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Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR)

Vol-2, Issue-10, 2016


ISSN: 2454-1362, http://www.onlinejournal.in

Comparison of Rooftop Rainwater


Harvesting Systems in Tropical Countries:
Life Cycle Energy Approach
S. Sendanayake
Department of Civil Engineering,
South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine
Malabe, Sri Lanka

Abstract: Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) is tank is at or below ground level and a smaller
considered as a viable supplementary source of capacity tank feeding the service points at an
water, particularly in tropical countries where elevated position receiving the roof runoff, with the
adequate rainfall depths are available spread excess cascading down to the main storage, a
through the year. Conventional Rooftop Rain Water significant saving on pumping energy is possible
Harvesting (RRWH) systems consist of a catchment [12]. It is noted that the distributed capacity system,
area, gutters and pipes as the conveyance and a identified as the cascading multi-tank system [10]
storage tank. However, in order to provide collected requires a minimum of 1 m3 capacity feeder tank to
rainwater to service points, a pumping unit is also maintain reasonable supply reliability where as the
required unless the tank is at an elevated position. In simpler header tank system can have smaller
order to minimize the energy utilization in the case of capacity feeder storage comparatively. However, in
pumping, a header tank or cascading multi tank typical housing units, feeder tanks of both types of
arrangements can be used, but the actual energy systems can be assumed to be positioned below the
involved in each type of RWH system during their roof without additional structural strengthening (Fig.
useful lifetime can be determined only when the 1, 2).
embodied energy in the construction, transport, use
and disposal of system components are calculated.
The same methodology can be used to compare the
CO2 emissions embodied in each type of system
during their useful lifetime so that the impact on the
environment can be estimated. This study is focused
on comparing the Life Cycle Energy (LCE) of
domestic RRWH systems with multi-tank and header
tank arrangements with that of systems with elevated
storage tank arrangement where the tank is
supported on a stand-alone Reinforced Cement
Concrete (RCC) structure in order to gravity feed the
collected rainwater to service points.

Key words: Rainwater, supplementary, catchment,


multi-tank, sustainability, cascading, life cycle,
embodied energy

1. Introduction
In detached domestic dwellings of diffuse settings, Figure 1: Schematic drawing of cascading multi-tank RRWHS
rainwater is harvested off the roof and if it is to be
supplied to service points under gravity, a structure is
needed to elevate the storage tank. The alternative is
to position the storage tank at or below ground level
and to pump the collected rainwater to a header tank
from which allowing gravity feed to service points.
Recent research has found that by distributing the
storage capacity vertically, where the main storage

Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR) Page 657


Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR)
Vol-2, Issue-10, 2016
ISSN: 2454-1362, http://www.onlinejournal.in

Figure 2: Schematic drawing of RRWHS with header tank

Life Cycle Energy (LCE) is a tool to quantify the


embodied energy in a system or product from
construction, through use to disposal during its useful
lifetime. In the process, it is important to normalize
the calculated values for the differences in durability
of the components of the product or system. For this Figure 3: Schematic drawing of RRWHS with elevated tank
purpose a functional unit is defined for the study as
that of 1 m3 of rainwater used per capita per year. In Data from the Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE)
the RRWH systems considered in the study, the main (University of Bath, UK), Alcorn, [1] and the Centre
storage tank is taken as of High Density Poly for Building Performance Research, New Zealand
Ethylene (HDPE), mainly due to its low weight to [2] are used to identify the embodied energy and CO2
volume ratio. In all cases the tanks are assumed to be emissions of materials in each tank while costs and
positioned on the ground sacrificing floor space as quantities are gathered from local suppliers and
well as possible obstructions to movements in the contractors.
vicinity. It should be noted that it is not possible to
position HDPE tanks below surface level without 2. Objective
surrounding Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC) or
rubble retaining structures preventing pressure from The objective is to compare the LCE of RWH
wet soil collapsing the tank walls when the tank is systems with multi-tank and header tank
empty. arrangements, pumping from ground level storage
The stand-alone support is usually constructed as a tanks, with that of a system in which the storage tank
four column RCC structure with a slab to support the is mounted on an elevated RCC structure feeding the
storage tank and for a typical two storey house the service points through gravity for typical two storey
height can be of 3.5 m from ground level (Fig. 3). houses in diffuse tropical settings.

The optimum tank capacity for a given RRWH 3. Methods and Materials
system depends on the daily demand for water,
which is usually taken as a constant for a given For the study, hypothetical cases of RRWH systems
scenario [5], collection area and rainfall depth at the in detached two storey houses in diffuse settings in
given location and can be calculated using the tropical island of Sri Lanka are considered. The
generalized curves for Water Saving Efficiency annual average rainfall for the location is taken as
(WSE) of RWH systems, validated for tropical 2000 mm while the roof collection surface area for
countries [4,9]. each system is taken as 50 m2. Main storage tank
capacities are taken as 10 m3 ensuring a daily supply
of 400 liters of rainwater through the year catering to
an average of 4 occupants at 90% reliability.
However, the 10 m3 main storage capacity is taken as
two tanks of 5 m3 each coupled together to facilitate
maintenance.

