Welcome to the Rainwater Harvesting Guide, where water is gold.

The best way to learn about rainwater harvesting is to read books on the subject, here are my current reviews.

I also manufacturer a rainwater tank and rain barrels for low cost rainwater collection. When you purchase rain barrels, you support my environmental projects including this website, thank you!

Rain Barrel Construction

Posted in Diversion, Harvesting, Methods, Products by Administrator on June 19, 2009.

The following rain barrel construction project was done by Scott Dixon from Rexburg, Idaho – rain barrel configuration and parts supplied by Aaron’s Rain Barrels.

Step 1. Construction of the Rain Barrels Base

Because we had some summer storms coming, I constructed a temporary base for the barrels made of concrete blocks and 2×4 studs. Everything was leveled and the barrels were put in their final position so that connecting tube lengths could be estimated.

Rain Barrel Construction

Step 2. Positioning the Diverter

A proper height of the diverter was selected so that the mounting flanges of the diverter could be screwed just above the lower edge of the metal siding of the house. At this point the rain downspout was marked to be cut.

Position the Diverter

Step 3. Cutting the Downspout

The rain downspout was removed and cut on a chop saw for a clean, straight cut. I cut out a section of the downspout that was equivalent to the length needed by the diverter so that all existing mounting straps at the bottom of the downspout would still be usable. This resulted in a clean installation.

Cutting the Downspout

Step 4. Mounting the Downspout and Diverter

The upper section of the downspout was reconnected to the rain gutter. I used an awl to align one of the existing holes while I re-inserted the other screws. I then positioned the diverter in place and screwed it to the metal siding of the house. Finally, I positioned the bottom section of the downspout and re-attached it to the house.

Step 5. Connecting the Barrels to Each Other

I measured and cut lengths of the tubing to connect the barrels in their proper position. To make it easier to slide the tubing over the connectors, I placed the tubes in hot tap water for 30 seconds. This softened the tube and it easily slid onto the connectors. Because there would be no high water pressure, I did not use hose clamps here.

Step 6. Connecting the Diverter to the Barrels

The last step was to connect the tubes between the diverter and the rain barrels. I originally used the two white tubes provided, but then decided to use one clear tube so any observers could see the water running through the tube. Before attaching the end of the tube to the connectors, I again placed the tube end in hot tap water to soften the tube. Then the tubes were attached. I used hose-clamps to secure the upper end of the tube at the diverter, so that the tube did not come off. Finally, I used one zip-tie to hold the tubes to the downspout so they didn’t move in the wind. The installation was complete and took about 2 hours, not counting time to the hardware store to buy extra tubing and hose clamps.

We’ve had three storms since the installation and all three barrels are 3/4 full. -Thanks

Natural Wastewater Treatment Systems

Posted in Books, Methods, Wastewater by Administrator on February 14, 2009.

Natural Wastewater Treatment Systems is book that covers a wide and diverse area, making the difference in the market of today, especially for engineers that are already working in the field and need the scientific knowledge behind the biological aspects of a more self-reliant and sustainable future for our civilization.

People already want the ecologically correct solutions and studies show how we can make those solutions actually the more financially viable alternative to mechanical and chemical filtration that traditionally has had a devastating effect on our environment, and the cost is driving the world into an emergency situation.

Thinking globally, but acting locally, in accordance to the laws that mother nature has put down, understanding and observing the way the planet deals with wastewater and reproducing those conditions in our planning and projects so as to return the energy supplied in collective blackwater management systems back into nature safely and wisely in stewardship of the planet.

As engineers, we now need to think progress in terms of the planet as a whole, where every last rock and tree is just as much a part of the civilization we are planning to develop as the people living in it.

Systems… It’s all about systems… Working with nature as part of our whole system, not separate from it, and using her qualities to delve deeper into the heart of our most essential needs.

Natural Wastewater Treatment Systems is an excellent place to find all the most up to date and current information on ecologically correct and financially more desirable solutions that transform blackwater into greywater, the way nature intended through more than 30 examples, 178 scientific tables and over 30 years of research that is now considered common knowledge.

This 576-page hardcover academic text for civil and environmental engineering courses, written by Ronald W. Crites, E. Joe Middlebrooks and Sherwood C. Reed, published by CRC in August of 2005, measures 8.9 x 5.9 x 1.5 and ships at 2 pounds.

Effectively incorporating the theories and processes of several of the most recent core engineering disciplines into a single text, this book is at the same time the perfect reference text for undergrad courses and professionals already working in the area, providing up to date, serious information, on Natural Wastewater Treatment Systems.

