Another way to use runoff water is with a green or living roof. This is not a matter of just scattering some seeds on the roof and hoping for the best. You will need to consider layering the roof, waterproofing, access, drainage and irrigation. While it sounds complicated, it isn’t. A professional plumber can help you set this up and advise you on the best approach and materials to use. This not only makes use of rainwater that would otherwise flow off your roof, it provides insulation for your building and can even be a source of nutrition if you are willing to invest the time to grow veggies and herbs!
Greywater systems allow you to reuse water from baths, basins, showers and washing machines, which account for about 70 per cent of household water use. As with water harvesting, you can use this water to flush toilets and water the garden. There are two types of greywater systems: treatment and diverters. A greywater diverter is a practical and economical system that will allow you to re-direct greywater from the sink and the laundry to water your garden via a sub-surface irrigation system without storing or treating it. On the other hand, a plumbed-in treatment system, including a pump and treatment plant is a long-term solution that will enable you to collect water to recycle and store later for use both within your home and in the garden. A treatment system ensures your water consumption is noticeably reduced but when combined with a rainwater harvesting system you can reduce your water consumption drastically and make your property completely water efficient. Both need council approval and must be installed by a professional plumber.
If you’re looking to use this water in your household (to flush toilets, for example), remember that you’ll need a plumber to connect your rainwater tank to your household mains. If your waterwise ways are already mature and you want to use rainwater as drinking water, you will need to comply with government health and safety guidelines, which may involve a more complex system to filter and purify the water.
Consider using environmentally friendly plumbing components such as pipes made of sustainable materials that won’t deteriorate as quickly as their cheap and nasty equivalents. Also try to ensure they are free from toxins and ethically made. Your plumber may not be familiar with materials that are entirely eco-friendly, but this is changing as a wider variety of products becomes available. Green plumbing takes a lot of planning and consideration so if you are unsure, talk to a licensed professional plumber who will help you work through the different options and scenarios that best suit your needs.
If you want to reduce your environmental footprint further, go beyond choosing the most sustainable items and consider how an investment in technology can reduce resource usage and waste, and add value to your home. Be aware that many of these investments have a large upfront cost (see point 5 on how to offset this) but you’ll see returns in the form of diminished ongoing costs in a matter of years. Some technology items you may wish to install include: A greywater system saves water. Greywater recycling takes wastewater from washing machines and basins, filters it and uses it to flush toilets and soak your garden. It requires a filter and recirculation pump. A rainwater system does much the same, but the water comes from a tank that collects rain. A top-grade filtration system can provide drinking water, but this needs a high level of maintenance. Solar hot water saves energy by using solar power to heat water. Solar panels can be attached to your hot water system or you can opt for heat pump technology, which doesn’t require panels.