Skip to main content


Log in

Characteristics and treatment of greywater—a review

  • Review Article
  • Published:
Environmental Science and Pollution Research Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Safe and sufficient quantity of water is necessary for a healthy growth of human beings. The gap between water demand and available water supply is increasing day by day. Proper sanitation, especially decentralized approach, can solve the problem of water supply and wastewater management and that can be done by reuse of greywater. Typically, from a household, greywater (GW) flow is around 65 % of the total wastewater flow. Further light greywater is around 50 % of the total GW. Hence, GW has a high potential for recycle and reuse. The aim of this article is to reveal the present state of art in GW treatment and to identify the further scope for research. Present article contains a review on per capita GW generation, GW characteristics, and its treatment. Around 22 treatment systems comprising different treatment processes are discussed in detail for removal efficiency of pollutants, effluent concentrations and their compliance with wastewater reuse guidelines and standards. Constructed wetland and filtration were found efficient in the removal of most of the reuse parameters compared to other technologies. Anaerobic followed by aerobic system with post-disinfection unit may be a sustainable option for GW treatment for reuse. There is a need to develop the technologies for GW treatment at household level to increase the reuse practises at grass root level. Further, there is need of development of flow diagram with different technologies by targeting the type of reuse (flushing, gardening, agriculture, etc.).

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Similar content being viewed by others



Biochemical oxygen demand (5 day)


Black water


Chemical oxygen demand


Combined greywater

E. coli :

Escherichia coli




Greywater treatment plant


High-income country


Hydraulic retention time


Low-income country




Methylene blue active substance


Quantity of greywater flow


Total dissolved solids




Treatment plant


Total solids


Total suspended solids




Wastewater treatment plant


  • Abu Ashour J, Jamrah A (2008) Survival of bacteria in soil subsequent to greywater application. Int J Environ Stud 65:51–56

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Abu Ghunmi L, Zeeman G, Fayyad M, van Lier JB (2011) Grey water biodegradability. Biodegradation 22:163–174

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Al-Hamaiedeh H, Bino M (2010) Effect of treated grey water reuse in irrigation on soil and plants. Desalination 256:115–119

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Al-Mughalles MH, Rahman RA, Suja FB, Mahmud M, Jalil NA (2012) Household greywater quantity and quality in Sana’a, Yemen. EJGE 17:1025–1034

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Arceivala SJ, Asolekar SR (2007) Wastewater treatment for pollution control and reuse. Tata McGraw Hill Education Private Limited, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Australian Capital Territory (2007) Greywater use, guidelines for residential properties in Canberra. Accessed 19 October 2012

  • Birks R, Hills S (2007) Characterisation of indicator organisms and pathogens. Environ Monit Assess 129:61–69

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Carden K, Armitage N, Winter K, Sichone O, Rivett U (2008) The management of greywater in the non-severed areas of South Africa. Urban Water J 5(4):329–343

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Central Pollution Control Board (2012) The Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, Schedule-VI. Accessed 22 September 2012

  • Dalahmeh SS, Pell M, Hylander LD, Oborn I, Jonsson H (2012) Efficiency of bark, activated charcoal, foam and sand filters in reducing pollutants from greywater. Water Air Soil Pollut. doi:doi:10.1007/s11270-012-1139-z

  • Elmitwalli TA (2000). Anaerobic treatment of domestic sewage at low temperature. Ph.D. Thesis, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands.*. Accessed 13 August 2012

  • Environment Agency (2008) International comparisons of domestic per capita consumption. Accessed 6 August 2008

  • Finley S, Barrington S, Lyew D (2009) Reuse of domestic greywater for the irrigation of food crops. Water Air Soil Pollut 199:235–245

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2012) Coping with water scarcity, an action framework for agriculture and food security. Accessed 23 September 2012

  • Friedler E (2004) Quality of individual domestic greywater streams and its implication for on-site treatment and reuse possibilities. Environ Technol 25:997–1008

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Friedler E, Alfiya Y (2010) Physicochemical treatment of office and public buildings greywater. Water Sci Technol 62(10):2357-63. doi: 10.2166/wst.2010.499

    Google Scholar 

  • Friedler E, Hadari M (2006) Economic feasibility of on-site greywater reuse in mufti-storey buildings. Desalination 190:221–234

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gross A (2008) Reliability of small scale greywater treatment systems and the impact of its effluent on soil properties. Int J Environ Stud 65(1):41–50

