Metred systems and rainwater collection could save you money

January 31, 2013 at 11:15 am

If you are planning to stay in your property long-term, installing a rainwater harvesting system along with switching to a metered supply could save you money, not to mention impact the environment positively.

The amount of rainwater that you can collect depends on the size of your property, the roof size and shape, and of course the weather. Nevertheless, an average UK house is estimated to be able to collect 100 cubic mls per annum, enough to make a dent in those bills, even when offset against the cost of installation.

The means of collection and use can vary from an extremely simple water-butt on your roof to a complex, professionally installed system including underground tanks and (if you wish to drink it) a UV filter.

Untreated rainwater can be used for a variety of household needs, for example washing the car, clothes, flushing toilets and watering the garden.

The wider environmental benefits of rainwater harvesting include the fact that it doesn’t need to be treated beforehand like drinking water and so saves on energy intensive chemical treatments and distribution processes. Actually over 80% of an average household’s water needs can be met with untreated rainwater harvesting and it is superior to mains water in several cases. For example plants prefer it as rainwater contains no chlorine, domestic appliances benefit from the lack of limescale and as rainwater is soft, less detergent is required to wash clothes.

There is evidence that harvesting rainwater could help to save Britain’s wetlands, currently suffering from over-extraction by water companies and reduce run-off during torrential downpours that led to the type of flooding we saw in 2012.

All in, the reasons to harvest rainwater are manifold and saving money for yourself is just the first.

Finally, how do you switch to a metered supply? Simple, if you are not on a metered supply already, then your water provider is obliged by law to install one which seems an excellent reason to make this a priority in 2013.

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Domestic water recycling ideas

January 25, 2013 at 11:14 am

Even though most of the earth’s surface is covered in water, only one percent of this is freshwater. With the UK among those countries now facing alternate dry and wet spells, more and more people are looking at ways to conserve the most precious and arguably the most wasted of natural resources, water.

In terms of recycling water within the home, the watchword of the moment is grey water. This refers to mains water that is no longer suitable for drinking, due to the fact that it has been contaminated by prior use. It is far from useless, however, and can be recycled easily. Water from bathroom sinks, showers and baths all counts as grey water. Depending on the type of detergents and washing up liquids you use, water from the washing machine and the kitchen sink may also be recycled but you must avoid products containing harmful chemicals such as boron.

Perhaps the simplest form of water recycling is the extension of gutters coming from the roof in order to water the garden. Alternatively you could divert that water into a barrel and attach a hose to it. Chlorine free, it’s even better than mains water for the garden.

The next stage in water recycling requires a bit of plumbing. There are now commercially available units that take water from bathroom sinks, bath and shower and divert it to the toilet cistern ready for flushing. More advanced systems collect all grey water in a separate tank and re-route it as required; you can even install a UV filter to render harvested rain water fit for drinking.

However, before we get into septic tanks, sand filtration systems and rainwater harvesting we need to change our attitude to water, all too often seen as a free and endless resource. Once we do that then we can put into play all kinds of simple ideas to conserve and recycle water. For example, wash your vegetables in a basin then pour that onto the plants, do the same with water from cleaning a fish tank. If you have been boiling vegetables, then the nutrients and flavour make for a great stock. Stack your plants so that the excess run-off from one goes to feed another. These are all simple and ingenious ideas that add up to a healthier environment, and bank account too.

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2012 was UK’s second wettest in recorded history

January 21, 2013 at 11:12 am

2012 turned out to be the UK’s second wettest year in recorded history and statistics are pointing to a continuation of this kind of excessive rainfall. The top 5 wettest years since recording began (1910) have all occurred since the turn of the century. It’s not just the UK that’s affected either; 2012 saw severe flooding in Thailand, India and China.

Ironically the wettest April in recorded history came hot on the heels of one of the driest March periods which had prompted hosepipe bans in the south east due to low groundwater levels. At the beginning of 2012 everybody was talking about water shortages, at the beginning of 2013 farmers are operating in flooded areas and the picture has essentially reversed. The situation it seems, swings from drought to flood with alarming rapidity; this is a new situation for the UK and one it is going to have to take steps to manage.

Those most affected by the unpredictable weather are of course Britain’s farmers who struggled last year to make use of inundated fields. Their woes continue into 2013 as they face exacerbated feed prices due to these same shortages. The financial cost to the agricultural industry is estimated to be over one billion pounds. Consumers obviously feel their pain through an increase in prices, scarcity of certain items and a drop in quality. Passenger train routes were also severely affected in the south west with many services completely suspended at peak time, right before Christmas.

Both independent experts and the Government state that UK water needs to be managed more effectively. As we are now facing both an excess and a lack of water due to unpredictable weather patterns solutions lie in more effective storage and drainage. We can expect to see widespread investment in such things as reservoirs, sophisticated urban drainage and domestic water harvesting in the home.

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