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There’s not much that comes for free in life, but in the UK we are lucky that there is something we get a lot of, that costs us nothing. Sadly we take it for granted most of the time, even bad mouth it, so much of it is wasted.

Water is the most precious commodity we have on this planet and there’s plenty of it. But less than 2% of what we have is fresh water. We need it for the basic necessities of everyday life – we drink it, we need it to maintain good hygiene, it’s required for the manufacture of most of our food and for pretty much every key product in our everyday lives. There is no alternative.

With forecasts suggesting that the south coast could be experiencing a Mediterranean climate by 2050, water could become a very expensive commodity and any help available from naturally occurring sources of water should be met with open arms. The UK’s position as an island, with prevailing winds for much of the time heading at us from the south west across the Atlantic Ocean – and a warm current into the bargain – does give us a number of benefits and conserving precious rainwater supplies clearly makes sense. ‘Now’ would not be a moment too soon to take rainwater harvesting seriously.

An amazing one third of all water used in the home gets flushed down the toilet – and in most homes, that’s drinking quality water. The roof on an average 4-bed family home can capture more than 100,000 litres of rainwater each year – most of which currently goes down the drain and is wasted. When you think that a typical family uses 70,000 litres of water each year on flushing the toilet, clothes washing and outdoor use – watering the garden and cleaning cars – it simply makes sense to harvest it and use it and save on your water bills into the bargain.

And like most good ideas it’s not new. Rainwater harvesting as we understand it today, was first practised seriously in about 300BC in Baluchistan – present day Pakistan and Afghanistan! Even earlier in a way, in ancient Egypt. In some parts of India, rainwater harvesting is compulsory – every home in Tamil Nadu has to have a rainwater harvesting system. China and Brazil are the leading rooftop rainwater harvesting nations today and as usual, rainwater harvesting has been practised extensively across Europe, before we in the UK arrived at it a little late in our history. But we are beginning to embrace the technology wholeheartedly now, as parts of the UK – East Anglia in particular, are becoming extremely dry with reducing amounts of rainfall over the year.

It’s clearly far easier to install a rainwater harvesting system in a new build property than to retrofit one to an existing property with all the existing below ground infrastructure although that isn’t stopping many people from adding a rainwater harvestings system to an existing property – it just means making a bit more effort and a bit more thought to find the right location for tanks and pipework. Selfbuilders are increasingly incorporating rainwater harvesting systems to their dream homes and we are seeing significantly more systems fitted to social housing developments – reuse of rainwater contributing to the targets for the Code for Sustainable Homes. It seems here in the UK we’ve woken up to the possibilities of rainwater harvesting a little late in the day but now we have, we’re taking the concept to our hearts.

Here in the UK the majority of rainwater harvesting systems are still specified by architects or developers as part of the plans for a new property, and the contractors are left to find the system that suits the property best. There are two types of rainwater harvesting system available in the UK from the main suppliers. They are available as gravity fed or pressurised systems. Within a gravity fed system, water is pumped from the usually underground collection tank to a header tank in the loft of the property the system serves. The water is then fed to each appliance by gravity. Pressurised systems use a pump to feed water directly to the appliance or appliances in the property on demand. In the main, the RWH units come pre-assembled ready for installation – you can select from a wide range of tank sizes to meet your specific needs – and the rainwater harvested by the system goes through a usually three stage filtration process, down to around 130 microns. Installation of a rainwater harvesting system will typically reduce mains water usage by around 50% – a valuable saving particularly if you’re on a metered water supply. The control panel is usually small and neat and it’s the only outward evidence that a house has a rainwater harvesting system on the property.

Polypipe Building Products has recently launched a new range of solutions into the rainwater harvesting marketplace, targeted specifically at the residential market and an ideal additional product for installer to get to grips with, offering them an additional potential income stream. It’s been launched in response to the growing acceptance that the time has come to stop using high quality drinking water to quite literally flush down the toilet.

Polypipe offers Rainstream – a range of rainwater harvesting options designed for everyone. Ideal for new build, for retrofit and already seeing major interest from the self-build marketplace, Rainstream is a very simple straightforward rainwater harvesting ‘package’. You can even see it on YouTube at www.youtube.com – just type in Polypipe Rainstream in the search bar!

….and Polypipe helps local college to get to grips with Rainwater harvesting…

And as part of the plan to support rainwater harvesting in the UK, Polypipe Building Products has responded to a request for some of the equipment it manufactures locally to help a local college to teach apprentices on a heating and plumbing course, run from Doncaster College in the town.

Polypipe has supplied a rainwater harvesting set up through builders merchants Crosslings, that will allow students on the course to understand how rainwater harvesting works. Ian Kennedy is the Programme Co-ordinator for Construction and the Built Environment at Doncaster College: “The partnership we have developed with Polypipe helps us a lot and in this case the equipment will help us with one of the modules on a course run by JTL Training here. Rainwater harvesting has been built into the curriculum reflecting its increasing importance.”

For more information click on to www.polypipe.com/building-products.

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