juice or a slice of lemon sprinkled with baking soda.
Rub with a soft cloth, rinse with water and dry.
Silver cleaner – boil up your silver in an aluminium pot with ¼ cup of salt or baking soda
for a few minutes. Alternatively, use your sink with a sheet of aluminium foil on the bottom
and add boiling water. Wash silver afterwards.
Oven cleaner – Clean after a spill with a paste of baking soda and water. Alternatively mix
2 tbsp of dishwashing liquid and 1 tbsp borax in a spray bottle with warm water. Spray the
solution on and leave for 20 minutes. Use steel wool or a plastic scrubber for tough spots.
Have newspaper on the floor to catch the drips. It won’t work if your oven is really dirty,
but is fine for maintenance.

Scouring powders – Sprinkle baking soda, borax or washing soda on kitchen sinks, bench­
tops, etc (wherever you would normally use a scouring powder). Scrub with a damp cloth
or plastic mesh scrubber.
Fabric freshener – for items such as diapers, soak in ½ cup of borax or baking soda for at
least 2 hours and launder as usual.
Fabric softener – add ¼ cup white vinegar to the final rinse cycle.
Laundry detergent – use soap flakes (pre­dissolve in hot water for a cold wash) or a non­
phosphate laundry detergent. A natural laundry cleaner can be made to go much further
with 1/3 cup washing soda, (or ½ cup borax with the soap flakes), but you should
experiment to find out what suits your water best. For heavily soiled garments, use ½ cup
of baking soda instead. Be warned though, whilst washing and baking soda are effective
cleaners, they affect the ph of the water, and if you are using the water for watering the
garden, some plants such as tomatoes will not thrive.
Spot or stain remover – most stains can be removed with a paste of soap flakes and warm
water before laundering. Try also Sard’s Wondersoap. Bloodstains should be soaked in
cold water, coffee and tea stains in warm water and borax, grass stains rubbed with
glycerine, ink stains with milk (turpentine for stubborn ball point stains), and tar stains
rubbed with eucalyptus oil.
Air freshener – Fresh air can’t be beat, ventilate! Use scented flowers if you have space
for them, or a very small drop of essential oil on the toilet roll. Use a tooth pick to get a
small drop. Leave a potpourri mixture of herbs such as peppermint or cloves, or an open
basket of baking soda (out of the reach of children).
Basin, tub and tile cleaner – Sprinkle baking soda, borax or washing soda on basins, baths
and tiles, (wherever you would normally use a scouring powder). Scrub with a damp cloth
or plastic mesh scrubber.
Mould and mildew cleaner – moisten a cloth with vinegar. Use an old tooth brush to scrub
tile grout.
Toilet – Use the all purpose cleaner spray. Alternatively sprinkle with baking soda or borax.
Dampen and scrub with the toilet brush. Another option is to make a paste of lemon juice
and borax. Let stand for 2 hours, then scrub.
Shampoo – there are many natural shampoos available, and they are fine for most people.
The natural ones are often very concentrated so you only have to use them very sparingly,
with less for the second wash. A lemon squeezed into a final rinse in the basin is a good
conditioner. If you want to use soap, you either need to dissolve soap flakes or chips with
hot water to form a “gloop”, or lather it up on your facecloth and then put it on your hair.
This works really well with soft water, and is great for tramping (one less thing to carry). If
you are really brave, the longer you leave your hair between washes, the slower the oil
reappears and the less you need to wash your hair.
Soap – coconut soap is good, with a light, natural scent. Use it sparingly if you are reusing
the water for the garden, as soap is alkaline.
Heavy duty handwashing – mechanics wet their hands and then rub baking soda into the
grease, then finish off with soap and water. It can also be used for removing the sticky
mucous of slugs and snails. Baking soda crystallises if it gets damp and does not rub on so
well, so it is best to leave just a small amount in an open container in the laundry.

