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School makes the most of the elements

Carrowholly NS making the most of the elements

Local school is leading the way in water conservation in Ireland with a gravity fed rain water harvesting system

Anton McNulty

“There must be a catch, it can’t be so simple,” was the reaction from academics from Dublin Institute of Technology when they visited Carrowholly National School, outside Westport to inspect Ireland’s first school to install a gravity-fed rainwater harvesting system. The academics from DIT were so impressed with the system that they installed a monitoring system in the school to analyse the potential benefits of the system.
The system was envisaged by the Principal Peter Carney and the board of management when they were planning their new €400,000 extension to the school which currently has 95 pupils. The school was participating in the Green Flag project and it was decided to incorporate a rainwater harvesting system into the design and become the first school in the country to do so.
The hay shed style roof diverts rain water through three gullies which are piped into two 500 litre storage tanks located in the attic space. Members of the Water Supply and Sewerage Strategic Policy Committee toured the school and marvelled at the simplicity and efficiency of the design.
Since the system was installed, Peter has been inundated with requests from other schools to see how the system works and believes similar designs will be incorporated in other buildings in the future.
“We came up with the design ourselves and the Department of the Environment gave us a €10,000 grant to ensure it was 100 per cent natural. There is no filtration put through it and it is purely for toilet use. DIT are surveying the system all the time and it has shown that with this system each toilet is saving 55 per cent on water. 55 per cent comes from this system and the remaining 45 per cent is from the mains.
“If we were looking at it again we might have increased the capacity of the tanks and save more water and money. It is the first gravity-fed school in the country and I have had a number of phonecalls from principals around the country. We have had loads of people looking at it and we even had a tidy towns workshop looking at it. It is simple and it works and the main thing is that the children understand it and are very conscious of water conservation,” he said.
The system requires no electricity or pumping and works, simply by utilising the existence of gravity. The water is filtered through a milking machine sock before it enters the tank to remove grit or other impurities it may have collected, and here it is gravity-fed down to the toilets in the school. The system is weather-dependant and excess water is diverted to an overflow system and if the water level goes below a certain level, the tank is filled from the water mains.
SPC Chairman, Cllr Eugene Lavin praised the principal and the board of management of the school and described the system as a ‘very simple and outstanding success’.