Is saving water on your to-do list?

10/04/2012 | A good guess would be that it isn’t. You have too many other things to think about. In the UK we just turn on the tap and water just arrives. We’ve just become accustomed to this privilege. And we pay relatively little for it. In a recent speech Richard Benyon MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries said “Across all segments of the population, people think that they have a right to water and there is little spontaneous awareness that its conservation is a serious environmental issue.” So saving water really should be on your to-do list. It’s on Government’s own list of priorities because it’s been forced to put it there by our recent dry weather. Water, which is absolutely our most precious commodity, is in short supply, and we have to do something about it. Yvonne Orgill, chief executive of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association considers UK’s ambitions to become more water efficient and delves into the latest product designs which have been successful in saving water, energy and those ever-increasing utility bills. ________________________________________ There is no doubt that the most precious of our commodities is in short supply. We all agree on that. But the situation is getting worse. The relationship between water’s supply and demand is completely out of sync. Dry weather over the last couple of years has given our leaders a major headache. East Anglia, the South East and parts of Yorkshire are officially in drought and in April this year 20 million people in the UK were forced into water-use restrictions. So how do we get the UK population to change its attitudes to water? “I think we need a two-pronged approach to encourage the average person to become more aware and considerate of our water resources,” comments Yvonne Orgill. “We need a carrot and a stick.” The carrot. Old habits are difficult to change but it can be done. Just look how changes in attitudes to smoking or dog messing have been brought about. We need to encourage householders to use water differently and we need to encourage them to install water and energy efficient bathroom products There is an amazing choice available to us and a nice big tasty carrot would be the introduction of a zero-rated, or at least a reduced VAT scheme (www.cutthevat.co.uk/) for all bathroom refurbishments using fittings listed only in the Water Label database at www.water-label.eu/ We also need to educate people and preferably the earlier in life the better. We need to start in schools and colleges encouraging the use of online training such as here at www.bathroom-association.org/waterhog or here at The Bathroom Academy www.bathroom-academy.co.uk The stick. We need to be more aggressive. The Government has done well in bringing changes to the Building Regulations and Code for Sustainable Homes to deliver new water-efficient buildings by using water saving fittings. But it should now go further. Water meters are known to push householders into using water wisely and the water metering program needs to be accelerated. This in turn will encourage the installation of more sustainable bathrooms. The icing on the cake would be the introduction ‘Bathroom Scrappage Scheme’ which would bring about the removal and replacement of the water guzzling WC pans taps, showers and baths of yesteryear. Bathroom breakthroughs The bathroom industry has long recognised that it has a responsibility to ensure that its products are truly sustainable. In less than a decade the portfolios of BMA members have been completely overhauled. Bathroom fittings are now more eco-friendly than ever. We have seen some interesting developments in design and technology and many of the products installed in today’s bathroom are at the cutting edge. WC suites Loos with super-efficient flush, are now quite common. Flush volumes have been halved from the mandatory maximum of 6 litres to the voluntary effective-average of 3 litres. These suites are required, by law, to perform correctly and they do, provided that they are installed according to manufacturer’s instructions. They are marketed through top-end luxury boutiques or through DIY stores at affordable prices. These WCs are leading the way in modern bathroom water efficiency. The move to low volume flush has also given manufacturers the chance to re-visit the fundamental design of the WC suite. Low volume flush has given designers the opportunity to create ‘rimless’ or ‘rimfree’ pans. Clever design of the rim without the usual invert or box section is now possible since lower volume flushing is more easily controlled and has a lesser tendency to splashing or overflow. The resulting improvement in hygiene and clean-ability has been jumped on by busy and careful householders. Commercial versions have also started appearing in hospital and care establishments. Rimfree designs have been the stars of the current crop of trade exhibitions. Taps Taps with factory fitted click-stop technology and temperature regulation are now freely available. These not only save water but save energy too since less hot water is wasted. They are also ultra-safe in the family bathroom. These hi-tech taps have seen steady growth in the UK as a result of changes in household plumbing and resultant improved water pressure. The internal valves have small water passages but high pressure water allows designers to create sufficient water flow for satisfactory use. Showers High-tech is also available in eco shower controls and shower heads which have enjoyed massive growth. These, like click-stop taps, show huge savings in both water and energy consumption. Digital shower technology has advanced to such a degree that its precise temperature control can be accurately set to a safe maximum and play an important part in reducing utility bills by ensuing hot and cold water is not wasted. Energy and water supply costs are kept to a minimum. Baths Baths with a capacity of just 130 litres to the overflow (compared with the former standard of 200 litres) are readily available. Careful shaping of the inside of the bath still allows a comfortable soak but at a lower volume consumption. Recycling The ultimate water and energy saving bathroom appliances are those which recycle water either within the bathroom itself or from greywater and rainwater harvesting. In room recycling is epitomised by innovative washbasin and WC combos –used water from the basin being recycled to flush the toilet. Whereas the latest greywater and rainwater harvesting devices trap and cleanse water from the bath or from rainwater collectors and store it ready to flush the toilet or water the lawn. Tools to do the job But how do home owners, architects, specifiers and contractors choose the most water and energy efficient bathroom to suit their needs? “They need the tools to do the job,” says Orgill, “and our association has worked hard to develop the award winning Water Label and the Water Calculator. The Water Label The water labelling scheme has grown and matured to be a benchmark and is being copied in Europe and wider afield. The web-enabled database holds the details of nearly 2000 water efficient bathroom fittings which, by default, have the lowest carbon footprint. Over 1100 stockists have registered with the scheme at its website address at www.water-label.eu and 2100 retailers are showing the label alongside the relevant products. The Water Label clearly shows the volume of water that a product will consume when installed correctly. Ten categories of product are currently shown and plans for a further five are in hand. The Water Calculator The product data stored in the Water Label database has been put to good use in its associated Water Calculator which is designed to make it easier to meet the requirements of Approved Document G of the Building Regulations and The Code for Sustainable Homes. Designed to aid construction industry professionals the Water Calculator is a web-based tool which automatically calculates the water-consumption for new dwellings, using the requirements and methods of The Code for Sustainable Homes and Approved Document G of the Building Regulations. Both of these regulations give strict rules about water usage in a new dwelling and the calculator makes it easier for the professional, at the planning stage, to calculate how much water is theoretically consumed, based on the bathroom and kitchen products which they have chosen. Over 1200 projects have been recorded on the Water Calculator website. When they start a calculation users have a choice. They may register to save all their work or they may remain anonymous and print off their results as they go along. The calculation simply involves selecting products from the drop-down menus linked to the huge Water Label database. The calculator updates itself in real time and produces water usage figures as the user progresses. Architects and developers are regularly saving their projects to the secure, personal online files. The water calculator is intuitive but like all software it needs to be tried out a few times before the user becomes accustomed to its powerful features. A downloadable PDF–based guide, accessible from the calculator home page, assists new users. The Water Calculator can be found at www.thewatercalculator.org.uk/ Overcoming the reluctance to change There remains a reluctance by Mr and Mrs Public to embrace these new water efficient technologies. They are wary and seem to prefer water guzzlers, fearing that a product labelled ECO won’t do the job. This is, of course, an urban myth. “We all have a part to play to drive home the message that eco bathrooms do perform well and do provide the bathing experience we have become used to,” says Orgill. “Our challenge is to bring all parts of the bathroom industry together in the drive for sustainability.” The bathroom industry is playing a major role in the quest for a more sustainable future.

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