Financial and environmental modelling of water hardness - Implications for utilising harvested rainwater in washing machines

Tito Morales-Pinzón, Rodrigo Lurueña, Xavier Gabarrell, Carles M. Gasol, Joan Rieradevall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


A study was conducted to determine the financial and environmental effects of water quality on rainwater harvesting systems. The potential for replacing tap water used in washing machines with rainwater was studied, and then analysis presented in this paper is valid for applications that include washing machines where tap water hardness may be important. A wide range of weather conditions, such as rainfall (284-1794mm/year); water hardness (14-315mg/L CaCO3); tap water prices (0.85-2.65Euros/m3) in different Spanish urban areas (from individual buildings to whole neighbourhoods); and other scenarios (including materials and water storage capacity) were analysed. Rainfall was essential for rainwater harvesting, but the tap water prices and the water hardness were the main factors for consideration in the financial and the environmental analyses, respectively. The local tap water hardness and prices can cause greater financial and environmental impacts than the type of material used for the water storage tank or the volume of the tank. The use of rainwater as a substitute for hard water in washing machines favours financial analysis. Although tap water hardness significantly affects the financial analysis, the greatest effect was found in the environmental analysis. When hard tap water needed to be replaced, it was found that a water price of 1Euro/m3 could render the use of rainwater financially feasible when using large-scale rainwater harvesting systems. When the water hardness was greater than 300mg/L CaCO3, a financial analysis revealed that an net present value greater than 270Euros/dwelling could be obtained at the neighbourhood scale, and there could be a reduction in the Global Warming Potential (100years) ranging between 35 and 101kg CO2 eq./dwelling/year.© 2013 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1257-1271
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2014


  • Financial feasibility
  • LCA
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Washing machine
  • Water hardness


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