I think that people are starting to wake up to the fact that, even in Wales, we have a water shortage. Admittedly the SE of the UK fares worse than the fresh and green west, but water is growing in importance as the seemingly random effects of climate change take their toll.
Water is also an important element of the carbon debate. Planning has meant that even water flowing from the mountains to the cities on the coast has to be pumped up and over hills. This pumping requires electricity and this is the most carbon intensive form of energy (until we de-carbonise the grid).
So what should we do? Collect water and use it for flushing toilets and doing our washing? Or just try and reduce demand by using tap water more wisely?
In my opinion the installation of a separate dedicated rainwater harvesting system is too costly to justify in a refurbishment situation unless you are having to rip out everything and start again. A full strip out might warrant looking at the costs of installing a harvesting system, but this is not for most people.
This leaves us with the opportunity to reduce consumption. This can be achieved in a variety of ways:
1. Behaviour change – not leaving taps running whilst brushing teeth, showering rather than bathing, not installing power showers etc. This is of course the best and number one solution as effectively it costs nothing and can lead to really significant savings.
2. Replacing high water usage fixtures with less intensive ones. Low water consuming washing machines and dish washers are great here, but what most people think about is fitting a dual flush toilet. These are OK, but they only reduce water consumption by around 30% and most operate using valve technology rather than the old siphon. This means that they can leak and hence use more water than before!
3. Improve existing fixtures. A much cheaper option that replacing the toilet (and hence generally the rest of the bathroom fixtures) would be to upgrade the toilet to an infinitely variable flush using either a MECON or INTERFLUSH system. These maintain the use of the siphon (and hence increase the reliability of the system), but just make it so that you have control over how much water you use to flush the toilet with. This system cannot be more efficient, as you only use the water that you need. These have been proved to be 50% more efficient than a conventional toilet (and hence also more efficient than dual flushes). To upgrade your toilet to an infinite flush system will cost between £15 and £24 dependent on which system you need. This is much cheaper than replacing the whole of the bathroom!
Mecon – great for centre flush buttons and for cisterns with blanks / made from plastic
So save your bathroom and pocket, just by using a retrofit device on your existing toilet.