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Rainwater offers potential savings for homeowners

The UK consistently faces annual water shortages caused by the increased demand on supplies and changes in our climate.

Sporadic long dry spells throughout the year cause water companies to enforce hose-pipe bans across the country, meaning customers are left without full access to a service they pay for.

The environment also suffers because of the extra strain on resources. Rainwater harvesting is an excellent way of ensuring the continuation of your water supply as well as offering a saving on water bills and helping safeguard the environment.

Rainwater harvesting can also be used to prevent flooding at times of heavy rainfall. Rainwater typically drains off impermeable surfaces into sewers and then onto water treatment plants.

In storm conditions the excess water can cause the drain systems to overflow, which leads to flooding. Rainwater storage can help prevent excess water from causing the drains to overflow and reduce this risk.

A number of legalities have been enforced in a bid to reduce water usage, including The Flood and Water Management Bill. Put in place in April 2010, it gives water companies the right to impose stricter rules during water shortages. The private sector has also been forced to take water consumption into consideration with the introduction of Building Reg Part G, 17K, also implemented in April 2010, which requires the potential wholesome water consumption by occupants of new dwellings to not exceed 125 litres per person, per day.

The public sector has adopted a similar stance by adhering to Level 3 of The Code for Sustainable Homes, which places a maximum consumption of 105 litres per day for all social housing.

Traditionally, there have been two options for storage tanks: above ground or below ground. Above-ground tanks are cheaper because they have an easier installation as there are no holes to be dug out. Underground tanks have long-term advantages in that they take up less space, so cause little disruption, and keep the rain-water cool and fresher.

Both types can then be connected to either direct or indirect supply systems that involve electric pumps initiating the flow of water to the water pipes within the house.

A direct-feed system involves a pressure-sensitive pump in the storage tank that maintains pressure on the rainwater pipes – typically to toilets, washing machines and for outdoor use – causing the pump to activate whenever water is drawn. The indirect gravity-feed system involves the combination of the main storage tank supplying a header tank in the roof space that uses gravity to feed water into the pipes.

The difficulty with these systems is finding space for the storage tanks – although they can be underground, a substantial amount of ground available in which to place it proves unattainable in many cases. There are products, however, that can combat this problem.

Martin Wadsworth is managing director at Discrete Heat

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