Welcome to the autumn 2017 newsletter
I’ve probably mentioned that fact more than once that we can glance up from our desks in the ech2o office and gaze out at the Grand Union canal. But I don’t think I’ve yet mentioned the resident cormorant whose patch this is. Can while away many a happy hour watching her/him ignore the Proper Corn oh so trendy staff group as she dries out her wings studiously after a spot of fishing. In news from elsewhere…Elaine told me her toads (she doesn’t have newts) had also gone and Luke waxed lyrical about the fact he always squats when he has a poo! As always we hope you all enjoy the newsletter, find the contents useful, inspirational or just plain fun and keep those comments, suggestions, messages etc. coming in. Also, two weeks after the last newsletter went live the newts came back. Then they went again… Talk about playing with my head!
Pic of the week
I absolutely love this photo taken by Tugo Cheng of a seaweed farmer in China. Think he took it using a drone. Looks amazingly peaceful. Though don’t bet against an eight lane motorway thundering away just out of camera shot...
Number crunch of the week…
4,760 kids had heard the mysterious case of the sinking flamingo by the end of June!! Which here at the ech2o office we think is a pretty impressive number. … If we add in the 180 others who heard it last week and think of all the random single kids out there who have a copy I reckon we have pretty much busted the 5,000 barrier… Frankie is pretty chuffed about it too. And thought she would set up a caption competition to celebrate …So, if you want to get your names in lights get thinking on a caption for this unbearably cute picture below.
Slow the Flow in Calderdale
This is a brilliant resource set up after the devastating floods suffered by the town in December 2015. The website explains how SuDS can help to reduce the impact of storm events in the future and explains what Calderdale and its residents have already done. There is information about how you can slow the flow at home, at school, at work and in public spaces all with clear advice and downloadable information. From using your rainwater butt as a mini water dam, through rain garden planters to full blown SuDS solutions. Check it out here: http://slowtheflow.net/
The iconic Brooklyn water towers
I’ve been meaning to include these in the newsletter ever since
Warren Liebold sent us a make your own Brooklyn water tower kit a couple of years ago which now has pride of place in the ech2o office… I assumed they were decommissioned but was completely wrong about that as they are very much still in use. Most medium rise blocks of flats (i.e. over 6 stories tall) will have them. The one pictured is metal but most are wood as it is a better insulator (important to help prevent freezing during New York’s severe winters) and wooden towers are cheaper to build. They hold approximately 38,000 litres of water and last for about 30 years before needing to be replaced.
The cost of disinfecting against legionella … again!
I have written about the fact that I consider the Building Regs in the UK need to change to allow the specification / installation of cold taps only on washbasins in public toilets (or the removal of hot taps in existing buildings). This is now becoming even more of an issue given the high costs of the mandatory legionella prevention regime that is putting an unsustainable monetary burden on small organisations. I have just heard of a playgroup that, unless they find £2,000 to pay for the legionella regime (their local council has stopped paying for it due to budgetary cuts) will have to close. The surveyor acting on their behalf is suggesting disconnecting the hot water taps, had read my article and was wondering if I had any examples from the UK he could quote. Sadly, I don’t… Just as with this example, I know that more and more buildings are doing it but until the Building Regulations are unequivocal about it being legal there is an obvious reluctance for building owners to shout about it.
The rather snappily titled ‘Quantifying the Effect of Water Temperature, Soap Volume, Lather Time, and Antimicrobial Soap as a Factor in the Removal of Escherichia coli ATCC 11229 from Hands’ is a research paper that shows it is not the temperature of the water but the use of soap that is the important factor in getting hands clean. It can be downloaded here.
ech2o literary corner
In her shower blog about disco showers Cath somehow segued into the tale of the rubber ducks lost at sea which led her onto this book… Moby Duck by Donovan Hohn. She loved it. Very nerdy but fascinating all at the same time. It’s an in-depth look at the 28,800 bath toys (not all of them rubber ducks by any means) that were lost overboard in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in 1992 and where they eventually ended up. Loads of stuff about ocean currents and how plastic accumulates in large areas at sea or washes up onto beaches, but also about the routes the ducks may or may not have taken and the work of oceanographers in unlocking the mysteries of the sea.
Testing drainage to maintain trap seals
If you are a plumber you learn loads of stuff about the siphoning of trap seals and how to prevent it. I have witnessed the result when a shower in a block of flat lost its trap due to induced siphonage, in so far as the whole flat smelt like the sewers. John Snow proved in 1854 that bad smells (or miasma) didn’t cause cholera.