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Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR)
Vol-2, Issue-10, 2016
ISSN: 2454-1362, http://www.onlinejournal.in

Guttering and distribution piping networks are


assumed identical for all 3 types of systems but the
downspout lengths are taken into calculation due to
differences of length. The RWH system with
cascading multi-tank arrangement in addition to the
main storage consist of 1 m3 HDPE tank as the upper
feeder storage while the system with the header tank
arrangement has a 0.5 m3 capacity tank of the same
material. In addition, the latter system has a 200 mm
diameter downspout of 4 m of length of 3 mm wall
thickness to transport roof runoff to the storage
tanks. In the other two systems, the runoff is
assumed to be entering the tanks from the guttering
with minimal downspout length. Supply pipe from
the main tank to feeder/header tanks is taken as 18
mm diameter, 12 m in length. Figure 5: Reinforcement detail of support structure beam at 3.2 m
Considering the low Total Dynamic Heads (TDH),
surface mounted stainless steel centrifugal pumps of 4. Calculations
45 liter per minute flow rate and 250 W power rating
are chosen for the multi-tank and header tank At 400 liters of daily demand, for a household of 4
arrangements and the pump efficiency is taken as occupants, per capita rainwater usage is calculated as
30%. The RCC (1:2:5) support, 3.5 m high from 36.5 m3. The length of supply pipes to upper tanks in
ground level, is taken as a 4 column structure with the case of multi-tank and header tank arrangements
each column 225 x 225 mm cross section with a 100 is taken as 12 m, with 6 m of vertical lift, resulting in
mm thick slab of 4650 x 2500 mm as the mount for a TDH of 9.5 m inclusive of equivalent 2 m of
the two 5 m3 HDPE tanks (Fig. 4). The columns are friction loss in the pipes and equivalent 1.5 m of
reinforced with 12 mm steel bar with the slab is of 10 minor losses in the valves etc.
mm steel bar in 200 c/c mesh. The upper tie beams The quantity of collected rainwater that can be
are of 225 x 300 mm cross section with pumped up per year in cascading two-tank scenario
reinforcement detail as shown in Fig. 5. The lower is given by,
tie beam is of 225 x 225 mm cross section with 12
mm steel bar reinforcement. Q = D (ηO - ηU) (1)

Where D is the annual demand and ηO and ηU are the


Water Saving Efficiencies (WSE) of the overall
system and the upper feeder tank respectively [11].
For an annual demand of 146 m3, annual average
rainfall depth of 2000 mm, roof collection area of 50
m2, collection coefficient of 0.8, main storage
capacity of 10 m3 and upper feeder tank capacity of 1
m3, ηO and ηU are determined from generalized
curves for WSE (validated for tropical countries) as
95% and 60% respectively. Energy utilization of
pumps is calculated by adjusting the hydraulic
energy requirement by the pump efficiency of 30%.
CO2 emission in pumping is calculated on the basis
of 1 kg of CO2 per 1 kWh.
It is assumed that no machinery is used for mixing of
concrete and for compacting. Water for construction
is assumed to be drawn from or in the vicinity of site
at no cost. In the calculations additional assumptions
made are as following;
• Concrete mixing is carried out at site
manually, taking into account the volumes
involved and the possible remoteness of the
Figure 4: Schematic drawing of RCC support structure site from the nearest batching plant.
• The energy for maintenance is negligible.

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Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR)
Vol-2, Issue-10, 2016
ISSN: 2454-1362, http://www.onlinejournal.in

• It is assumed that plywood and lumber used • The nearest available supply depot/store is
in the formwork are not re-used. taken as 30 km distance from the site. It is
• At the end of its useful life, RCC structure assumed that tractor trailers or light trucks
is assumed to be de-constructed and (less than 7.5 tonnes) are used for material
materials used for land filling at site. transport and the number of t.km units is
Recycling of materials from deconstruction calculated accordingly, taking into
is considered non-viable due to low consideration the total tonnage and the
volumes. Energy required for the average distance to supply base from site.
deconstruction is considered minimum.
• Energy utilized in manufacturing HDPE
tank is not taken as it is widely considered
as below 1% of the total embodied energy
of the tank.
Table 1: Embodied energy of RRWH systems
System Qty. Embodied Energy Total Embod. Energy Embod. Energy /FU
Type kg (MJ/kg) (MJ)
Multi-Tank

HDPE Tank
mfg 260 kg 80 104000 57.0
Disposal 260 kg (9.13) (11869) (6.5)
Pump 5.0 kg 56.7 992.3 0.54
Pumping
Energy 15.9 MJ/y 795 0.44
Supply pipe 3.5 kg 77.2 270 0.5
Total 51.98
Header-Tank

