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18 May 23

Affinity Water works with SDS to pioneer water reuse in new housing developments

Affinity Water has teamed up with SDS Ltd to work on a new Water Neutrality project funded by Ofwat and Nesta to fit out 400 new homes in mid-Bedfordshire with water reuse systems such as rainwater and grey water recycling.

In a new podcast Sam Burgess, Water Reuse Manager of SDS Ltd explains how the new systems will work and gives some eye watering statistics on how much water can be saved by introducing them into new developments and converting existing properties both commercial and private. This in turn benefits the environment and helps to save water so that less is extracted from chalk aquifers in Affinity Water’s catchment area.

After Sam tells us what exactly rainwater and grey water harvesting is he stands outside to survey the properties around him, a block of flats, an office block and a gym to come up with some new solutions as to how they can be adapted using rainwater and grey water harvesting to save thousands of litres of water. In the gym that could amount to 40 per cent. “In the gym you can use recycled water for most toilet flushes,” Sam explained.

Rainwater harvesting can not only save water but can reduce soil erosion and prevent floods by reducing the amount of runoff water that is produced during heavy rainfall.

Greywater recycling refers to the treatment of wastewater from appliances such as showers, baths and sinks, to be reused and fed back into a property for non-potable purposes such as flushing toilets.

On NAV sites local communities “appoint” their own water supplier who works with the incumbent water company for the area to supply water and sewage systems. NAVs tend to be smaller companies. In this case it is Albion Water.

On Affinity Water’s new mid-Bedfordshire NAV site by recycling water and fitting dual use systems and meters, one for potable drinking water and one for grey water appliances such as toilets and washing machines, it is estimated that “40 cubic meters of water a day could be supplied back in non-potable water”.

Sam also gets to grips with some new terms we will all soon become familiar with such as SuDS – Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems – and Attenuation - where stored storm water is released back into a water course or sewer network when safe to do so.

Sam explains: “At our innovation project site of 400 new build homes SDS is working with Albion Water and Affinity Water to include our new SYMBiotIC™ technology . There is a dual ring main infrastructure, so each property has two water meters. This allows us to tell which water usage is potable and which is not. Once we are supplying that property with treated rainwater then we can gather that data through our SYMBiotIC™ monitoring systems and tell you what we are saving in potable water consumption throughout various seasons of the year. We can then compare this with data from other Albion Water sites which have not been equipped with SDS technology. We anticipate that by the middle of 2024 we can feed this data back into the innovation project.”

He continued by saying how much it could help to mitigate climate change: “This is very scalable, and we hope to roll it out to other sites nationwide. We will be mitigating the impact of climate change by capturing water at source in residential developments, and reusing that water on site, thereby preventing overflows downstream if it rains heavily and allowing aging sewer networks to process less water than they would normally have been required to. There is a drive on in the country to build more houses, so we have to provide more water for more people who need it. But we do have to alleviate the potential for flooding as the land on which the homes are built - on what were green field sites - was previously dealing with the surface water and preventing floods. There is a multitude of different benefits that these systems offer, all the way through from drought to flooding, to pollution of our rivers and seas.”

This water reuse project is one of a series of trials that will test how best to reduce water consumption in new homes and businesses in order to protect the environment and secure a sustainable water supply for the future.

The Ofwat- and Nesta- backed innovation project, called ‘Project Zero’ (also known as ‘Water Neutrality at NAV sites’) will take place at three locations. Currently efforts are concentrated on a development called Bidwell in Houghton Regis Town, Central Bedfordshire. These will focus on making new homes water efficient and reducing water use by encouraging behavioural change. The aim is to ensure that the total water use in the community is the same as before the new homes were built.

Lina Nieto, Water Neutrality Manager at Affinity Water explained:

“Water Neutrality will help overcome two problems: the first one, is to prevent new homes from becoming a future problem by making them water efficient and thereby reducing the anticipated water consumption; and the second one, reducing water waste in the community where the new homes are situated.

“New properties in the Affinity Water area are expected to use an extra 83.03 million litres a day by 2032 on top of what is already being used. This is at a time when taking additional water from the environment will become more challenging, as climate change also puts pressure on environmental resources. Mitigating the impact of climate change and protecting the globally rare chalk streams in our region by reducing the need to abstract water from the chalk aquifers is important to us.”

Find out more about Affinity Water’s Water Neutrality Trial.

Find out more about SDS Ltd.

In September 2021 Affinity Water’s Water Neutrality at NAV sites was named a winner in Ofwat’s £36 million Water Innovation Challenge.

Ofwat’s Water Breakthrough Challenge tackles the biggest challenges facing water and wastewater services, including net zero, reducing leakage, protecting natural ecosystems, and using open data to deliver value to customers, society, and the environment.

More information on water neutrality.

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