Hey before talking Council stuff here is a quick ad for the Vine Tree's Mexican Night in Randwick - was in the pub for a drink last night after a meeting got cancelled - very nice too - anyhow this evening saw four and a half hours of Council meetings...
Well I can't cover all here but will pick on one issue for this particular blog entry...a Labour motion to bring rainwater harvesting to Ebley Mill. Something I longed to support - indeed as a Green this is just the sort of thing surely we should be calling for....well yes and no....here is the jist of what I tried to say - although jeered by various councillors when I tried to quote Woking Boroughs figures on decreased rainfall....
I welcome the subject of water conservation being brought to this Chamber. Only a few weeks ago I was reading a Woking Borough Council report that says summer rainfall is expected to decrease by 30 to 40% and we will see more extreme weather conditions and demand for water rising evermore. The Pitt Review this week has also focused our attention again on the actions we need to be taking. Indeed it calls for more Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems and mentions Rainwater harvesting as one aspect.
However rainwater harvesting should not be the first choice for an existing building - I understand that both York and Congleton Councils mentioned in the briefing sent to councillors have introduced Rain water harvesting as part of new build projects rather than installing on existing buildings. Indeed sustainability experts say that in terms of the first measures for investment we should consider water conservation, then simple rain water harvesting like water butts, then advanced rainwater harvesting then greywater recycling.
It is the water conservation measures I would like to see first: cistern dams, smart meters and leak detectors, tap regulators like spray taps that cut 80% of water use, flow controls, water less urinals - in one college they saved £7000 on the water bill. Indeed Leicester for example saved £121,000 in ten years and cut water consumption by 43% over 10 years by a whole host of measures.
So rather than leap to recommending rainwater harvesting for Ebley Mill, I would like to see the Councils' water conservation strategy developed to look at all aspects of water conservation and recycling. Let it include rainwater harvesting - I certainly agree with the motion that the Council should be leading on this issue and a Council project would encourage this - but let us make sure energy conservation measures are considered first and when we come to rainwater harvesting we find the sites offering most advantage.
I would also welcome that strategy looking wider at how we can take on the challenge of conserving our water. West Sussex Council for example have held a summit for water companies challenging them about their role. They've also put on a Water Festival that led to a massive increase in water butt requests. Meanwhile other Councils like Woking provide quality information about Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems, greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting to people making making planning applications. This would be a positive way to help people save energy, water and money and promote this issue in the District.
To conclude I welcome this motion highlighting this issue, particularly as a re-allocation of resources has seen targets on water conservation slip. However I do not think the specific calls made in this motion for rainwater harvesting at Ebley Mill are the best way forward and therefore wont be supporting the motion.
Before making that decision I did consult with those selling rainwater harvesting and two other local water experts - both agreed water conservation measures should be the first priority - as a council we need to lead not lead people astray - having said that a Rainwater Harvesting project would be great to see to show off the potential....and more is needed in water conservation...yes they do subsidised water butts and hippos but more please!
I could write lots more on this: indeed in terms of water conservation as I've mentioned on this blog before, if we are really wanting to play our part we also need to be looking at the food we eat. For example it takes 500 litres of freshwater to produce a single kilo of potatoes, 11,000 for the beef in a quarterpound hamburger and 20,000 for a kilo of coffee. But it is too late now for more on that....