HDPE Tank
mfg 240 kg 80 96000 52.6
Disposal 240 kg (9.13) (10956) (6.0)
Pump 5.0 kg 56.7 992.3 0.54
Pumping
Energy 45.4 MJ/y 2268 1.24
Supply pipe
+ Downspout 13.7 kg 77.2 3701 2.02
Total 50.39
Elevated Tank

HDPE Tank
mfg
Disposal 200 kg 80 80000 43.8
200 kg (9.13) (9130) (5.0)
RCC support
Cast-in-place

Cement
Sand 660 kg 5.6 3696 2.02
Aggregates 2200 kg 0.081 178.2 0.09
20 mm
Steel 10 mm 4290 kg 0.083 356 0.19
Plywood and lumber 302 kg 20.1 6070.2 3.33
Transport
Total 622 kg 15 7830 5.09
240 t.km 2.5 /t.km 600 0.33
89600 49.87

Table 2: Embodied CO2 emissions of RRWH systems


System Qty. Carbon Kg CO2 per kg Total CO2 kg
Type kg CO2 kg /FU
Multi-Tank

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Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR)
Vol-2, Issue-10, 2016
ISSN: 2454-1362, http://www.onlinejournal.in

HDPE Tank
mfg 260 kg 3.45 4485 2.46
Disposal 260 kg - - -
Pump 5.0 kg 6.15 107.6 0.06
Pumping
Energy 4.4/y 220 0.12
Supply pipe 3.5 kg 2.41 8.4 0.01

Total 2.65
Header-Tank

HDPE Tank
mfg 240 kg 3.45 4485 2.46
Disposal 240 kg - - -
Pump 5.0 kg 6.15 107.6 0.06
Pumping
Energy 12.6/y 630 0.35
Supply pipe
+ Downspout 13.7 kg 2.41 33 0.06
Total 2.93
Elevated Tank

HDPE Tank
mfg
Disposal 200 kg 3.45 3450 1.89
200 kg - - -
RCC support
Cast-in-place

Cement
Sand 660 kg 0.93 613.8 0.34
Aggregates 2200 kg 0.0048 10.6 0.01
20 mm
Steel 10 mm 4290 kg 0.0048 20.6 0.02
Plywood and 302 kg 1.37 413.7 0.23
lumber
Transport 622 kg 1.07 558.5 0.37
240 t.km 0.0687 16.5 0.01
Total
5083.7 2.87

5. Results and Discussion


Comparing the three types of RRWH systems it can
be seen that the lowest embodied energy per FU of
49.87 MJ is in the system where the tank is
supported on a RCC structure while the highest of
51.98 MJ is in the multi-tank model (Table 1, Fig. 1).
Therefore, the header tank and multi-tank models are
1% and 4% higher in normalized embodied energy in
comparison to elevated tank model but in normalized
CO2 emissions, multi-tank model at 2.64 kg is 3.3%
and 8% lower than the header tank and elevated tank
models respectively (Table 2, Fig. 2).

Figure 6: Comparison of Embodied Energy (MJ/FU) of RRWHS

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Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR)
Vol-2, Issue-10, 2016
ISSN: 2454-1362, http://www.onlinejournal.in

case of re-using plywood and 44.78 MJ and 2.5 kg


using steel formwork respectively.

6. Conclusions
From the study it can be concluded that in
comparison the system with the storage tank elevated
by a RCC support structure is not only utilizes zero
energy in operation but also the system with the
lowest embodied energy per 1 m3 of rainwater used
per capita per year. The multi-tank model on the
other hand is energy efficient and also displays the
lowest CO2 emissions per FU. However, if plywood
used in the formwork for the support structure is
replaced with steel, the RRWH model with the
elevated tank presents the lowest embodied energy as
well as embodied CO2.

Figure 7: Comparison of CO2 emissions (Kg/FU) of RRWHS References

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are the most significant with 95%, 93% and 79% Dioxide for NZ building Materials. Wellington, New
from the multi-tank, header tank and elevated tank Zealand, Centre for Building Performance Research,
Victoria University of Wellington,
models respectively, indicating the possibility of
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lowering the embodied energy and CO2 emissions rt_2003.pdf
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ferro-cement is used for the storage tanks. The high [2] Centre for Building Performance Research, 2007, Table
contribution of HDPE tanks to the total embodied of Embodied Energy Coefficients, Victoria University,
energy and CO2 emissions of RRWH systems can be Wellington, New Zealand.
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durability of the tanks as per the warranty given by energy and CO2 of water tanks”, International Centre for
manufacturers. The low warranty given on the tanks Sustainability Engineering and Research.
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approach”, Urban Water, 1, 323-333.
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energy and CO2 emissions in operation, indicating a
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www.bluescopesteel.com.au
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Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR)
Vol-2, Issue-10, 2016
ISSN: 2454-1362, http://www.onlinejournal.in

[11] Sendanayake, S., Jayasinghe, M.T.R, “Performance of


two tank rain water harvesting models for tropical houses”
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[12] Sendanayake, S., Jayasinghe, M.T.R, “Cost effective


cascading multi-tank rainwater harvesting systems for
multi-storey buildings” International Journal of Advances
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