RAINWATER HARVESTING could significantly extend the life of water treatment plants and cut down on the waste of drinking water across the State, a study by the National Rural Water Monitoring Committee has found.
Two pilot projects found harvested rainwater offered huge environmental and economic benefits and could replace up to 40 per cent of mains water used in houses. Collecting rainwater can eliminate the use of treated water for flushing toilets, washing, gardening, and supplying water for livestock, the committee found.
The domestic rainwater harvesting project, carried out in a rural housing development in Co Carlow, found the use of rainwater to flush toilets reduced demand on mains water by up to 33 per cent. Samples taken from the harvesting system all complied with EU bathing water standards and 37 per cent complied with more stringent drinking water regulations. The agricultural project carried out at a 250-acre livestock farm in Co Meath led to rainwater replacing 43 per cent of the mains water used in animal troughs.
The committee, established by the Department of the Environment, recommends that rainwater harvesting be considered for widespread use to supplement mains water for non-drinking purposes, and should be built in to any new developments.
"Rainwater harvesting is a sustainable water conservation measure that has the potential to contribute to the sustainability of raw water sources and to the viability of water treatment plants," the report states.
Rainwater harvesting offered cost savings to local authorities and developers, but educational programmes and grants were needed to make it more appealing for users, the report said.