‘Going grey’ key to cutting water consumption in UK

Posted on: 21 October, 2013

Recycling waste ‘grey water’ from showers, baths and wash basins would make a major contribution towards cutting water consumption in the UK, according to new research published by the College of Estate Management.

Grey water recycling systems are currently expensive and are not widely used in Britain, and the research report says they are unlikely to catch on without financial incentives.

The report calls on the Government and water companies to do more to explain the importance and benefits of grey water recycling to the public.

People could be encouraged to recycle grey water by introducing water meters for all supplies, encouraging awareness and cost of water use, and by bringing in a tariff system to discourage excessive use of potable water.

Houses should also be designed to accommodate the future installation of grey water systems, through tighter design standards implemented by Building Regulations, says the report.

And the grey water supply industry could consider an alternative business model, whereby installation costs are met by system suppliers and customers pay from resulting savings in their water bills.

The report Grey Water for UK Housing highlights the increasing demand for water, which is putting immense  pressure on supplies – particularly in the South East of England.

According to the Environment Agency, the average person in England and Wales uses 150 litres of water a day. By 2020 demand for water could increase by 800 million extra litres of water a day.

Behaviour is a significant factor in increasing demand – typically in the UK we use 39 litres of drinking water per person per day just to flush the loo. In households with water meters, demand is on average 13% lower than in non-metered households.

With a typical grey water collection system installed, more than a third of a household’s water could be recycled for toilet flushing and outdoor use.

The report estimates that if just one-in-ten of the UK population installed a grey water recycling system, it would cut the current average water consumption of 150 litres per day to 145 lpd.

If an additional 1% of the population installed a system every year, by 2042 the average consumption could drop to 125 litres a day, meeting current Building Regulations targets for new homes.

“There is no easy answer to how to encourage people to recycle water,” says the report. “Water is required to sustain life and it is in the public interest that water continues to be an affordable commodity. Education and various initiatives could be introduced to encourage more people to ‘go grey’.”

The full report, Grey Water for UK Housing, is available on the research section or our website.

The award-winning Mariner’s Quay development in Newport, South Wales, uses grey water as well as rainwater harvesting systems to cut water consumption.

Mariners’ Quay is held up an as exemplar sustainable scheme, achieving the Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5 certificate. The development has also scooped a number of green awards , including the UK Sustainable Large Housing Project of the Year award in 2011.

In the development’s 86 apartments, a hybrid water recycling system collects both rainwater and grey water from showers, baths and wash basins, and treats it. Recycled water is then piped to toilets,  washing machines and outside taps.

The apartments’ water recycling systems save an estimated 33 litres of potable water per person per day, bringing water consumption comfortably within mandatory targets required to meet the Code for Sustainable Homes certificate.

The development is all affordable housing, making low running-costs very important. All properties are individually metered, so this reduced water consumption represents tangible savings for tenants.

• An estimated 17-25% of water is lost through leaky pipes in the UK, compared with less than 5% in Germany

• Since 1971, demand through the public water supply has increased from 14 million to 16 million cubic metres per day

• Average water consumption in the UK is 150 litres/person/day

• In households with a metered supply, demand is on average 13% lower than in non-metered households – averaging 133 litres/person/day

• Some 30 per cent of UK households are on water meters

• A well-sized grey water recycling unit should save around a third of a household’s potable water
Media contact: Stephen Bartle, CEM’s Director of Business Development, 0118 921 4684, s.bartle@cem.ac.uk

Founded in 1919, the College of Estate Management is a self-funded charity and the leading international provider of supported distance learning for real estate and construction professionals. The College’s patron is His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

CEM has been awarded Taught Degree Awarding Powers by the Privy Council, which took effect from January 1st 2013. This gives the College the independence and flexibility to develop academic programmes more quickly in response to the needs of the industries and professional communities it serves.

CEM offers diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Designed for part-time study around work, CEM courses offer practical skills which build on a student’s workplace experience and have a direct benefit in their professional life.

At any one time around 4,000 students from more than 100 countries are progressing their learning with CEM, taught by tutors with extensive industry experience.

CEM’s active research programme makes a major contribution to knowledge across the profession, benefiting businesses, practitioners and policymakers alike.