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Saving water - a guide for new developments

General guidance on water saving measures for new developments.

Each day on average every person uses a total of 157 litres (34 gallons) of water. With an increasing population and  climate changes,the impact on water resources is one that cannot be ignored. If we do not carefully manage our natural resources and the demands made on them, then the water environment and the security of water supply could be put into jeopardy.

The wise use of water is essential, not only to meet present needs, but in order to ensure that we do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

What can be done

Saving water can be achieved by various means.

Grey water recycling

Grey water recycling systems collect and treat wastewater from showers, baths and washbasins. This is then re-used to flush toilets, water gardens and sometimes washing machines.

The treatment is carried out by physical, biological or bio-mechanical means, depending on the size of the system and what is hoping to be achieved. The systems can be fitted to existing or new build developments.

Benefits: The potential water savings are huge. A well specified, correctly installed, fully operational and well-maintained system can save one-third of water in domestic properties.

Water meter

At present water meters are not a requirement for all households, although their use is being rolled out within new developments, when properties change hands, at customers' request, in areas of scarce resources, or large usage properties. The water meters are integrated into the water system, monitoring the amount of water used and billing on that amount. Their use has on average seen a reduction in household use of between 5 and 15 per cent.

Benefits: The installation of water meters has the ability to save water and money. 

Rainwater harvesting

Rainwater harvesting is the collection of water that would otherwise have gone into the drainage system, into the ground, or lost into the atmosphere through evaporation. Typically the systems collect rainwater travelling across roofs and via the drainpipes; this water is then collected and stored in tanks (usually underground). This water can then be used to supply amongst other things toilets and outside taps (the water is not suitable for drinking).

Benefits: Saves and recycles water and depending on circumstances can save money, especially in the long-term.

Sustainable urban drainage Systems (SUDs)

SUDs mimic natural systems for draining surface water and include porous surfaces, soakaways, infiltration trenches, filter drains, filterstrips, swales, detention basins and purpose-built ponds and wetlands.As well as treating polluted surface water run-off, SUDs provide attenuation of surface water to reduce the impact of flow on watercourses.

Benefits: Well designed SUDs can make a positive contribution to the amenity and wildlife value of a site.

Saving water in the home

Saving water in the home is a significant way of saving water (and saving money); prudent and efficient use of water supplies can be of benefit to everyone. As developers and individuals, you need to be aware of what is available and ensure education is provided to users. There are various approaches that can be used to save water: 

  • Modern toilets or fitting 'flush bags' to existing ones
  • Taking showers instead of baths
  • Fixing leaking taps
  • Use of water butts in the garden
  • Installing modern washing machines and dishwashers, and when using these appliances make sure they are filled to capacity

Things to consider when submitting a planning application

New developments are the best way of providing and utilising the most up-to-date and efficient technologies. When submitting applications, the use of water saving systems should be considered at an early stage of development to allow them and any associated pipework and storage systems to be integrated into the development and form a positive part of the design.

In existing developments, providing these systems is unlikely to require planning permission, if the materials involved do not constitute development. However, this should be checked by contacting the planning department before undertaking any works.