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There's no excuse for missing out on most of the natural resources we waste. STEVE EMSLEY looks at the numbers.

Byline: STEVE EMSLEY

IN A few years' time people will look at the roofs of houses from the early 21st Century and ask why we wasted all the water and the sun's heat that we could have gathered.

A tiled roof wastes so much opportunity unless we harvest what it can collect.

I read that an average UK roof has about 85,000 litres of rainwater fall on it every year, far more than the amount one person uses.

Where does the rainwater go? Down the drain in most cases. Even a small part of that 1,600 litres a week can be very useful in the garden. It is possible to save most of your rainwater for household uses by fitting a rainwater harvesting system with a large tank and a pump, but we decided to start small.

We took a trip to a DIY store and got a bargain water butt on sale. It stores 220 litres and fits into the limited space we had for it. That particular space served no useful function previously.

The price included a diverting device to fit on to the plastic downpipe, which was easily cut with a household saw. An hour later the whole thing was fixed up and waiting for rain. It was pretty dry for four days, then on the fifth night it filled completely. I was staggered at how well it worked.

It will save us from fitting an outside tap at the front of the house and will easily cope with supplying the small, north facing garden. It may also supply some rainwater for house plants which generally prefer non-chlorinated water. We have some blueberries and cranberries in outdoor tubs that prefer rainwater as well, so that is three problems solved. I guess it might save 2,000 to 5,000 litres of water a year. I will look at how we are saving water in the house in a future article.

So why bother saving water, haven't we got plenty of it? The answer lies in the fact that all of the water we get piped to us is cleaned to drinking standard and yet much of it doesn't need to be. The energy used cleaning the water for an average UK household over a year creates about 78kg of carbon dioxide. That is the same output as travelling 1,100 miles in a car. So saving water is saving carbon dioxide emissions.

Storing water during downpours also helps to reduce the amount of water overloading the drainage systems and causing flash floods, as well as reducing water demand in periods of drought. If half the households in Newcastle had a 200-litre water butt, it could give up to 30m litres of water storage, enough to fill about 80 decent-sized swimming pools at any one time, or maybe more than 1,000 pools worth in a 12-month period..
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 7, 2009
Words:482
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