Wastewater Reclamation and Reuse

Posted in Methods, Wastewater by Administrator on January 23, 2009.

Wastewater Reclamation and Reuse: Water Quality Management Library, Volume X is a group of studies around the situation in Orange County in the early to late 1990s, unveiled due to increasing pressure from the public about water resources, giving rise to ecologically correct processes in reuse that work with nature.

See case studies on what wasn’t working, what was proposed, what was met with speculation and what actually worked with the ongoing involvement of the general public in waterworks issues, especially involving black water produced by municipalities and industries that were threatening the biodiversity of California’s forests.

With sewage and dumping becoming a major concern among Californians, measures were taken to work with the situation in favor of both people and the environment, reusing greywater and reclaiming blackwater safely above and beyond EPA standards.

Californians desired the reclamation of water resources, it was done, and this is the document that their efforts has left all of humanity, in the hopes of a more sustainable and self-reliant future that works in stewardship of the Earth, thinking globally, while acting locally and taking action, immediately.

This 1528-page hardcover, edited by Takashi Asano, published by CRC in June of 1998, measures 9.5 x 6.1 x 3.6 and ships at five pounds.

Studies and analysis with the EPA, in San Diego and Orange County around the topic of secondary effluent turbidity and the beneficial uses of reclaimed water systems from treated municipal and industrial wastewater, prompted by the increasing pressure on public health issues, infrastructure, process reliability, siting, and facility planning with complete economic and financial analysis and water utility management.

AquaBlox Water Matrix Tank Module

Posted in Products by Administrator on November 14, 2008.

AquaBlox Installation ImageAquaBlox Water Matrix Tank Modules are prefabricated rainwater harvesting blocks that ship in the form of collapsed panels, folded liner and filtration carpet, for quick and effortless installation that conforms to the needs of any underground rainwater harvesting system.

Made from 85% recycled polypropylene and 15% propriety selected materials, 95% of the surface area is void, while the paneled structures themselves are unaffected by mold, algae, soil-borne chemicals or bacteria.

Being of modular design, AquaBlox Water Matrix Tank Module is prefabricated into eight panels for each block, allowing for lego-like assembly, by-hand, onsite, for cost effective practical shipping, as well as easy installation.

Modular design also allows for a more organic look to the garden space, since the underground reservoir acts like a flexible tank that can take on any needed shape, with a passive filtration system that actually supports a variety of water garden designs that bring peace and value to your rainwater harvesting system.

The water matrixs service temperature is -21.2°F to 131°F (-6°C to 55°C), has an unconfined crush load of 34 psi (24 t/m2), with maximum displacement set at 0.433 (11 mm) tested between 46.4-57.2°F and 8-14°C; while it takes an unconfined side load of 3.58 psi (2.5 t/m2), with the maximum displacement set at 0.394 (10 mm), tested between 62.6°F (± 37.4) and 17°C (± 3).

The AquaBlox Large Water Matrix size comes under product number 29492, each matrix block measuring 26.5 long, 16 wide, 17.5 height, has a volume of 32 gallons, weighing 15.4 lbs, bearing 38 psi of load once installed and is assembled from eight modular pieces; four pieces measuring 26.5 x 16 and four pieces measuring 14.5 x 16.

An average 1500 gallon AquaBlox Water Matrix system, contains 48 AquaBlox, about 4 x 6 each, usually configured to 2 layers, with a 8 x 9 x 5 basin.

Lightweight, quick to install, with easy transportation, strong structural design, using underground space to a 95% capacity through modular water matrix cells, AquaBlox are ecologically friendly and improve the quality of urban living through tranquil garden or patio spaces that help us build a greener way of life for future generations to come.

AquaBlox Installation Documents and More – Get an idea of what it will take to install these units before you buy, we will be installing some locally (in MA if you are interested?) this coming spring, will update!

Rainwater Harvesting for Livestock

Posted in Methods by Administrator on September 16, 2008.

Rainwater Harvesting for livestock is a way of collecting stormwater from barns and other structures and cleanly redirecting the water for livestock to drink. Rainwater harvesting for livestock also includes keeping rainwater from being polluted by slaughterhouse pollution.

Harvesting rainwater for livestockA major rational for reason to use common sense is simple. In a water shortage, the animals are going to get drinking water after people. People need nutrients from animals flesh as a food source, and the animals also cannot grow without water. Since the majority of people are carnivores (people who need meat to survive) common sense with regard to water supply distribution that includes livestock applies.