But it’s not pleasant. In that instance we sorted the problem by installing a deep seal trap in place of the one that was fitted. (Meant we had to raise the shower tray – a fiddly job hence the shallow seal trap in the first place…)
The latest field trip
by the WatEf network looks fascinating... You get to hang out in this tower (which is 127.45 metres tall, 14.6 m in diameter at the base tapering to 8.5 m at the top and has listed status) while you watch toilets being flushed. The tower is home to the Studor ‘active drainage ventilation’ system, which uses a combination of multiple AAVs (Air Admittance Valves) combined with a Positive Air Pressure Attenuator to combat the unequal pressures that build up in drainage systems - the cause of trap seal loss from induced or self siphonage. Their system replaces the need for a two-pipe layout system in multi-storey flats and Studor believe that this is the tallest tower in the world that has undergone such testing of a drainage system.
Regenerative heat supply
There’s not a lot of advantages sharing office space with the Passivhaus Trust (apart from the occasional free chocolate biscuit!) but occasionally there is and this was one such time. Greenstorc came to came to explain about their process that takes waste heat from water to turn a hydrofluorocarbon liquid to steam at 40 degrees C, which is then used to drive a turbine and produce electricity. Certain industrial processes, hospitals and laundrettes all produce large amounts of hot water so would suit this technology. It also removes the requirement for cooling ponds because since it takes the heat out of waste water before discharging it to the environment. If a building has a dedicated output of hot water it is possible to calculate with certainty how much electricity the system will provide every day, something that cannot be done with PVs. All sounds very interesting.
Fly or football – the verdict is in...
‘Not sure fly would improve my aim, maybe if the more you wee’d on it the more it disappeared, then that’s an aim-based challenge! As for the footy, well that would only have us all at the other end of the bathroom testing the range for a long free kick! It would be mayhem, pee everywhere.’ Thank you to Ols Skinner for that (who never thinks anything is TMI!)
And then Nick Grant who emailed to say, ‘Sorry that I can't find my carefully framed phone video of me playing football in a German pub toilet urinal.’ You may be sorry Nick. The rest of us are just relieved!
Composting toilets at Bronx zoo
Thanks to Warren Liebold who works in water for New York City Council for this next bit.
The photos are ten years old but still sorta charming. The Bronx Zoo had an early 20th Century comfort station near one of its entrances and it drained to an early 20th Century septic system which was illegal. The nearest sewer line was about 0.5 km away and connecting to it would cost a huge sum. Instead, they renovated the building with composting toilets, waterless urinals and very low-flow faucets. The greywater supplies nearby gardens. The tag line was something similar to: “We have to deal with poo from hundreds of species already, how difficult could humans be?”
Sometimes I feel I could just fill this newsletter with stuff from Warren! He sent a load of links through recently for a book a friend of mine is writing. This web page
has a series of design guides that New York City Council (for whom Warren works) has published. The SuDS one and the fabulous Water Matters I would thoroughly recommend.
A year of showering variously - the best blog about showering in the world
In July Cath blogged about designs to shower shorter? What that woman now has time to design showers as well as everything else??? Well, no, not exactly… She just nicked them from a bunch of thirteen year olds! Though the results are probably better than Cath would have been able to conjure up… In August Cath was ‘away’ so posted a few pics of her new flowers shower and pretty much left it at that. In September she was back nicking the ideas of the youth. Oh Nooooooooooooooooo!!! Is this the beginning of the end of the shower blog? (Hope not!! Ed).
Paddling Pools - The new must have accessory for twenty somethings...
Remember the paddling pools of your youth? In mine they were a bit of cold water in a pool. Prob held 50 litres tops…Well now you can pretty much have any shape and any size you want. Pirate ship at 190 litres anyone?) And with the rise and rise of Amazon and the global marketplace pretty much for not much more than tuppence ha’penny! You can also buy a pool heater for £100! Apparently all the best twenty something parties these days have a paddling pool though obvs less paddling and more sitting in and drinking cocktails… (Like this 882 litres one)
Not sure what size and shape paddling pool R**** has. But back in that unexpected bit of hot summer we had (before the winter chills of August struck), she was putting her two kids in a paddling pool every day. So guilty did she feel about the amount of water she was using (she may or may not work for a water company and therefore be very aware of the stress on the mains network during hot spells) that she banned the kids from baths for the whole time. And then, rather than empty the pool every day as recommended by Mumsnet, just chlorinated it to an inch of its life!! Her kids definitely deserve a medal!
