Innovative approach to water saving

Tuesday, 18 April, 2006

Like many Australians, millions of Britons are reeling from water restrictions.

One innovative UK university has come up with a novel way to help plug the water crisis " by recycling plastic milk cartons.

Energy savers at Sheffield Hallam University have won an award for their innovative and low-cost method of conserving water, in the same week it was revealed insufficient amounts of water were being collected and used in Britain.

The University took first spot in the energy and water efficiency category at the prestigious Green Gown Awards, after saving more than four million gallons of water last year " enough to fill around six Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Water consumption was cut by 15 per cent across 36 different University properties between 2002 and 2005, thanks to the resourceful idea of former plumber and now University energy conservation technician, Bryan Kirk to make use of old milk cartons. The cut-to-size containers were fitted under the ball valves of toilet cisterns in student halls and teaching buildings, saving water each time the toilet was flushed, without any risk of water contamination.

Bryan developed the idea after discovering that a single student hall was drinking up a quarter of the University's total water consumption. The makeshift water-saving containers were so successful, they have now been fitted across the University, helping it save £35,000 a year in water costs.

Charles Morse, energy manager at Sheffield Hallam University, said:

"Recycling the plastic milk cartons meant that we have not only made use of waste cartons, but we have also raised staff awareness, as people saved bottles at work and also started to report more drips and leaks.

"Even limited time and resources can produce significant water savings. We used simple techniques and basic materials, combined with the most important ingredients " the enthusiastic support of a large number of staff and Bryan, who made things happen on the ground."

The Green Gown Awards, which began in 2004/5, celebrate the UK universities and colleges that are taking positive steps to improve the environment and save energy. They are organised by The Higher Education Environmental Performance Improvement (HEEPI) project, which is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

Three major UK water companies this month brought in domestic hosepipe bans, while the GMB union has admitted not enough water is being collected and saved.

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