To meet the demand for water for both humans and various animals living with them as food source livestock, large rainwater catchment areas need to be constructed. In some places in the world large catchments are many in smooth rock areas. Rocks like granite are used as giant basins to hold the rainwater. Which in some way is a man made lake or pool. There is no dirt in the catchment so these granite catchments fit the pool model better.

In some regions of the world, rainwater harvesting for livestock and people was practiced for hundreds if not thousands of years. With last century modernization many of these practices were abandoned; only to find out now that these practices are essential to a regions autonomous survival.

So in order to not be negative burden on the governances of these regions it has been found that returning to older rainwater reclamation practices is the ideal best course of action. Or as some would put it: this return to traditional time honored water collection fits the model of best practices for these regions. And trump modern designs on commercial irrigation, for practical supply cannot meet demand reasons.

This model, (way of thinking about meeting the need), is in contrast to commercial interests in generating profit, (making an easy lazy buck), from having people and livestock resource dependant on the commercial enterprises dead lock with government backing to monopolize the supply of clean water.

But commercial water works have failed in these areas were these corporations are simply too small, and powerless to meet the demand. And Mother Nature is out bidding these corporations for the business of large populations of people, and their livestock, for whom well water has run dry do to (in part) corporate greed depleting the ground water supply.

This is exactly a case where one corporate hand does not know what the other is doing. If one company is in charge of well water, and the other company is in charge of development and building. One could tell the other all day long that water needs to be replenished via permeable ground. But if various laws around the world overly protect shareholders rights above what is best for the environment; then there is a system set in place that cannot show profitability long term for the shareholders because the company did not follow common sense.

Simply put: trading the not so distant long term benefit of everyone, (including financial shareholders); for short term, (measured in decades or a century) profit of just the shareholder who are unaware that they have mortgaged their descendants water supply.

So in an effort to protect the stock value for the share holder, (which is a noble idea in and of itself), the practice lacked the vision to see the needs of the market base long term, and as a secondary result misses the bench mark necessary to diversify in ways that actually benefit the shareholder from benefiting the shareholder (stakeholder) too.

The difference in these models is simple returning to a practical technology based on the idea that the members of the community are the actual shareholders in the profit they can gain from a better life. Water was/ and now is collected with the benefit of these people in mind. This is done either individually of as a community to harvest rainwater for themselves and their livestock.

Techincal publication for those interested in understanding safe drinking water practices for their livestock:
Rainwater Harvesting for Livestock – Texas Water Resources Institute of Texas Cooperative Extension

Contributed by David Allison

Make your own Keyhole Garden

Posted in Methods by Administrator on August 27, 2008.

The new style of Key Hole Gardening got its name from its shape and is perfect for anyone who wants to retain water and grow plants in any climate.

This type of home gardening was developed by C-SAFE to help African residences conserve rainwater runoff resources while gardening. This new style of gardening started in Mapoteng, Lenkoane, Malumeng, Taung, Kota, Makanametsung, and Sekameng.

Make a Keyhole Garden like the children of Lesotho:

These places are in a dry climate. If you live in a dry climate this maybe ideal for you.

This new style focuses on land reclamation, water retention, homestead gardening, conservation farming, and in some cases small dam construction.

This style keeps in mind that many members of these homesteads are disabled and abled alike. This is not unlike the rest of the planet.

To create one you will need ash, weeds, aloe, and manure to start off.

Find or level off an area of ground six and a half feet in diameter. Be sure its near some home water run off source.

Mark the perimeter of the center water catch basket with four sticks. The diameter of the center basket will be sixteen inches wide and about five feet tall. That measurement can change based on your situation.

Tie the four sticks together with string, or tall grass. Line the basket with a permeable lining. The lining doesnt need to be secured to anything but the top of the four sticks. The sides will raise as refuse compost and dirt is piled against it in the next few steps.

At the outer perimeter there will eventually be a wall of flat stones around six by three by two iches (thats the X, Y, & Z of the stones themselves). These stones will gradually be built up to be four and half feet high.

Dont forget to leave space for the keyhole inlet to one side of the inner basket. This keyhole will one point five feet wide.

The entrance to the basket, via the keyhole, has to be six point five feet wide. That measurement is flexible. The general standard is six point five in most gardens.

The keyhole entrance funnels to the one point five foot bottleneck abruptly, or gradually. That depends on your personal taste.