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gross A, Shmueli O, Ronen Z, Raveh E (2007a) Recycled vertical flow constructed wetland (RVFCW)-a novel method of recycling greywater for irrigation in small communities and households. Chemosphere 66:916–923

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gross A, Kaplan D, Baker K (2007b) Removal of chemical and microbiological contaminant from domestic greywater using a recycled vertical flow bioreactor (RVFB). Ecol Eng 31:107–114

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Halalsheh M, Dalahmeh S, Sayed M, Suleiman W, Shareef M, Manssor M, Safi M (2008) Grey water characteristics and treatment options for rural areas in Jordan. Bioresour Technol 99:6635–6664

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Harikumar PS, Bindhya MK (2012). A Synoptic Study on the preparation of a liquid waste management plan for Kerala State, India. Environ Nat Resour Res 2(2)

  • Hawaii State Department of Health (2009) Guidelines for the reuse of graywater. Accessed 28 September 2012

  • Hernandez Leal L, Temmink H, Zeeman G, Buisman CJN (2010) Comparison of three systems for biological greywater treatment. Water 2:155–169

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hernandez Leal L, Temmink H, Zeeman G, Buisman CJN (2011) Characterization and anaerobic biodegradability of grey water. Desalination 270:111–115

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hocaoglu SM, Orhon D (2010) Fate of soluble residual organics in membrane bioreactor. J Membr Sci 364:65–74

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hu M, Zhang T, Stansbury J, Dahab M, Shi J, Neal J, Alahmad M, Berryman C, Li H, Schwer A, Shen Z (2011) Treatment of greywater with shredded-tire biofilters and membrane bioreactors. World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2011: bearing knowledge for sustainability. ASCE 1877–1887

  • Huelgas A, Funamizu N (2010) Flat-plate submerged membrane bioreactor for the treatment of higher-load graywater. Desalination 250:162–166

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • International Water Association (2012) Country classification. Accessed 13 September 2012

  • Jamrah A, Al-Futaisi A, Prathapar S, Al Harrasi A (2008) Evaluating greywater reuse potential for sustainable water resources management in Oman. Environ Monit Assess 137:317–327

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jamrah A, Al Omari A, Al Qasem L, Abdel Ghani N (2011) Assessment of availability and characteristics of greywater in Amman. Water Int 31(2):210–220

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jefferson B, Palmer A, Jeffery P, Stuez R, Judd S (2004) Grey water characterisation and its impact on the selection. Water Sci Technol 50(2):157–164

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Jokerst A, Sharvelle SE, Hollowed ME, Roesner LA (2011) Seasonal performance of an outdoor constructed wetland for graywater treatment in a temperate climate. Water Environ Res 83:2187–2198

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Jong J, Lee J, Kim J, Hyun K, Hwang T, Park J, Choung Y (2010) The study of pathogenic microbial communities in graywater using membrane bioreactor. Desalination 250:568–572

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kariuki FW, Kotut K, Nganga VG (2011) The Potential of a low cost technology for the greywater treatment. Open Environ Eng J 4:32–39

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kotut K, Nganaga VG, Kariuki FW (2011) Physico-chemical and microbial quality of greywater from various households in Homa Bay Town. Open Environ Eng J 4:162–169

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Krishnan V, Ahmad D, Jeru JB (2008) Influence of COD:N:P ratio on dark greywater treatment using a sequencing batch. J Chem Technol Biotechnol 83:756–762

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lamine M, Bousselmi L, Ghrabi A (2007) Biological treatment of grey water using sequencing batch reactor. Desalination 215:127–132

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lin C, Lo S, Kuo C, Wu C (2005) Pilot-Scale Electrocoagulation with bipolar aluminum electrodes for on-site domestic greywater. J Environ 131(3)

  • Main JS, Ingavale BC (2012) Sequencing batch reactor for greywater treatment. EXCEL Int J Multidiscip Manag Stud 2

  • March JG, Gual M (2007) Breakpoint chlorination curves of greywater. Water Environ Res 79:828–832

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • March JG, Gual M, Orozco F (2004) Experiences on greywater re-use for toilet flushing in a hotel. Desalination 164:241–247

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Masi F, El Hamouri B, Abdel Shafi H, Baban A, Ghrabi A, Regelsberger M (2010) Treatment of segregated black/grey domestic wastewater using constructed wetlands in the Mediterranean basin: the zer0-m experience. Water Sci Technol 61(1):97–105. doi: 10.2166/wst.2010.780