Where are they now – Lyds
Lyds turned up at ours the other day triumphantly waving her bill from TW because they (her and three flatmates) have got a six monthly bill since their water meter went in showing they are average users at 456 litres/day. Hmmm, I think they have only managed to sneak in here since both Lyds and Ed are at their respective boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s for most of the week! Cos Ed has a 20 minute shower a day (so that’s 140 litres just for his shower) and Lyds has at least ten minutes. Or maybe it’s just Matt and Jonno and they never shower – only kidding guys!
Three more WatEf blogs about water, people and communities. Colin Green blogs about water and economics and makes the point that orthodox economics has failed water management and that price rises do not necessarily result in lower water consumption. Indeed, pricing is so ineffective in driving behaviour it can result in a lack of water saving as the rewards for doing so are very low. Full of imponderables, the blog doesn’t come to a solution which is why he’s written a whole book about it! Then Siegfried Gendries (with additional input by Cath) writes a blog on water quality issues in the UK and Germany. Specifically about water quality failures once the water supply enters a building and encounters the plumbing systems and fittings therein. Very interesting take on the topic. I was especially interested in the issue of the oversizing of supply pipes within flats in former East Germany (which had been designed in the expectation of a demand of 200 litres/person/day) and the resulting stagnation issues that are now occurring as water consumption has dropped (to as low as 80 litres per capita in some areas). And Amber Robinson blogs about how the youth are leading the way in encouraging their peers to be more water efficient. Read them all here
, as usual.
Toilet corner - If it’s yellow DON’T let it mellow
This photo (sent to us by a reader of the newsletter wondering why this had happened to his loo) is a perfect example of why Cath thinks ‘if its yellow, let it mellow’ is really poor advice if your loo is in a hard water area. The scale build up in this loo is a direct result of the uric salts in urine combining with the limescale in the water. It is virtually impossible to remove unless you chip it off (not recommended with a porcelain toilet bowl!) or add industrial quantities of de-scaler. Cath’s advice?? Get a dual flush loo. And flush after you have had a wee!
Tap of the week is back
Good to see how it works but boy is it still ugly!! However posh the basin is!
Water around the world
No new blogs to report. But, as ever, we are never short of tantalisingly offered blogs! So this newsletter we can offer… James’s blog about farming and abstracting water from the river Avon which has arrived at the ech2o offices, is a really interesting historical read but is waiting for photos from Ben, his son, which could be a long wait…Safa has promised to blog about living on a canal boat and the issues that raises for showering for several months now but it’s still a no-show… Warren Liebold (who has already blogged about submetering of water supplies in New York
) has promised us another one on a subject yet to be decided … And then there is the promised blog on an in-depth look at the effect of paddling pools on the mains supply… No holding any breath mind!!
If you are reading this and want to write about any aspect of water supply, use or sanitation in your own country (UK included) we would love to get it! Just drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
with a brief synopsis about what you want to write about and we will get back to you. Even if you don’t end up actually writing the blog, we like hearing about what you might send us!
The mysterious case of the elephant that forgot – Frankie does engineering
This is in the very early planning stages at present but the Flamingo Investigation Department and the wonderful Pip Jefferis of Amey recognise that engineering needs the Frankie the flamingo treatment so that STEM ambassadors can go into primary schools to show six to eight year olds that building big things can be fun! Here is a sneak preview of the start of the story...
Meanwhile, thanks to EC1 Bathrooms
you can still watch
the original Frankie the flamingo mystery… Its eight minutes and eight seconds of general fabness, with the added bonus of hard technical information about combined sewer overflows!
@CathHassell – Follow Cath on Twitter
As she says in her twitter blurb: Likes: plumbing, cycling, cricket and India. Will only tweet about water and toilets though. She has pretty much kept to that promise if you count all plumbing as either water or toilets. If you want to see what you missed go here
or start to follow her. Or just go to our website
and Cath’s most recent tweets scroll along the bottom of our home page. Modern technology and all that!
Last but not least
If this is the first time you are reading one of our newsletters, don’t forget that all earlier versions are available here
. Full of links to technical downloads as well as random water stuff.