Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the UK Rainwater Harvesting Association

Ref: The Water White Paper—Water for Life

Please accept this letter from The UK Rainwater Harvesting Association as our contribution with regard to the above consultation document.

Extracts from Executive Summary Pages

Para’s 3 + 12: “Only 27% of our Rivers and Lakes are fully functioning ECO –Systems”

This is unacceptable in an educated and environmentally aware society.

Para 5: Details several points which clearly recognise problems that will cause water scarcity within the UK in future.

Para 7: Advises a clear mission statement for all governments:—today and for the future.

Para’s 23–36: Identifies the real risks to our Rivers and Lakes due to over abstraction.

Para’s 28–30: Identifies opportunities for UK companies active in water management, and should include Rainwater Harvesting.

Para’s 37–49: Discusses reducing water use, reducing bills and ensuring affordability.

Para 47: Mentions incentivising water efficiency. (Currently, Rainwater Harvesting receives no incentives or financial support from any scheme such as MCS, feed in tariffs, renewable heat incentives or the Green Deal!)

From the Main Report

1.12 Identifies population increases of 10 million by 2035 and an expected increase of 35% in the demand for water by 2050

1.18 States a reduction from 154 litres per person per day to 144 lit/pp/pd by 2030. This falls far short of the 80 lit/pp/pd set out in the code for sustainable homes (level 5 and 6).

What can be done to avoid these issues in the future?

Water scarcity issues in the UK could be significantly reduced if the installation of Rainwater Harvesting Systems was adopted for all new-builds as part of a National Programme.

Water Re-use Systems

Water re-use systems can often replace 50% of the water used in a dwelling:—flushing toilets, use in washing machines and for other non-wholesome water usage such as garden irrigation, watering house plants, cleaning cars, jet washing, window cleaning and many other activities.

Some Figures for Consideration

If house building in the UK were to increase to previous levels of 200,000 dwellings per annum, then an additional 7 million new homes may have been built by the year 2050. Consider an average roof area of 80m² and a conservatively low annual rainfall in the South East of England (say 600mm) then:-

80m² x 600mm = approx. 48,000litres (less roof losses and filter efficiency which may reduce this to 44,000 litres) of “collected rainwater” per year. Multiply by 7 million dwellings and this is a total of over 300 million cubic metres of water per year! These are conservatively low figures… applied to larger homes in areas of higher rainfall would result in savings which will be significantly higher.

If commercial buildings were included and a national retrofit campaign for existing homes initiated, a reduction of 10% of the demand for wholesome water from the mains supply network could be achieved… if we act now!!

Construction of new reservoirs (and including associated land costs, construction of new treatment plants and infrastructure) will cost the taxpayer huge sums of money. Why not subsidise or incentivise homeowners and developers to install rainwater harvesting systems?

Is this technology expensive?

Several UKRHA members can supply complete systems for less than £1,500.

If Rainwater Harvesting was mandatory and volumes increased to over 100,000 systems per year, then the price of the equipment would fall significantly. The cost for inclusion in new designs at planning stage would be minimal… ground work costs would be absorbed easily as part of the foundations and drainage installation process.

We have to accept that water costs will increase as the natural supply reduces and demand increases. With the cost of a Rainwater Harvesting systems reducing as volumes increase, we will see much shorter payback periods.

Other Benefits

Rainwater is FREE.

Rainwater collected from a roof does not consume chemicals or energy for treatment cost which would be incurred by a water supply company before delivery to a similar building.

On a national scale, Rainwater Harvesting will remove significant volumes of water from local drainage systems during periods of heavy rain and flash floods. We have all seen news bulletins where local areas have been devastated by floods, some of which may have been reduced or totally avoided if millions of cubic metres of rainwater had been filling individual RWH tanks instead of flooding into the local drainage system.

A recent study by Richard Kellagher from HR Wallingford demonstrates the benefits of using Rainwater Harvesting as part of a joined up Sustainable Urban Drainage scheme. The costs would be offset by reducing the size or need for huge attenuation and infiltration systems or swales.

This would result in a reduction in insurance claims and national emergencies which consume huge levels of resource and money, which could then be used for other projects.

How can we achieve a reduction in water demand in order to avoid these problems?

1. Make the installation of Rainwater Harvesting Systems a compulsory component of the National Planning Policy Framework document in order to replace up to 50% of non wholesome water demand in new properties.

2. Make the installation of Rainwater Harvesting Systems a compulsory component within the Code for Sustainable Homes and ensure developers are encouraged to install other water efficient devices used to reduce the demand on mains water

3. Ensure all Commercial, Industrial and Educational buildings are encouraged to adopt Rainwater Harvesting during the design phase.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you or your fellow panel members to discuss these comments and to consider other solutions to ensure a continued and uninterrupted supply of water in the UK.

20 January 2012

Prepared 4th July 2012