IATE Term of the Week: Greywater

March 24, 2017 12:24 pm

This week we decided to dedicate the IATE Term of the Week to the World Water Day, which occurs every year on the 22 of March, in order to raise awareness about the water crisis. For the 2017 World Water Day, the theme is wastewater and as a result we decided to “dig into” wastewater terminology so to find the term for this week. Thus, we selected to present you the term greywater (spelled alternately as grey water or gray water), which according to EcoDictionary is the recycling of ‘waste’ water that is generated in homes and commercial buildings through the use of water for laundry, dishes, or for bathing.


At that point, it should be useful to state that there are different water colours that indicate water’s footprint on our planet. For example, there is a great difference between greywater and blackwater, which is not ​virtual waterbut ​sewage water ​flushed in the ​toilets. According to the The Water Network,this type of water was in ​contact with ​faecal matter ​containing ​harmful ​bacteria and ​disease-​causing ​pathogens. Contrary to greywater, which can be used for a variety of purposes such as irrigation or toilet flushing, blackwater ​cannot be ​reused without ​risking ​contamination ​since the waste ​doesn’t ​decompose fats ​enough. ​

Despite though its footprint colour, wastewater nowadays consists an essential form of safe water reuse and it is one of the Sustainable Development Goals in United Nations Development ProgrammeThe Goal Targets of this Programme by 2030 are based on present’s facts and figures. Specifically for water, the following is the brief list of facts provided by the UNDP:

  • Less than 3 per cent of the world’s water is fresh (drinkable), of which 2.5 per cent is frozen in the Antarctica, Arctic and glaciers. Humanity must therefore rely on 0.5 per cent for all of man’s ecosystem’s and fresh water needs;
  • Man is polluting water faster than nature can recycle and purify water in rivers and lakes;
  • More than 1 billion people still do not have access to fresh water;
  • Excessive use of water contributes to the global water stress;
  • Water is free from nature but the infrastructure needed to deliver it is expensive.

As a result, the most valuable treasure of Earth, water, should not be taken for granted and it is essential to raise awareness among consumers for the environmental and economic benefits of wastewater reusal. Making people more receptive towards water recycling will be the first big step for this initiative to go further forward.

In IATE,  the term greywater is defined as water from sinks and baths that may be reused for watering, landscaping and other domestic purposes, before it reaches the sewer (or septic tank system). The following screenshot shows greywater entry in IATE:




Contribute to IATE! Update this term in your language. A terminologist for the respective language will revise your answer and decide whether to validate them. Given the implications of the process, a delay is to be expected.


Check out our list of previous IATE Terms of the Week related to ecological issues:

Written by  Katerina PalamiotiTranslator, Social Media and Content Manager, Communication Trainee and Foodie at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament and Olga Smirnova,  a Study Visitor at Terminology and Coordination Unit.


  • World Water Day (2017) “What is water day?”, World Water Day website. Available at http://www.worldwaterday.org/ (Accessed: 23 March, 2017)
  • United Nations Development Programme (2017) “Sustainable Development Goals”. Available at http://bit.ly/2nFojaw (Accessed: 23 March, 2017)
  • UN-Water Organisation (2017) “New UN-Water report looks as wastewater as resource and not waste”. Available at http://www.unwater.org (Accessed: 24 March, 2017)
  • Water Footprint Network (2017) “Glossary”. Available at: http://waterfootprint.org (Accessed: 24 March, 2017)





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