Drain Cleaning – for a blocked drain, start with mechanical means, such as a plunger or
mechanical snake. If using a plunger, block the overflow outlet of a basin/bath first and
plunge as the basin is emptying. Alternatively, pour ¼ cup of baking soda and ½ cup of
white vinegar down the drain and cover tightly for a minute with the plug or a rag. The
bubbling reaction should loosen the clog. Flush the drain with boiling water. If necessary
repeat the process.
Living Room
To determine if a carpet’s colour is affected by a wet solution, test any cleaner on an out of
the way patch. Never saturate a carpet with solution. Avoid rubbing as much as possible.
Carpet and rug cleaner – sprinkle cornstarch on dry carpets and rugs to absorb dirt and
grease. After 5 minutes, vacuum them thoroughly.
Carpet and rug deodorizer – sprinkle baking soda liberally on a dry carpet or rug. Leave
at least 15 minutes before vacuuming thoroughly.
Carpet and rug shampoo – mix ½ cup dishwashing liquid with 2 cups boiling water.
Leave to cool and whip into a jelly. Apply with a damp sponge or cloth to a small area and
dab gently. To rinse use a clean cloth with a solution of 1 cup white vinegar and 4 cups
water. Wipe dry with another cloth. Repeat if necessary.
Spills – clean spills immediately. Apply soda water with a damp sponge.
Stains – mix ¼ cup borax in 2 cups of water in a spray bottle. Spray on stain and wipe from
the carpet with a damp sponge. Alternatively use undiluted white vinegar or lemon juice.
Wooden floor polish – melt 2 tbsp paraffin wax in the top of a double boiler. Mix in 4 cups
of mineral oil, cool and store in a glass jar. Apply with a soft cloth, dry and polish.
Furniture polish – Use olive oil to polish wood that has not been varnished or painted.
Spread a little on the dry wood and dry with a clean cloth. For varnished or lacquered
wood, mix 2 tbsp olive oil with 1 tbsp white vinegar and 4 cups of water in a spray bottle.
Spray furniture lightly and dry with a clean cloth.
Upholstery cleaner – make a shampoo with 6 tbsp soap flakes, 2 cups of boiling water and
2 tbsp borax. Cool the mixture. Shake vigorously. Use only the suds. Apply with soft
brush or cloth in a circular motion on a small area. Wipe off with a damp cloth.
General Tips
Having it ready – Mix up small batches of ready to use cleaner so they are as convenient to
use as bought products. Label them clearly and make sure they are kept out of reach of
children. Have a handy dispensing tool with them.

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PostSubject: part 6   Wed Apr 01, 2009 1:47 pm


While most people
don’t actively tip things down stormwater drains any more, many contaminants get hosed
down, or those lying innocently around on the ground get washed down in the rain.
Pollutants include oil and petrol spills from cars, detergents, mud, fertilisers and herbicides,
food and milk wastes, and farm wastes. Biodegradable pollutants can be even more deadly
than waste chemicals, as they use up oxygen in the waterways as they biodegrade. Methods
of filtering, settling and breaking down pollutants are essential to ensure stormwater enters
the natural waterways as clean as possible. This can be done in various ways, including:

Creating artificial wetlands to capture and filter pollutants. This is the best solution
for residential buildings in a non­urban situation, but can be used in a suburban one
(see the article on Water Sensitive Urban Design);

Soils in a water collection area can be enhanced with additives such as coarse grained
gypsum and crushed limestone to increase their filtering capacity;

Alum (aluminium sulphate) can be added to water to attract suspended and dissolved
pollutants. This is generally expensive and highly mechanised, as well as involving
the addition of chemicals;

Water can be collected into a chamber that separates the water from the pollutants by
means of coarse filtering of larger rubbish, gravity separation (floating off oil and
sedimentation of smaller pollutants) or separation of pollutants from water by
centrifugal force. Due to expense, chambers are better for large catchment areas such
as in urban and suburban situations.
Soil Erosion
Stormwater can also cause havoc even when the ground the rain lands on is supposedly
permeable. Places can be deluged with water in a very short space of time,
and the ground soon cannot cope with the excess. If the soil is not bound by the roots of
shrubs and trees it can easily be washed away, and the rivers that the water ends up in are
brown and swollen with sediment. Soil erosion is a huge pollutant of our natural
waterways, if you have ever flown over the country after heavy rain you will know the great
plumes of muddy water fanning out from the rivers into the sea. Planting steep hillsides
and stream gullies and banks with permanent native vegetation will not only reduce soil
erosion, but reduce the water run­off that causes flooding. Keeping stock out of waterways
also helps prevent fouling and erosion of stream banks.
Sewage Spills
Another hazard with sudden downpours is when stormwater pipes are directed into the
sewage system. An overload of water causes the sewage treatment plants to flood and raw
sewage is swept out the outlets and into the sea. Councils are requiring the separation of the
two systems when older buildings are renovated, so the problem is gradually diminishing.
Green Roofs
Green roofs are becoming more popular as a way of controlling water run­off. A roof
planted with vegetation can absorb a fair amount of water and release it slowly, thus
avoiding overloading the stormwater systems in times of heavy rain.

