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Think Grey Water

12 August 2009

Graham Fisher explains how micro grey water management systems can be incorporated into existing buildings to recycle water from washing for toilet flushing, cutting water use and helping the environment

THE UK IS CURRENTLY ONE OF the top three most ‘water stressed’ countries in Europe. This means that it has less water available per head than almost every other country in the EU.In fact, certain parts of the South East of England have such an acute water shortage that they now have less available water per person per day than in countries such as Sudan and Syria, according to Waterwise, the UK’s NGO focused

on decreasing water consumption and the leading authority on water efficiency in the UK.

As personal water use has increased by 50 percent over the last 40 years, it is no surprise that water resources are being squeezed and the water companies are responding with metering and increased charges, as part of encouraging the UK population to conserve water.

A breakdown of where household water shows that the largest proportion - 33 percent is

used for taking a bath or shower, whilst an additional 30 percent goes towards flushing the toilet. These two areas were the starting point when CME Sanitary Systems began developing its Ecoplay micro greywater management system, which is based on the simple premise of recycling bath and shower water and re-using it to flush the toilet. A straightforward idea that is now helping householders and property managers reduce their water use.

Micro grey water management systems are rapidly becoming accepted in social and private housing as developers and social landlords recognise the benefits in terms of water conservation, long term sustainability and a reduction in water bills. Cutting water bills is also a highly effective method of making the building more attractive to potential occupiers or investors. Reducing water usage in this way has the added benefit of limiting drainage bills, which can represent a significant saving for clients and future proof them against forthcoming sustainability legislation. There is a general consensus that in the next few years, this legislation will seek to limit water use in existing buildings and this is resulting in a rising interest in micro grey water recycling systems.

Unlike other methods of conserving water, such as rainwater harvesting, grey water recycling is not dependent on weather conditions and is equally effective throughout the year. In addition, CME realised when developing Ecoplay that one of the problems with conventional micro grey water recycling systems is that they often require complex filtration processes needing constant monitoring and upkeep. Ecoplay is a fit and forget installation.

The CME Ecoplay system collects water from the bath and/or shower in a tank. A skimmer then removes light surface materials, whilst heavier particles sink and are flushed away with the waste. The remaining ‘clean’ water is then drawn from the middle of the tank and transferred to a storage vessel where it can be used to flush the toilet. The water from the tank can store 100 litres of water, which is enough for approximately 15 toilet flushes.

The system operates a special purging process to keep the water ‘young’ and fresh, even when the building is unoccupied. It can do this because the intelligently-designed process recognises ‘old’ water and if the toilets are not flushed within 24 hours, it automatically releases the stored water to waste before importing sufficient fresh water to flush the toilets.

The system is designed around a frame that is simple to install. It comes pre-assembled in a modular arrangement and normally takes no more than a couple of hours to fit. It

also requires minimal additional site work so keeps labour overheads to a minimum. CME can provide FM companies with training, which now means they can become approved installers of grey water recycling technology. Once they become an approved

installer, they can easily acquire Ecoplay systems from the major builders’ merchants and a system can normally be installed within 3-4 hours. A common perception of micro grey water systems is that they can only be fitted in new buildings, but the CME systems can be incorporated into bathroom refurbishment projects.

The design of Ecoplay ensures that no extra space is taken up in a bathroom as the unit is located behind the pan just like a conventional WC. The frame system on which it is based can be used with back-to-wall or wall hung WC pans to create that popular contemporary, minimalist look. To hide it away, it is possible to incorporate different finishing options to match the bathroom or cloakroom, which ensures that the system will fit perfectly into the bathroom, without being visible.

Building occupiers are welcoming micro grey water systems as it allows them to enjoy the benefits of a luxurious bathroom, such as power showering or a deep bath. As legislation begins to tighten on existing buildings, clients are taking more interest in grey water systems as it enables them to meet these future water usage requirements before it becomes mandatory. An average three bedroom family home can expect to save 22 litres per person per day.

With an expected lifespan of at least 20 years, a typical grey water recycling system can pay for itself in as little as six years, depending on the geographic location of the building and the prices charged by the utility company. The system also uses very little power and when this is offset against the amount of water saved over a year; it can clearly reduce the overall carbon footprint of the building.

Graham Fisher, Business Development Director for CME Sanitary Systems

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