Rainwater Harvesting for Drought Mitigation and Flood Management
Date: 5 June 2017
University of Exeter
EngD in Water Engineering
Rainwater harvesting (RWH) in the UK has seen a low level of uptake relative to similar settings such as Australia and Germany. The relatively low cost of municipal water in the UK limits the financial savings associated with RWH systems, especially in a domestic setting. Although financial benefits can be relatively low (in terms of ...
Rainwater harvesting (RWH) in the UK has seen a low level of uptake relative to similar settings such as Australia and Germany. The relatively low cost of municipal water in the UK limits the financial savings associated with RWH systems, especially in a domestic setting. Although financial benefits can be relatively low (in terms of reduced water bills), academic and practitioner studies have demonstrated the potential for RWH to significantly reduce potable water demands at typical UK houses. Hence, increased uptake of RWH has potential to contribute to mitigating droughts in water scarce regions. Stormwater management in the UK is receiving increasing attention at all levels; from grass-roots sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) such as downpipe disconnections and raingardens; through to implementation of urban realm attenuation schemes and continued development of guidance from UK policy makers. The public realm nature of most SuDS presents a need for partnership approaches to be fostered between infrastructure mangers and the general public. The application of RWH as a technology within the SuDS management train has been limited in the UK as policy makers have taken the view that RWH tanks may be full at the start of a design storm, and thus the potential for attenuation and peak discharge reduction has been largely ignored. However, in the last few years there has been a shift in emphasis; from RWH perceived purely as a water demand management technology to a focus on its wider benefits e.g. mitigating surface water flooding through improved stormwater management. RWH systems examined in this thesis are now available which offer multiple benefits to both end-users and water service providers. The application of RWH in a dual purpose configuration (to displace potable water demands and control stormwater discharges) has seen increasing interest during the development of this thesis. However, the successful design of RWH as a stormwater management tool requires a series of calculations to be completed. To date, practitioners have frequently relied upon low-resolution heuristic methods which lead to a small range of configurations being deployed, with minimal demonstrable stormwater control benefits. In this thesis, full details of novel and traditional RWH technologies were identified and described. Empirical data was collected, both in laboratory conditions and at field sites, to identify the real world operating characteristics of a range of RWH configurations. Additionally a new time series evaluation methodology was developed to enable RWH systems to be designed and analysed. This method quantifies water demand benefits and also focusses on stormwater management metrics (i.e. largest annual discharge and total discharge volume per year). The method was developed to enable a range of RWH configurations to be evaluated at a given site. In addition, a decision support tool (RainWET) was developed and tested which enabled the methods to be deployed in real world settings. The application of the RainWET software allowed a UK-wide, time series analysis of RWH configurations to be completed and the holistic benefits of a range of dual purpose RWH systems to be analysed and described. Evidence from the UK study suggests that a traditional RWH installation (3000l storage, 300l/day demand and 60m2 roof) installed at a house in a water scarce region (London, SAAR 597mm) was able to fully mitigate stormwater overflows over a 20 year analysis whilst providing a mean water saving of 31,255l/annum. An equivalent system located in the wettest region studied (Truro, SAAR 1099mm) saw mean reductions in the largest annual storm of 62% (range 35-86%) whilst satisfying a mean rainwater demand of 50,912l/annum. The study concluded that suitably designed dual purpose RWH systems offered better stormwater management benefits than those designed without a stormwater control device. In addition, the integration of smart RWH controls were shown to maximise stormwater control benefits with little or no reduction in a system’s ability to satisfy non-potable water demands.
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