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The supply and disposal of water is becoming increasingly important for developers. Award winner Gusto Construction divulges the secrets surrounding its successful Freerain systemWith or without the spectre of global climate change, the supply and disposal of water is increasingly likely to be a significant issue for developers, while on the one hand supplies become constrained, at the same time heavy rains leave developed land prone to flooding. Gusto Construction is a company which already takes these concerns seriously, as evidenced at its recently completed Millennium Green Project near Newark and the development currently under way at its Bee Field site, Lincoln. At both locations, use of the Freerain rainwater harvesting system is a standard installation and has resulted in the company being announced as the overall winner of the 2003 Environment Agency (EA) Water Efficiency Awards.
Essentially, such systems are conceptually very simple, comprising a tank which collects rainwater from the roof and a management system which enables the stored water to be pumped into the house for non-potable uses such as toilet-flushing and washing machines, or used externally for car-washing or garden watering. As one of the first residential developments in Nottinghamshire to make such holistic use of such a system, the Millennium Green development has attracted widespread national interest - not least from the EA and water companies.
Through a joint venture between the EA, Severn Trent Water and Gusto, two systems have been scientifically monitored for a full year period. The results of this, as indicated in the graph below, showed the Freerain system is able to meet nearly all of the non-potable water requirements in normal residential applications and only infrequently did the rainwater feed to the system storage tank need supplementing from the mains supply or overflow into associated soakaways. Features of the Freerain system, which is supplied by Gusto Constrution's sister company Gusto Products, include simplicity, ease-of-installation, ease-of-routine maintenance and reliability. These attributes have been designed into the system by mixing and matching components sourced from both the UK and abroad to ensure the best possible end results.
As being demonstrated at the Bee Field site, Lincoln, a rainwater harvesting system can also contribute towards a solution to storm water management issues when used as, or as a part of, an attenuation system. In cost-effectiveness terms, use of such systems can also be justified with their precise value hinging upon local conditions. As a straightforward substitute for metered mains water, a payback period of around five years can be anticipated, while as a solution to a site water management problem, their use can help to make possible developments which might not otherwise proceed. This cost effectiveness makes it perhaps even more remarkable than the fitting of rainwater harvesting systems is not yet common practice in the UK.
Perceived reasons for this vary but are likely to include the public perception that water supplies are plentiful, coupled with the relative cheapness of the mains supply compared, say, to mainland Europe. This current lack of public enthusiasm is compounded by the complication of fitting such systems in anything other than new-build properties or properties undergoing substantial refurbishment. This means the potential for future water shortages are heightened year-by-year as new developments take place, which subsequently cannot cost effectively be retrofitted with a rainwater harvesting system. This problem, at least, could be readily rectified by future proofing all new buildings with a potential for using a system. This could be relatively easily achieved by including a requirement to install separate potable and non-potable pipe-work within building regulations.
The cost of this would be minimal and would facilitate later fitting of a system should social, environmental or economic circumstances so dictate. Even more broadly, the time is also surely ripe for national studies to be undertaken to predict what the impact would be, on both water consumption and storm water management, of widespread application of rainwater harvesting technology.
Meanwhile, it is with these thoughts in mind that the UK Rainwater Harvesting Association has been launched this autumn. The initiative brings together all UK mainstream companies involved in the rainwater harvesting industry, with the intention of working together to develop the UK market, foster and share research and provide joint input to legislation