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On holiday recently I read Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed in which he looks at historic collapses and the largely environmental factors that caused them, before going on to draw parallels for today.

One of the main reasons societies fell apart, Diamond claims, was lack of water, largely as a result of deforestation.

It makes you think, as you take the second shower of the day, about the stupidity of ushing all that nearly clean water down the drain.

And this is not just a holiday fancy. CIRIA, the Construction Industry Research and Information Association, is looking, as part of its forthcoming guidance on SUDS (sustainable drainage systems), at the possibility of setting up reedbeds for grey-water reprocessing on roofs. And if you are not going to reuse your water, you can at least make the best use of what comes out of the sky, as Craig White demonstrates in our plumbing and drainage theme (page 43-54), where he shows how much water can be harvested from a roof and what the pitfalls are.

Similarly, the use of permeable paving, also discussed in the feature, can alleviate the risk of ash oods. The city of Malm÷ in Sweden has taken this approach even further by introducing attractive balancing ponds and swales plus a programme of green roofs in order to prevent contamination of rainwater outlets with sewage overows. The range of possible intelligent methods for dealing with water ramps up the potential interest in plumbing and drainage for architects way above the traditional question of whether to have an ogee-pro-le drainpipe.

With droughts in the South East likely to become a regular occurrence, architects can help to reduce wastage of water - leaving the water companies as the only culprits. And by dealing more intelligently with the rain, we may even be able to reduce the size of drainpipes and make buildings more elegant and uncluttered.

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