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Ban power showers?

Posted by Barry Nutley on 11 April 2009 at 10:15 am

Banning power showers was the subject of a debate on Jeremy Vine's show on Radio 2 last Monday. It prompted many a response from listeners. The facts surrounding our lack of water in many parts of the UK are reasonably well documented (including on previously blog posts on this site), so the idea is a fair one. However, it's not necessarily practical as many existing homes have them.

What would be the cost of replacing them with a traditional shower? We have got used to a better standard of living with modern heating systems, indoor toilets, washing machines, and the like, and how many of us are prepared to sacrifice that? In my experience, not many.

So, to negate the effects of climate change, we must look at alternatives. If we want to achieve this, and maintain our current lifestyle, then renewable energy, not just rainwater harvesting, must be the way forward:

Reduce - using the Earth's natural resources (sun, wind, rain), we will naturally reduce our energy consumption from fossil fuels etc.
Reuse - all renewables reuse those natural resources.
Recycle - again, all renewables recycle those resources.

Rainwater harvesting may not appear to be, currently, a cost effective option for many, particularly for retro-fit projects, as the installation costs can be high:

  • Digging a hole, and removing the soil, if it cannot be dispersed within the property.
  • Plumbing changes. There is a need to separate mains water supply from rainwater supply, so secondary pipework is usually required.

When it comes to cost savings, don't just look at the immediate benefits of a reduced water supply and waste water bill. Look ahead. In 2008, 10 water boards applied for price increases that could lead to a 40 per cent rise within five years! As I've mentioned before, rainwater is soft water, so is good for your washing machine and reduces limescale build up. Therefore, improving efficiency (reducing the energy used in heating the water), and increasing life of a washing machine. It's also better for your garden, leading to bigger, better crops (and reducing your grocery bill?!).

So what's the answer - should we ban power showers?

If you've got one, one solution is to fit rainwater harvesting, and feel a bit better, knowing that you've reduced your water usage, without sacrificing your lifestyle.

Water facts:
1). five minute shower uses 33 litres of water
2). five minute power shower uses 80 litres
3). washing machine load uses 100 litres
I'll leave you to do the maths!

photo by krikit

About the author: Barry Nutley is co-founder and director of Viridis Energie Consultants

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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Comments

2 comments - read them below or add one

Barry Nutley

Barry Nutley from Viridis Energie ConsultantsComment left on: 8 May 2009 at 10:57 pm

Hi Ksousa. Apologies for not replying sooner. But the simple answer is determined by the average rainfall for your area, the size of the rainwater collection area, and to a lesser degree, the type of roof, and filter/equipment you propose to use.... Once that is established, we could work out what you will likely to harvest. From there, we could look at your usage for the areas you propose to supplement, and therefore a saving...

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ksousa

ksousaComment left on: 25 April 2009 at 9:09 pm

I was born and raised in Bermuda where most household water comes from rain and underground lenses. What treatment options are there for harvested rainwater? Surely this has an effect on where harvested rainwater can be used.

At home, we treat our water with a number of different methods (which you can read more about that here) before it is used in the household. What about heavily populated areas with increased pollution?

Having said all of that - I am very interested in being able to harvest rainwater one day, specifically for laundry and flushing the toilet. Having enjoyed years of "free" water - I really loathe receiving water bills in the mail :)

Could you provide some statistics on how much one could expect to harvest in a typical year?


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