For the actual garden section, between the inner water run off basket and the outer:

  • The floor of the garden, has kitchen scraps
  • The first flat stones described above are piled randomly around the scraps to aerate the recycled meat and other organic material.
  • Then first layer of compost described at the beginning of this article are poured about
  • Sticks, twigs and dry leaves can be used for the next level.
  • Less volatile compostable organic material can be added, or another level of the ash, aloe, and manure. Which ever is fine.
  • More flat stones randomly placed.
  • And now the stones on the outside perimeter can start to be secured tightly, leaning a bit inward as the garden inside it gets higher.
  • The layers of the rock wall can reach into the variant levels of the garden being interspersed with the organic material. Some of the organic material can show mildly for effect. Level with the outer rock wall.

At the end of the building process; the outer rock wall should stand a little over four feet high.

If the garden is going to stay in line with the established form it can be divided mentally into four sections. You should feel free to step outside the conventional at this point if you like. In a lot of cases stepping out of this convention is more practical.

The four sections are leafy crops, root crops, vine crops, bulb crops. It should be noted that corn, artichokes and quite a few other crops fit outside these regional choices. However they would grow great in a keyhole garden.

Trial and error has proven that in dry areas the section of onion crop works a good insect repellent.

With the four-crop system rotation is key after each crop. Adding mulch is also a good recommendation.

This type of garden is ideal for those who want to continue to garden, (for leisure or necessity), and cannot bend over to do so. The garden is raised up a bit above waste level. That makes bending over unnecessary.

House hold run off water, (in some cases wastewater), can be run through the center of the garden basket. This is great infiltration for the garden. In essence the whole key garden is a new style approach to an above ground easy access vegetable rain garden.


Posted in Research by Administrator on July 18, 2008.

The “Rainwater Harvesting Guide” is open to writers who are genuinely interested in making the world a better place. If you are motivated to research a subject then present an article or two, feel free to contact us anytime. The basic goal of a writer is to find, research, report and educate people about the benefits of renewable energy or other environmental concerns. We cover rainwater harvesting, solar energy, wind power, biofuels and other sustainable interests. We make connections to information online to encourage its growth and future success.


David Allison lives and works in Portland Oregon were he teaches and plays Capoeira Angola. He enjoys companion planting and has romantic science fiction projects that he works on from time to time. David is a single father who likes to spend time getting into mischief with his children. Some of his other hobbies include: dancing, flipping houses, volunteerism and meeting people.

Water Reuse

Posted in Wastewater by Administrator on April 27, 2008.

This is an academic textbook for engineers, environmentalists, builders and anyone looking for the latest scientific research and results on Water Reuse.

The authors have been around for a while, dealing specifically in the engineering, design and development of water reclamation systems for years, and they know what works, what scares people and what could be done to potentially better what is already done, developing an integrated approach to managing our planets precious water resources.

This book is on the cutting edge of applications, current issues, developments in environmental protection criteria, public health, risk management, advanced treatment technologies, practices, new developments, multiple barrier approach concepts with special emphasis on process reliability and considerations on public participation, planning, satellite and decentralized water reuse facilities that make the most of our potential resources.

This scientific text takes the reader through a general introduction to health and environmental concerns in water reuse, to technologies and different systems involved in reclamation, applications of reuse and the actual implementation of water reuse strategies.

This 1570-page hardcover, has over 500 detailed illustrations and photographs, covers the latest issues and trends of water reuse, technology and applications; written by a crew of experts in the field.

Contributing authors include Takashi Asano, Fanklin L. Burton, Harold, L. Leverenz, Ryujiro Tsuchihashi, George Tchobanoglous and Metcalf & Eddy Inc., published by McGraw-Hill Professional in January of 2007, measuring 9.2 x 7.9 x 2.3and shipping at 5.5 pounds.

Teams, Students, engineers, scientists, the technology they use, the issues that confront every major aspect of water reuse from public health protection, water quality, advanced technology, regulations and implementation challenges; this is a hallmark text that sets the road for the next thirty years in how our Cartesian society will use greywater and blackwater.

Small and Decentralized Wastewater Management Systems

Posted in Wastewater by Administrator on March 27, 2008.

Small and decentralized wastewater management systems is an academic textbook developed for the ongoing trend in the field, as more and more professionals as well as average people, look toward a future that is far more sustainable and self-reliant.

As the traditional focus for wastewater management systems has been on bigger networks, it has been difficult, if not near impossible to find professional engineers that actually know about natural effluent management systems on the smaller decentralized scale.