Green roofs come in two main types, Low profile and high profile. Low­profile roofs
include a thin layer (50­150mm) of planting medium to support low­ground plant cover,
such as herbs, grasses and mosses. Ultra­lightweight versions (20­40 mm), support shallow­
growing plants such as sedums. High­profile roofs have much more soil (150mm plus) and
can support taller plants, shrubs and even small trees.
Green roofs are made up of the following basic components:

A waterproof membrane / root barrier;

An insulation layer (optional);

A drainage layer;

Soil growth medium;


A form of biodegradable wind blanket, e.g. jute, to place over the new plants while the
roots stabilise (optional).
General detail for a low­profile green roof from Waitakere City Council

Once we have made use of our water, whether by loading it up with chemical or solid waste,
or merely passing our toothbrush through the flow, it disappears down the drain never to be
thought of again. But at some stage someone has to have thought about where it goes, and
what is done to it when it gets there. With sustainable living, that thought has to have been
your own – you need to decide how the water is going to be treated (preferably in the most
environmentally friendly manner), whether any can be reused, and how it is dispersed back
into the ecosystem.
Wastewater is generally classified into two categories:

Blackwater, which is laden with sewage;

Greywater, which is free of faecal matter and urine, but can contain food particles,
grease, suspended solids and chemical compounds and residues.
Blackwater and greywater can be treated in different ways, although health authorities are
not convinced that greywater is totally free of urine and bacterial contamination. (After all,
children do pee in the bath.)
Blackwater Disposal
Blackwater contains high levels of bacteria, viruses and intestinal worm eggs as well as the
usual solids, nutrients and heavy metals. Releasing it straight into waterways can have a
devastating effect on the ecosystem. Natural sewage treatment on a large scale is a four­
stage process:

Initially wastewater is detained in a still, shallow digester pond to allow a pre­settling
of solids. Anaerobic decomposition also takes place, producing methane, which can be
utilised for running any machinery required further down the track;

Then the water is transferred to a facultative pond where algal and bacterial flora
(phytoplankton), aid the decomposition process. Zooplankton thrive on the algal food,
which turn supply food for fish and waterfowl;

A third pond is mechanically stirred to aid anaerobic decomposition;

A final settling, filtering and absorption of any last particles takes place in a rush bed
or sand filter before the water is trickled back into the ecosystem.
Smaller treatment systems may not have all these stages. The first stage of settling and
anaerobic decomposition is essential and may be done in a traditional septic tank. Then, a
simple spreading and filtering through a reed bed and/or sand and rubble and then into the
ground can be enough for the other processes to happen naturally. Aeration can be through
the use of flow forms, which allow the water to oxygenate by flowing through a series of
waterfall sculptures. An artificial wetland can accommodate stormwater as well as the final
stage of wastewater run­off.
Greywater Disposal
In the modern western world, we are used to using the highest quality drinking water for
absolutely everything. Where there is a need or a desire to help reduce water consumption,
water can be reused for tasks that require lower quality water, such as irrigation for non
edible plants, washing the car and flushing the toilet.
Separating wastewater into blackwater and greywater means that the greywater can be
reused for something else before it drains away. It also can be dispersed without treatment,

although in some cases treatment is desirable. However there are problems associated with
using greywater, which need to be overcome by a well designed system. The problems

The water from baths, showers and washing machines may contain pathogens.
If the water is distributed directly into the soil, the soil organisms quickly deal with
any pathogens. Mulches aid this decomposition. The water should not be sprayed or
sprinkled around. Preferably it should not used for edible plants, in particular root
crops that are eaten uncooked.

Kitchen water can contain high concentrations of food particles, grease and soap.
The kitchen sink can be plumbed into the blackwater system to prevent the more
highly contaminated water going into the greywater system.

