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Water recycling: Coming Soon to a home near you
Water reclamation plumbing will be required next year
Daily News - June 2, 2009 - Darrell Bellaart

Ron Hartman has a plan to recover all that water that gurgles down shower drains and downspouts all over Nanaimo.

Hartman spent two years developing water recycling systems to tackle both problems.

One diverts bath water to toilets. The other uses rainwater to irrigate the garden.

Both use battery-operated computer controls for hassle-free performance. They can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a starter rain collection system to $2,000, not including costs of additional plumbing.

Some homeowners question the need and the cost, but both can help meet a provincial stewardship goal to reduce water use 33% by 2020.

"New home builders are so worried about their bottom line right now, and we're finding our best sales are people with water conservation concerns, in the Gulf Islands, and people who want to conserve water," Hartman said.

Rain barrels are increasingly popular these days but few realize they can break city bylaws when they overfill, spilling water onto a neighbour's property.

Hartman's system directs excess water underground, where the downspout would normally take it. It uses a sensor to measure ground moisture, so the controller only sends water when needed. Drip irrigation heads put it where it's needed and once the sensor measures moisture, the system shuts off.

Hartman's indoor solution is to divert so-called "grey water" from the bath drain through a dedicated plumbing system into a plastic storage tank, where it supplies every toilet in the house.

It cuts water use by up to one-third, conserves heat and includes a safety feature to avoid cross-contaminating fresh tap water.

Surprisingly, most people use almost the same amount of water to bathe daily as they flush down the toilet.

"People think they flush three times a day but if you look at it most people flush eight to 10 times a day."

One U.S. study estimated bathing accounts for 18.5% of water usage in the typical home, compared to 26.7% for toilet water. To Hartman it made sense to use one to supply the other.

Bathing water is stored in a rectangular plastic tank about the size of a washing machine, which can fit in a garage, furnace or storage room. It can't overfill, because the overflow goes directly into the sewer system.

Next year the province will require all new housing to include water reclamation plumbing, and he plans to be ready for it.

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