The more younger students come looking for answers to these tree-hugger questions, the more books and courses like this one are going to appear.

Undergraduates are in for the long haul, they are the future and will determine what kinds of projects our county willor will not be building in the next decade, thus it is essential that they have access to what is proven to work and will also satisfy the current market demands.

Businesses, home owners, and government officials across the country would be smart to put the word sustainable into our mainstream, and its a fact we need to face while we still have time to figure it out, so that when the time comes to really put our knowledge into practice, we have the tools to do the job required!

Does a bigger wastewater and effluent management system really fit the future need? This book shows us that energy efficiency could mean more local solutions to what has more commonly been accepted as a question of urbanization.

On site treatment of wastewater is only part of the picture,more than that is taking into account the cross-disciplines that sustainable practices lead into, such as hydrogeology or biodiversity and make sure that what we build will be ecologically friendly, giving back equally what we take away through colonization and occupation that is ecologically correct.

This 1104-page hardcover, written by Ronald W. Crites and George Tchobanoglous, was published by McGraw-Hill in April of 1998, measuring 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.8 and ships at 3.5 pounds.

For a comprehensive approach to design, covering traditional disposal and treatment of waste effluent as well as the more trendy innovations in the eco-friendly, Small and Decentralized Wastewater Management Systems is a must read for undergraduate student engineers and the eco-interested for more self-reliant ways of taking care of our waste effluent that is environmentally beneficial as well as globally sustainable.

Related Offsite Media:
EPA Onsite Demonstration Project Showcase

Water From The Sky

Posted in Books by Administrator on February 19, 2008.

Water From The Sky focuses on how to become self-reliant with this most precious of life-giving resources, how it should be caught, saved, treated, used, reused, in the most economical and healthy ways, written by a man whose concern for self-reliance has become not only a passion, but a way of life.

When we think of going off the grid, one of the most important issues is rainwater harvesting, and earthships have this concept ingrained into them, as most of them find themselves in an area where rainfall is an almost sacred thing.

What about once the water has actually fallen to earth? Then what? How can we make sure that the water will stay clean, what about when we use the water, doesnt it have to go out into the sewage system and contaminate our natural rivers?

What about reusing that water through separating not so dirty rinse-water from the deadly sewage of our human waste? Couldnt that rinse water be used in flushing?

What should we do with flushed water? What do we do with excess rinse water? What is a greywater system, how can one be setup, and how does this retake the desert regions around the homes in New Mexico?

If we take questions like these seriously, we find that it is more than possible to turn water from the sky, into a useful tool for our continued survival in desert regions, and that waste-watercan be used to not only irrigate the surrounding property, but retake the desert, with our own tropical oasis, that builds a better quality of life for the future.

This 204-page paperback, written by the well known character/architect behind earthship construction, Michael Reynolds, was published by Solar Survival Press in June of 2005, measuring 10.9 x 8.3 x 0.6 and shipping at 1.2 pounds.

New Mexico is one of the places where water shortages can create serious challenges for the residents, and in the United States, there are already a lot of issues about the sacred water from the sky; this book covers treating water, reusing, using, storing, catching water, from a self-reliant standpoint in one of the driest regions of the world, helping others find solutions to their own situations, today.

Buy Water From The Sky on Amazon.com!

Managing Community Water Supplies

Posted in Books by Administrator on January 10, 2008.

Developing and Managing Community Water Supplies is a how-to book, based on field experience, from using short case studies to discussing all the issues related to the different stages of water supply development to the founding of a community program that will work, no matter where you are.

Water supply Image of hose spraying waterInvolving all the members of a community in the different decisions that need to be taken around water provision, hygiene and education from the very start, Oxfam water fieldworkers who have been there and done this in the most rural communities on earth and have experience; they pass their knowledge on to you, for a more sustainable world community that cares about how we use water, right now.

What puts this book apart from a lot of other project books out there is that it was written by people who actually lived and went through it, holding dear to the UN principles of water conservation,in a world that has all but given up on the impoverished communities of our world.

Do you believe that every last man, woman and child has the right to development? Are you committed to fighting for a future where all people can meet their basic needs for food, shelter, health, skills, live without the fear of violence, be heard and live free of discrimination?

Oxfam is dedicated to this, all over the world, and this book is a direct result of fighting that battle, for a better tomorrow, one that we cannotjust hope for, but count on, because people like your are taking matters into their own hands, through knowledge, wisdom and most importantly, action!

An action that can be as simple as how our community is dealing with its water supplies or as deep as world concern!