Greywater quickly begins to decompose, creating odour and attract insects.
Greywater should be used as soon as possible, preferably without any storage.
However, if you do store it, it needs to be treated by settling, filtering and disinfection.

Soap and cleaning products make greywater alkaline, which affects plants.
Acid loving plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas and citrus particularly dislike
greywater. Seedlings and houseplants also cannot tolerate impurities. But generally
no plants or areas should be watered with greywater exclusively.

Excessive use of greywater can damage soil quality by a build up of sodium.
This can be counteracted by the addition of gypsum to the soil. Alternatively, special
soft soaps are available that contain no additives and are based on potassium salts
rather than sodium, which enhance rather than damage the soil.

Soapy water can damage bathroom fittings.
Soapy water has been known to eat away the enamel surface of a bath, if water is kept
in it for using for “something else”. Alternative storage is needed. Possibly a toilet
bowl could be similarly affected.
However, many greywater systems have been developed for places where rainfall is low. If
you live in an area of high rainfall, a rainwater storage system is infinitely preferable as a
source of “lower grade” water.

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PostSubject: part 7   Wed Apr 01, 2009 2:02 pm


Up to 30% of the average household water use is for flushing the toilet. If you are living in
a place where water conservation is essential, then a compost toilet will go a long way
towards reducing your water use. The following information is from the manufacturers of
the BIOLOO Composting Toilet:
The system of composting human waste has long been used by many countries in the world.
Today it has been refined into a science, and is being used by more and more people as a
cost effective, environmentally acceptable method of disposing or recycling of human
waste. Modern composting toilet systems are ideal for permanent or intermittent use in
dwellings where cost, soakage, conscience or regulations preclude the use of septic tanks or
long drops.
Advantages of Composting Toilets

Low initial and no on­going servicing costs;

No ground or water pollution;

No flushing water required;

No adverse smells;

Easy to install and maintain;

Totally natural, chemical free process.
Types of Composting
There are two types of composting – aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic composting occurs in
the presence of oxygen, anaerobic occurs in the absence of oxygen.
Aerobic decomposition is what is required for a composting toilet, as it is relatively rapid,
has minimal odours and higher internal temperatures than anaerobic decomposition.
Anaerobic composting releases hydrogen sulphide and other compounds that give off the
characteristic foul odours associated with long­drop toilets. They also work at much lower
temperatures that do not destroy pathogens or parasites in human wastes.
Composting Requirements
Composting is a form of biological decomposition that takes place in a controlled
environment, so that the decomposition is achieved in a relatively short time. The micro­
organisms that do the work require a relatively stable environment, and it is maintaining this
environment that is the key to a successful composting toilet. The four main requirements
for composting, and their functions in the composting process are listed below:
Oxygen – This is a basic requirement of all aerobic activity. This is provided in the
composting chamber by ventilation ducts that pass through the pile. It is important that
sufficient bulky material (eg straw) and worms are added to stop the pile compacting and
becoming airtight.
Carbon – This provides the energy source for the micro­organisms. It can be in the form of
dry fibrous plant material such as leaves, hay, straw, food scraps and sawdust. Short lengths
of material about 25mm long are best.
Nitrogen – This provides the protein source for the micro­organisms. They need it to break
down the carbon for food. The nitrogen content of human waste is very high and is
considered the activator in the process.

The rate of decomposition is relative to the carbon/nitrogen ratio in the pile and is most
effective at 30:1 but some leeway is acceptable. If however the ratio falls below 25:1 then
the excess nitrogen is converted to ammonia and foul odours occur.
Moisture – Moisture is needed for other processes to work. Too little slows decomposition,
too much forces out air and thus oxygen. The optimum moisture content is about 50%. A
sloping floor to the chamber as well as ventilation ensures that the pile does not become
waterlogged. It is important that no additional moisture other than urine enters the system.
The flue condensation trap should ensure that condensed water does not return to the

