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South West Water runs pilot scheme to reduce flooding

Residents in Exmouth are playing a part in a pilot scheme to reduce the risk of flooding by participating in a rainwater harvesting project funded by South West Water.

An underground rain water harvesting tank being installed in Exmouth An underground rain water harvesting tank being installed in Exmouth

Around 30 houses have had special water butts or underground tanks installed at their homes.

The tanks provide free water for homeowners but also provide spare capacity to hold back rainwater during storms.

Half of the water captured from the householder’s roof is available to use in the gardens and for flushing toilets and running washing machines. The other half of the tank trickles back into the sewer during dry conditions so that there is always capacity for the next rainstorm.

Most of Exmouth’s homes are connected to a combined sewer, which takes both rainwater and wastewater. However, too much rainwater can cause sewers to overflow. By capturing and using the water close to where it falls, the amount of rainwater entering the sewer is reduced.

The tanks have been installed free-of-charge to homeowners as part of South West Water’s Downstream Thinking programme, which is exploring sustainable approaches to drainage across the region. The company has also invested approximately £4 million in Exmouth’s sewerage network to improve capacity and resilience and accommodate significant growth in the town.

The rainwater harvesting tanks will now be monitored to assess their impact on stormwater flows.

The tanks can help customers significantly reduce metered bills.

College lecturer Nathan Weston, who had a 3,000 litre tank installed in his back garden last summer, said: “I was delighted to take part. It’s great to think that we are making use of the clean rainwater from our roof to run our washing machine and flush loos, instead of it going down the drain.”

South West Water’s flood risk manager, Richard Behan, said the scheme was a new way for water companies to address sewer flooding.

He said: “This innovative pilot project is aimed at exploring whether we can reduce excess water entering our sewers, especially at times of high rainfall. Intense downpours can quickly overwhelm our sewers, and any water we can use at source is water we don’t have to pump to the sewage treatment works.  

“We are committed to reducing the number of stormwater overflows into the River Exe, and this scheme will also help to protect that sensitive estuary environment. We’re grateful to the residents we have worked with for the positive way they have embraced the project.”

The project is now working with St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Regents Gate, Exmouth, to install rainwater harvesting and other sustainable drainage solutions.

Author: Robin Hackett, Deputy Editor, WWT and WET News
Topic: Innovation , Flooding & Urban Drainage
Tags: South West Water , flooding , rainwater harvesting , tanks , flood risk , stormwater

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