This 184-page paperback, written by Jan Davis, Gerry Garvey and Michael Wood, was first published by Oxfam in December of 1993, measuring 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.7 and ships at 7.2 ounces.

If you are interested in Developing and Managing the Community Water Supplies where you live or somewhere dear to you, this book will show you how it has been done in the past, the potential problems you can face and more importantly, excellent strategies for overcoming those obstacles, reaching for success, starting now.

Learn about Oxfam:
Oxfam’s Programs & campaigns

Buy on Amazon:
Developing and Managing Community Water Supplies

Water Storage

Posted in Books by Administrator on October 22, 2007.

Water Storage is a do-it-yourself guide to rainwater harvesting in a sustainable fashion that makes use of all the possibilities within your grasp, at a low cost to the owner, with ecologically correct designs and building techniques that not only work, but look good once they are done.

Off-Grid water systems, disaster preparedness and fire protection using the principles of ecological design, make sustainable groundwater management, building a cistern, pond or water tank a little more than just tools to fulfill an immediate need, it brings us a perspective on life unlike any other.

A perspective, where, doing-it-ourselves, for ourselves, independently, we end up doing something so important for the collective community and the many creatures that live on this planet, that not only makes a difference; it builds a better tomorrow!

This is not just another engineers guide to plans and building materials, this is a book that was written for you, the real person, the one that makes the difference in the modern world of sustainability.

It doesnt matter if you are looking after your own utopic community or are just a single homesteader in the middle of the big city, what you want (what the whole world wants right now), is to just do something good for the world, while providing for the needs of our right now.

Water Storage is a book with all the answers about why our society and people in the green trends look to storing water, where those peak demands throughout the day are, how supply can vary throughout the year and what measures we can take to secure all the water we need in the most efficient and sustainable solution for your situation, looking to all possible resources available on-site where we live.

This is a 125-page paperback with 128 photos and 43 figures, written by Art Ludwig and published by Oasis Design in May of 2005, measuring 11 x 8.5, ships at 9.6 ounces.

From ferrocement jars to rain barrels, wellsprings or aquifer recharging, Water Storage addresses the best designs for your situation in the most ecologically correct way, to make sure that what you build in your water system will not only last for generations, it will make a difference in the present!

Water Storage will take advantage of what you have on site or locally available, reducing material miles and ecological footprints to achieve something both sustainable and self-reliant in a productive language that even the most average of home owners will easily understand or even zen with their first read.

Singapore Water Reclamation Study

Posted in Research by Administrator on August 21, 2007.

The Singapore Water Reclamation Study, also known as the NEWater study, was performed in order to observe scientific results concerning a special multi-barrier approach to microbial and chemical contaminant removal in water.

The end result was a water product that is safe to replenish aquifers, surface water reservoirs and in some cases even go directly into the drinking water systems such as the system used in Denver, Colorado USA.

A planned Indirect Potable Reuse or Planned IPRwas the objective of this study and NEWater (recycled water from sewage treatment facilities) has historically been showing positive results in the US for more than 20 years, since as early as 1976.

The NEWater results from the Bedok Water Reclamation Plant where the study was performed, were satisfactory and above, receiving around 95% of its water from domestic wastewater sources and yet, still able to comply, and in some cases overachieve rigorous standards.

No specific pH standard was set but met at pH 5.9, TOC Removal was set at 97% while an actual 99% was achieved, Ammonia Removal was set at 90% while a 94% was actually achieved.

TDS Removal was set and achieved at 97% as was MF Filtrate Turbidity set and achieved at 0.1 NTU, meeting those two standards precisely.

What characterizes NEWater from other treatment systems is the use of advanced dual-membrane (microfiltration and reverse osmosis) and ultraviolet technologies that spend less energy to remove pollutants and chemicals with a cleaner, more efficient water product that is almost drinkable.

Drinking water parameters from the most current WHO and USEPA were used to analyze a total of 190 physical, chemical and microbial samples; measuring and relating their water quality.

By studying the effects of NEWater on one of the most sensitive species of mice as well as one of the most sensitive species of fish, over the long-term, no apparent dangers were reported, with tissue and health conditions remaining normal in both testspecies when compared to those exposed instead to raw reservoir water over the same period.

The study concluded that NEWater is considered safe for potable use based on two years of analysis, in compliance to USEPA and WHO standards and the Singapore Government should consider NEWater for Indirect Potable Reuse.

