Water, water everywhere?
Water is a finite and vital resources yet UK water consumption has risen by 70% in the last 30 years with the average household now using more than 150 litres of water per person, per day – a third of it for flushing the toilet. Water supplies are already under stress, particularly in the south east where ironically the population is high and the rainfall relatively low. Globally, over abstraction and climate change are only going to increase the problems of water quality and supply.
To make really substantial cuts in mains water use, strategies have to be adopted when new homes are built and retrofitting has to be undertaken in existing properties. There is no shortage of solutions: dual flush WC cisterns; aerated or flow regulated taps and showers; visible water meters to encourage water efficiency. Modern dual-flush and low-flush WCs can cut household water use by up to 20% while reducing flow rates not only saves water, it reduces energy consumption because less water has to be heated.
Collecting rainwater is an excellent means of cutting mains consumption and reducing stormwater run off, helping to alleviate flooding. Water butts provide a simple solution but more elaborate rainwater harvesting systems can feed washing machines, toilets and outside taps.
Greywater recycling is more complex but certainly has its place. Water used for bathing, dishwashing and clothes washing is collected, filtered, disinfected and stored for reuse for flushing WCs in place of potable water.
Product choice is at the heart of water savings and the Bathroom Manufacturers Association’s Water Efficient Product Labelling Scheme is a helpful starting point. It’s not always easy to get first hand information or to see comprehensive ranges of bathroom products but recently I visited ‘The Bath Room’, Ideal Standard’s resource centre and design studio for architects and interior designers, in Clerkenwell, London, where over 300 of its latest products are showcased.
Ideal Standard considers the role of manufacturers in the climate debate to be threefold: “To create sustainable solutions for the bathroom that do not diminish performance or compromise on style; to ensure its manufacturing processes are reducing and recycling water wherever possible and to play a role in educating consumers, employees and the industry in efficient water usage.”
One product which the company is using to illustrate these worthy principles is its new ‘Soft Bath’, developed by award-winning designer Marc Sadler. The patented compound material used for the bath has been created through the process of rotomoulding and combines polyester and polyurethane. According to the company this material keeps the water temperature warmer longer and thus helps reduce water and energy usage – it claims that testing indicates that the water stays warmer almost twice as long as in a mid-sized porcelain enamelled bathtub.
Image credit: Ideal Standard