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Public handwashing station in downtown area that sends the gray water to a plant demonstration garden.



Handwashing is  an important practice to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, yet public handwashing stations separate from restrooms is not commonly available in the United States.  Given the need to practice good hand hygeine as well as social distancing in the coming months, as well as provide places for people to eat, exercise, and socialize in outdoor spaces, public  handwashing stations could provide a valuable community health benefit.  To maximize the use of water used in the public handwashing stations and educate the public about safe uses of greywater, public handwashing stations could be installed in parks and other gathering places with the graywater running into beds or containers of ornamental plants that are pollinator friendly.  It is important that the public handwashing stations include safety features, like pedal/knee operated faucets, that are also ADA compliant and that they be aesthetically attractive to generate interest, public support, and tie in to local placemaking efforts,  i.e., no ugly cheap plastic sinks.   

Who will take these actions?

I envision a pilot of this project to take place in Mountain View, California.  This small city on the peninsula of the Bay Area has an active downtown area adjacent to a bus/train transportation hub.  A weekly farmers' market is held on the parking lot that shares space with the transportation hub.  The need for a public handwashing station is currently being met with a portable handwashing station.   However, it is not permanent and the water is not recycled on site.  Piloting a more robust, attractive  public handwashing station connected to a greywater garden site would provide the needed hand hygiene opportunity for people in the downtown area planning to get take-out foods from downtown restaurants and the weekly market, as well as people taking the bus or train.  

The stakeholders involved must include the Mountain View City Council, City of Mountain View Water department, and the relevant downtown business associations.  It would be ideal to have participants from Save the Bay, Greywater Action, and the California Native Plant Society.  Ideally a graduate student from the Environmental Engineering program at San Jose State University would be recruited to consult/advise the project.  

What are the projected costs?

Costs would include:


One Wash Cube Portable Sink @ 4,000.00 including shipping and tax and batteries  

While not a custom or permanent design, this would fill the need for a pilot project in terms of affordability and functionality.  The unit can hold up to 15 gallons at a time. 


15 gallons of water a day for 90 days.  The city rate for commercial water is 7.01 per ccf, which is 748 gallons.  Estimating 2 units for 90 days would provide daily use of 15 gallons plus additional refills when needed at a cost $14.02.



Greywater conversion equipment and filtration:


Garden Beds

15 gallons a day is a lot of water to put into a garden bed.  There may be a need to add garden beds depending on the amount of usage of the portable sink. 

4’x12’x2’ Long Rectangle Raised Garden Bed Kit from Durable GreenBed 


Plants and garden maintenance 


Documentation and Promotional materials, including signage. 

Collecting Public Feedback and reporting on final project 



About the author(s)

Rebecca Kohn is a resident of Mountain View.  She is a public librarian and loves projects that support community health and collaboration.  

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