The Singapore Water Reclamation Study suggests that not only is the process safe, but blending NEWater with the Singapore reservoir water supply would help recover trace minerals eliminated in the reverse osmosis process thereby providing a better taste as well as improve public acceptance.

Oakley City Water Reclamation Facility – Interesting video on filtration membranes.

Watersaver Rain Barrels

Posted in Products by Administrator on July 25, 2007.

Watersaver Rain Barrels are 54-gallon units, made from top of the line durable black plastic a quarter of an inch thick and weighing only twenty pounds.

Watersaver Rain Barrel looks a lot like a wine keg from medieval times with a cool look that gives your garden that almost buccaneer look to it.

The screen fits inside the barrel perfectly and the lid wont come off without you knowing how, making it ruggrat and critter safe.

There is an overflow on the back of this rain barrel that comes with a six foot hose (easily replaceable for more reach) for redirecting your overflow automatically to planters or extra barrels as you see fit.

Two spigot outlets allow you to control the pressure of your water somewhat and the Watersaver Rain Barrel comes with one threaded brass spigot that fits the common garden hose for easy use.

Save money on your water bill, do good for the environment by recycling the most precious source of life on our planet; water.

Watersaver Rain Barrel will not only cut down on your carbon footprint indirectly, it will also look good, fitting snuggly into the corner of your lawn, garden or against the wall, wherever the downspout is.

Watersaver Rain Barrel has a five-year guarantee, but if kept well, should be able to hold up throughout your lifetime, never giving in to the elements of nature, holding 54 gallons of water that will only leave the barrel when you decide.

Deluxe English Barrels

Posted in Products by Administrator on July 25, 2007.

Deluxe English Barrels hold 77 gallons of water and is made from an attractive green plastic with an old fashioned English whiskey barrel design showing professionalism in its manufacturing.

Deluxe English Barrel comes with a four-foot hose, a drain valve for multiple rain barrel link ups, a debris screen and a tight childproof lid.

This durable green plastic will hold up to the elements, decade after decade, and keep on maintaining your lawn sustainable while water bills skyrocket, year after year; yours will be sustainable and partially off-the-grid.

By using a larger capacity rain barrel, you can keep a larger supply of water for a longer period, while still keeping your lawn green and lovely all year round, even in a drought.

The Deluxe English Barrel is a 77 gallon rain barrel that comes with everything you will need to redirect your downspout into a more sustainable lifestyle in lawn keeping and gardening.

Rain Catcher Water Barrels

Posted in Products by Administrator on July 18, 2007.

Rain Catcher Water Barrels are 54 gallon capacity fresh water receptacles, designed to fit snuggly and compactly against the wall of your deck, patio or house, in a fine green that blends in well with your lawn or garden.

This water barrel is child-safe and comes with a snug filter and lid, as well as overflow tube and linking kit for additional barrels in your rainwater catchment system.

rain catcher water barrelsMeasuring 24 x 24 x 32 and weighing only 36 lbs, the Rain Catcher has a built in outlet hose with shut-off valve.

These dark green 54 gallon rain barrels will withstand generations of use, year after year, will save precious water for your lawn or garden, making your home a more sustainable environment.

The Rain Catcher Water Barrel fits compactly in the corner of your patio, deck or garden, adding just that aesthetic feel with a hint of water conservation that will make the difference tomorrow.

Buy Now on Amazon.com!

Great American Rain Barrels

Posted in Products by Administrator on July 18, 2007.

Great American Rain Barrels are 60 gallon units, made from recycled food grade barrels three sixteenths of an inch thick right here in the good ole yoU eS of Aye.

Rigid plastic like this can take anywhere from 200 to 500 years to find the way back to Mother Nature in the landfill, but when in use as a rain barrel, with a threaded spigot for easy hose attachment, screw-on-cover, drain plug, overflow fittings and complete instructions, it becomes a lifetime commitment to sustainable practices.

bain barrels in three colorsGreat American Rain Barrels can even be put on blocks and connected to a second barrel with nothing but a three fourths of an inch hose, making it one of the most practical devices of our generation.

On the whole, this 60 gallon heavy-duty 100% recycled plastic food grade barrel will allow you to save on your water bill, while at the same time helping our environment; this truly is The Great American Rain Barrel! Semper fidelis!

Water Harvesting through Biomimicry

Posted in Methods by Administrator on June 18, 2007.

Stenocara Beatle and BiomimicryWater harvesting through biomimicry was as easy as studying the Stenocara beetle in the Namibian desert for researcher and zoologist at Oxford University Andrew Parker.

