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Thinking differently about water

Water shortage is a key challenge in east Kent, and across the country. The Environment Agency has warned in a recent report, ‘The State of the Environment: Water Resources’ that unless we as a country do more to save water, we’ll see significant supply issues by the 2050s, particularly in the South East.

Emma Howard Boyd, chairwoman of the Environment Agency, has said: “Industry must innovate and change behaviours in order to reduce demand and cut down on wastage – and we all have a duty to use water more wisely at home.”

It is extremely important to us, and to the future of the community, that we address this water shortage and protect resources at Otterpool Park. We’ve got some pioneering plans that will allow water to be used efficiently, creating a sustainable system for the long term.

 

So how will we do this?

Working with suppliers and stakeholders

We’re talking to a number of suppliers about water provision in the area:

  • Affinity Water has confirmed that the whole garden town can be supplied with water. The first supply will be provided for up to 1500 homes in advance of new investment into the distribution system. Affinity Water has a good track record of reducing water use – through metering or leakage reduction, for example.
  • We’ve also been talking to Albion Water, a supplier that uses innovative ways to provide water and waste water services. They could deliver a service that integrates water supply, wastewater treatment and drainage, making Otterpool Park more self-sufficient and reducing water demand.
  • We’ve also been discussing alternative solutions for dealing with waste water management with Southern Water.

Our system

At home

According to the Environment Agency , the average potable (clean/drinkable) water use is 140 litres per person per day. The current Building Regulations target for water efficiency in new homes is 125 litres per person per day – our target is 90 litres per person per day.

This target is ambitious. However, in the average home, 35% of clean, drinking-quality water is used for toilet washing and outdoor use. Only 4% of this type of water is actually used for drinking, with the rest for personal washing, washing up and other uses. So, we will substantially reduce the consumption of this clean, drinkable water if we use recycled water for toilet flushing and outside.

The natural environment

Racecourse pond

At the same time, we need to make sure we don’t increase flood rates and there isn’t any extra drainage into the River Stour.

We therefore need a fully-connected water system, and plan to use Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) and Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) principles to achieve this.

This approach will encourage rainwater harvesting and treated effluent (waste water) recycling by collecting and managing surface water within the site and using it in different ways. Importantly, SuDS and WSUD can also collect and control water.

There are plenty of surface water features at the site, including East Stour River and other streams, ponds and ditches. The pond in the middle of the old racecourse was created to provide a constant supply of water. All of these features will be kept and used to become part of the system.

 

Managing floods

Our strategy will include an interconnected network of well-designed and managed onsite swales, basins, ponds and wetlands with dedicated outfalls or vents that will provide attractive water features. This is in agreement with the Environment Agency and Kent County Council as lead Local Flood Authority to collect, treat, infiltrate, transport and store water.

Our system of drainage will manage and reduce flood risk by limiting development runoff below the current rates during extreme events and maximising available water resource from rainfall during normal events.

An example of a SuDS system in another location

An example of a SuDS system in another location

Who else has done this?

A number of projects in the UK have used this methods to achieve ambitious water targets. NW Bicester in Oxfordshire, an Eco Town, uses rainwater recycling, while Upper Rissington in Gloucestershire has a water recycling facility.

We know that Otterpool Park needs to provide enough water for its residents – our plans to do this sustainably will mean that our town (and Kent) can make sure demand meets supply for generations to come.

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