If you haven’t heard of Shreya Ramachandran, now is the time to get to know her. This young lady is likely to have a bright future when it comes to using water wisely and responsibly.
Shreya, who is Asian American and now lives in California, was in California’s Central Valley during its historic drought a few years ago. This was one of the worst and most prolonged droughts in the state’s history, and it was devastating for farmers.
The drought reminded her of similar conditions in India. Her grandparents told her they met with a former farmer that recently lost his farm as a result of an unforgiving drought in India.
Though only 11 years old, Shreya decided to see whether there was anything she could do to help the farmers not only in Central Valley but also back home in India. After extensive online research, she found that most of the water used in homes in the United States and India, such as the water used in washing machines and dishwashers, was discharged into sewers where it may not be treated and reused. She wanted to see whether this water, called graywater or greywater, could be redirected and reused for irrigation purposes.
However, she soon stumbled upon a significant obstacle. Most laundry detergents used in both countries, as well as many dishwasher detergents, contain chemicals that make the used water unsuitable for reuse. To address this situation, she combined several natural, safe, and nontoxic ingredients made from nuts and berries, which are used in India to make shampoo. Through various experiments, she found that by using just the right amounts of this mixture, the shampoo was perfect for washing clothes and dishes. Plus, it could be safely reused for irrigation purposes.
Her next step was to conduct another experiment. Her family started to use her shampoo concoction on their clothes and dishes. She then drilled a hole in the side of her parents’ house, allowing the graywater from those machines to be channeled and used to irrigate the plants and trees in her backyard.
It worked and worked well. Similar systems were built for Shreya’s friends and neighbors. In fact, it was the beginning of what is now called the Grey Water Project.
Today, a sophomore in high school, Shreya lectures at libraries and gives presentations on how to recycle and reuse water for daily purposes. Her teachers have even gotten behind the project. She is working with her school to develop a curriculum so that they can teach the topic and build further interest in water conservation and efficiency. “I learned about recycling when in elementary school, and it just became second nature,” she says. “I want that to happen with graywater.”