Rainwater harvesting systems in the UK

Collecting rainwater (rainwater harvesting)

Rainwater harvesting is not a new concept, it goes back to the dawn of civilisation.  Collecting rainwater is a fairly obvious thing to do as it generally unpolluted and frequently available.  Once water actually falls onto the ground or into water courses,  it is more than likely contaminated or indeed salty.

Early rainwater harvesting

In terms of technology the Roman empire “invented” rainwater harvesting and the distribution of water and these techniques (outside the scope of this blog) remained undeveloped until really the 16th/17th century, when larger towns and settlements required a constant supply of water and often these settlements weren’t located next to rivers and water courses.   Pre-Victorian houses would have underground storage tanks located near the kitchen quarters of large estate houses, and often a hand water pump.  Of course wells were also popular, but as water courses became gradually polluted by farming and industrial activity and many disease outbreaks the need for reliable water and sewage systems grew.

Moving away from rainwater and the national water supplies

We are all aware that the distribution of the population changed during the industrial revolution from rural to industrial towns and cities, along with this came many problems, water supply and disease are just two.  This led to the invention of both water distribution and sewage on a municipal scale.  With that individual collection and storage of rainwater fell out of fashion and in affect the idea was lost.

20th Century rainwater harvesting

We are all familiar with the simple and traditional water butt idea.  I’m sure we’ve all at sometime or another filled a watering can or two from a butt or similar.  This practice has continued in one form or another ever since.  Of course there are scaled up versions and other specialist systems around, and many keen gardeners have been know to be very proud with there capture of rainwater.  After all it is much better for plants than tap water (town water).  Towards the end of the century in the UK a practice given the name rainwater harvesting or sometimes also known as rainwater recycling emerged.

Modern rainwater harvesting

In the late 1990’s modern rainwater harvesting in the UK started to appear.  Whilst there is continued improvement and developments within this industry, the systems are essentially underground storage tanks with pre-tank filtration and water is distributed via electric pump(s).  Domestically the systems are based on a single tank of between 2,000 and 6,500 litres in size and are nearly always buried.  Commercial systems are also common in schools, hospitals and other similar buildings.  Commercial systems have received the backing from various government codes of practice such as BREEAM.  Freerain is leading company in the design, supply and manufacture of both domestic  and commercial rainwater harvesting systems

More to follow in rainwater harvesting part 2.

See more on rainwater harvesting.