    Google Scholar 

  • Merz C, Scheumann R, El Hamouri B, Kraume M (2007) Membrane bioreactor technology for the treatment of greywater from a sports and leisure club. Desalination 215:37–43

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Metcalf & Eddy, Inc (2003) Wastewater engineering-treatment and reuse. Tata McGraw Hill Education Private Limited, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Morel A (2005) Greywater treatment on household level in developing countries- a state of the art review. 13 December 2012

  • Morel A, Diener S (2006) Greywater management in low and middle-income countries, review of different treatment systems for households or neighbourhoods. Eawag, Dübendorf, ISBN: 3-906484-37-8

    Google Scholar 

  • National Environmental Engineering Research Institute and United Nations Children’s Fund (2007) Greywater reuse in rural schools. Guidance manual. Accessed 28 September 2012

  • Nehru Kumar V, Enayathali SS (2012) Performance of rotating biological contactor for treating segregated grey water for reuse. Int J Recent Technol Eng 1:40–41

    Google Scholar 

  • New South Wales (2000) Greywater reuse in sewered single domestic premises. Accessed 12 August 2012

  • Noah M (2002) Greywater use still a gray area. J Environ Health 64(10):22–25

    Google Scholar 

  • Parjane SB, Sane MG (2011) Performance of grey water treatment plant by economical way for Indian rural development. Int J Chem Tech Res 3(4):1808–1815

    Google Scholar 

  • Pathan AA, Mahar RB, Ansari K (2011) Preliminary study of greywater treatment through rotating biological contactor. Mehran Univ Res J Eng Technol 30:531–538

    Google Scholar 

  • Perth Grey Water (2008) Perth greywater. Accessed 27 September 2012

  • Pidou M, Avery L, Stephenson T, Jeffery P, Parsons SA, Liu S, Memon FA, Jefferson B (2008) Chemical solutions for greywater recycling. Chemosphere 71:147–155

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Prathapar SA (2006) Design, construction and evaluation of an ablution water treatment unit in Oman, a case study. Int J Environ Stud 63(3):283–292

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Prathapar SA, Jamrah A, Ahmed M, Al Adawi S, Al Sidari S, Al Harassi A (2005) Overcoming constraints in treated greywater reuse in Oman. Desalination 186:177–186

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Prillwitz M, Farwell L (1995) Graywater guide. Accessed 12 August 2012

  • Queensland Government (2008) Greywater guidelines for councils. A guide to the use of greywater in Queensland. Accessed 29 September 2012

  • Ramon G, Green M, Semiet R, Dosoretz C (2004) Low strength graywater characterization and treatment. Desalination 170:241–250

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Sall O, Takahashi Y (2006) Physical, chemical and biological characteristics of stored greywater from unsewered suburban Dakar in Senegal. Urban Water J 3(3):153–164

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Travis MJ, Wiel-Shafran A, Weisbrod N, Adar E, Gross A (2010) Greywater reuse for irrigation—effect on soil properties. Sci Total Environ 408:2501–2508

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • United Nations (UN) (2012) The global water crisis. Accessed 23 September 2012

  • United Nations Environment Programme (2005) Water and wastewater reuse. /wastewater_reuse /Booklet-Wastewater_Reuse.pdf. Accessed 29 September 2012

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency (2000) Constructed wetlands treatment of municipal wastewaters. Accessed 12 September 2012

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency (2004) Guidelines for water reuse. Accessed 15 august 2012

  • Washington State Department of Health (2009) Reuse of greywater outside the building for subsurface dispersal and irrigation. Accessed 19 September 2012

  • Weitaoa H, Yagi W, Jian Y, Xu Z (2011) The inherent biodegradability characteristics of light greywater for the different bathe products. Energy Procedia 11:3122–3128

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • World Health Organization (2006) WHO Guidelines for the safe use of wastewater, excreta and greywater. Volume 4, excreta and greywater use in agriculture. Accessed 28 September 2012

  • Zuma BM, Tandlich R, Whittington-Jones KJ, Burgess JE (2009) Mulch tower treatment system. Part I: overall performance in greywater treatment. Desalination 242:38–56

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors thank Dr. M. Mansoor Ahammed for his technical guidance and Ramchandra Joshi for his language support in this paper.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dilip M. Ghaitidak.

Additional information

Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ghaitidak, D.M., Yadav, K.D. Characteristics and treatment of greywater—a review. Environ Sci Pollut Res 20, 2795–2809 (2013).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: