Water sustainability issues have been high on the public agenda for years now and the family are keen for their new house to have a low water impact. At the same time, it needs to meet the needs of their lifestyle.

Water metrics

As Theo and Zadie search for potential homes online, the information packs accompanying each house tell them everything they need to know about its energy and water consumption and impact. These data have become key metrics for buyers and they study it carefully.

The data shows the Harley family that properties in the village draw their water supply from a nearby reservoir, supplemented by locally recycled water and water their local company trades with other regions to optimise cost and environmental benefit. The family know the reservoir well from the time they have already spent in the village. It provides a wildlife habitat and local amenity, hosting watersports and providing space for walking and cycling around its shore, while also bringing environmental and biodiversity benefits. This makes Zadie and Theo especially keen to ensure the house they buy helps safeguard this precious local resource.

Dream home

A development of new homes in the village catches the couple’s eye. The houses have all the latest water-efficient technologies and are connected to sustainable drainage systems with ponds that provide attractive and wildlife-rich green spaces. But there’s one problem: the houses are out of their budget. Zadie and Theo decide they will have to create their own dream home by renovating one of the village’s many older properties and bringing it up to the same standard as a new-build home.

There is plenty of information available to help the Harley family with their renovation project. The local water company, who partnered with the developer on the new houses Zadie and Theo looked at, is very active in informing people about how they can help. Reese’s secondary school and Maddox’s primary school include water issues in lessons, and the kids are very knowledgeable about smart water-efficient fittings and greywater recycling opportunities.

The family set about renovating their new home, installing systems including:

  • Optimum flow fittings for the taps, showers and toilets
  • Smart fittings and a smart meter enable them to track individual usage and the family compete to see who can be most water-efficient
  • A greywater recycling system that uses water from the shower and basin to flush the toilets
  • A heat exchanger that uses heat from wastewater to help warm their hot water supply (with ground source heat pumps supplying space heating)
  • Rainwater harvesting for washing their electric car, their bikes and their muddy dog; filling the paddling pool; and irrigating their vegetable garden, which is important to this family of vegetarians
  • Soakaways to allow any excess rainwater or greywater to percolate back into the soil rather than entering the sewer and increasing the load on the local treatment works, and the risk of flooding and pollution.

Water-conscious community

With the renovation complete, the family take an enormous amount of pride in their home. They can see a detailed breakdown of their data on their devices and can track exactly how much difference their efforts are making, which is great feedback.

Mum, Dad and the kids are also proud of being part of their village, which is aiming for special status as a water-conscious community. Data from the villagers’ smart meters is aggregated and compared with other similar areas. Because people have, together, taken steps to reduce their water usage, they are given credits they can trade with higher water users in return for rewards. The children already receive free swimming lessons from the water company and they have just heard that the village has earnt enough credit to pay for a school watersports trip.

The family knows it is making a positive difference to water sustainability, and that their efforts have made a positive difference to their own lives too.


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