There are many books and manuals available for those who want to design and build their
own composting system. However, that is not everyone’s dream, and fortunately there are
now several tried and tested ready­made products available to choose from. They are all
based on slightly different formats, so you need to choose which suits your situation – your
budget, how much the unit will be used, your space requirements, your local council
regulations and your eagerness to be “involved” in the composting process.
Bioloo Composting Toilet
The BIOLOO operates on the same basic principles as the garden compost pile, the
container shape with its large air flow and contents provides an environment that with the
correct management will allow for the decomposition of human waste into an
environmentally safe product. The system uses the method of aerobic decomposition,
which doesn’t produce hydrogen sulphide, methane and other compounds that produce
smells usually associated with long­drop toilets and septic tanks. The addition of household
organic waste and other organic refuse such as grass clippings, weeds etc, is also desirable
to maintain the correct carbon/nitrogen ratio. The system is completely sealed to prevent
leakage into the surrounding soil/groundwater, and requires no water for flushing. As no
pollutants leave the system resource consents are not normally required. Bulk is reduced to
approximately 10% of its initial volume and with the introduction of worms the bulk is
further reduced to highly fertile worm castings. The system does however require the
operator to be sensitive to what is happening, as it is a living, dynamic process.
These types of systems have been in use world­wide for the last fifty years and we have
toilets locally that are now in their tenth summer, and when maintained properly have been
proven to operate successfully. The Department of Conservation uses BIOLOO composting
toilets as do various District and Regional Councils. They are also in use by many
individuals for their permanent dwellings as well as for holiday homes. Systems are also
installed in camping grounds, cafes, Marae, boats, bush huts and roadside rest areas.
Installation is very simple and can be completed on any type of surface or slope. The
system is usually installed on flat ground and requires a hole to be dug to accommodate the
chamber. This hole has to be lined in some way, as access to the bottom inspection hatch is
required so that periodic checks can be carried out to ensure the moisture content of the pile
is correct, to enable air to circulate properly and to remove composted matter. The system
can also be installed on sloping ground as the floor of the chamber slopes at 40 degrees
when in its proper upright position. A fitted cover for covers the inspection hole.
The composted material will be required to be removed annually after the first four or five
years in the large system and after two years in the smaller system. The finished material
has a smell and appearance of coarse, damp soil and vermicast. As the systems are a
continuous process and only completed composted material reaches the bottom chamber
you do not see or have to deal with fresh material as in other systems. Urine is not
separated but leaves as water vapour up the flue.

The Toatrone is based on the Clivus Multrum system, the original composting toilet. It uses
no water, and the leak proof polyethylene container is easy to install on flat ground in a
space below the floor approximately 1.3m high. For best efficiency the bin and top pipe
should be insulated. There is a flue which requires an electric fan. A spinning cowl can be
used but is better for situations when the system is not being used full time.
It has a specially designed toilet pan with a urine separator and works on the principle that
by separating the urine from the solids the composting becomes more efficient. The urine is
drained off to a grey water system and can be treated by an ultra violet purifier. Carbon rich
material should be added, such as a handful of leaves, hay, straw or sawdust. This is a good
replacement for the “flushing” process. A normal household would remove compost waste
once a year.

Kakapo Composting Toilet
The Kakapo composting toilet consists of a rotating drum inside a semi sealed chamber
designed to achieve maximum decomposition speed by creating the most desirable
composting environment. It is not intended that full composting will necessarily occur
within the toilet but rather a reducing of the contents to a more ‘user friendly’ state. The
partially decomposed material is placed in a separate compost bin where full thermophilic
action is better achieved thus ensuring a pathogen free, high nutrient end product.
The toilet is used just like any other toilet with two exceptions. After making a solid deposit
a handful or two of a high carbon bulking material (such as sawdust or shavings) is

sprinkled into the toilet. This material serves the purpose of keeping the compost aerated
and friable and also to maintain a favourable carbon to nitrogen ratio required for good
composting. Every four or five days, depending on the rate of use, the drum is rotated three
or four times using the crank handle provided. When the receiving container is full, it is
simply removed from the toilet and the contents emptied into the compost bin and covered
with straw or other organic matter which will provide adequate cover while maintaining
airspaces within the pile. The frequency of this task is directly proportional to the rate of
use. As an indication, during busy times at the Mussel Inn once a fortnight seems to be
usual. In a household of 5 people, with continuous use, this may be extended to several
months. After a year has passed, a new compost bin is started. At the end of the second
year, the compost in the first bin may safely be applied to any garden – vegetable or
ornamental – or to a tree crop.
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