Even some of the most advanced dew harvesters used in Chile and Peru using harvesting nets, have not been able to collect as much water from the wind and fog as the prototypes Andrew Parker created based on the Stenocara with an efficiency several times superior.

By using biomimicry, technology advances millions of years in just a few years with studies of creatures that have done what we aspire to do, and the Stenocara is a perfect example of how we can learn from biomimicry for more sustainable tomorrow.

So what is so special about this beetle that harvests its own water in the most arid desert region on the face of the Earth? Bumps, wax and gutters.

That is really all there is to it. The Stenocaras shell is armor-like and covered with bumps that have smooth peaks much like glass that easily allows water to condense into droplets that then slide down the slops into troughs (both covered in a Teflon-like wax) and the water goes straight to the beetles neck and down, around to the mouth for consumption.

Theoretically, what we do know about condensation is that the surface where water intends to condense needs to remain cool enough for the stored heat energy in water vapor to become liquid, and thinner surfaces are best for this, which is why the beetle has glass like bumps that readily distribute the heat into the rest of the beetles body, keeping it a little warmer and well hydrated.

In an example like this, it only takes a little bit of thought on the part of the do-it-yourselfer to create strategies similar to those used by the Namibian Stenocara.

Some people have already jumped the initiative on this, with dented metal roofs built on cardboard with pipes that run cold geothermal water underneath the surface mimicking the beetles shell and blood stream to do almost the same job, but on a far larger scale how about producing enough water to take a bath or supply ample drinking water for 5 people per day, even in the aridest of deserts?

Water harvesting through biomimicry is about being sustainable in a tomorrow that could be as bleak as Mad Max or as beautiful as Thomas Moores Utopia; it all depends on how we deal with the knowledge we already have, right now to build the self-sufficient America our forefathers envisioned.

Biomimicry Institute
Beetle’s Shell Offers Clues to Harvesting Water in the Desert – Bijal P. Trivedi
for National Geographic Today November 1, 2001
Stenocara Beetle Images – Google Image Search

Dew Harvesting

Posted in Methods by Administrator on June 7, 2007.

Dew HarvestingDew Harvesting is simply taking advantage of water vapor in the atmosphere to harvest clean and potable water through condensation, a passive process that allows water particles to return to the earth in a pure form.

Dew harvesting has been practiced by humanity as far back as ancient times, in areas where rainfall and groundwater resources are scarce. Technically, the process of dew harvesting can be understood by simply analyzing how the water cycle occurs (any fourth grade drawing will do).

When there is any humidity at all in the air and there is a surface that is cool enough to provoke condensation, dew will condense on that surface until the humidity is gone or the surface has absorbed so much heat from the water molecules that the surface is then no longer cool enough to provide the condensing action.

Surface water will evaporate into the atmosphere as soon as enough sunlight heats the molecules enough for them to take gaseous form and these molecules will eventually collect in the atmosphere to create humidity, which will later condense on cold surfaces as dew and thus returning the lost thermal energy to the planet surface.

The water cycle is how our planet keeps its water clean. Warm and humid air with large amounts of humidity take cloud form, and when they hit a cold front from the proper angle, are forced to condense into rain droplets.

This same principle follows for all forms of dew harvesting, to create a cold enough surface that water particles in gaseous form will condense enough to form dew droplets at an angle for collection.

Vegetation in desert regions have developed modifications that allow them to collect their own humidity from the air for example, and through efforts of reforestation in desert regions this technology has advanced abundantly around the world.

Do-it-yourselfers looking to create zero energy homes are the most trendy examples of dew harvesters to date, with their golf-ball like cardboard and metal roofs that use geothermally cooled water pumped through them at night to bring the roof temperature down enough to harvest dew through their traditional rooftop rainwater harvesting systems.

The biggest advantage to the metal roof technique for dew harvesting is that it simultaneously serves as a passive water heater during sunlight hours as well as a rainwater catchment system and dew harvesting system.

Earlier historical examples include small-scale drinking pools of condensation at the base of plant stems to large-scale natural irrigation practices in areas without rain (like the Namib desert).

Some of the most famous human-made dew harvesting sites include; the stone piles in the Ukraine, dew ponds from southern England and even volcanic stone in the fields of Lanzarote. Collecting dew in a passive manner is an old practice.

Rediscovery of human influence over natural condensation occurred throughout history, from ancient times to medieval to the 20thcentury since which time it has been studied with some interest until recently with renewed interest in sustainability.

Metal roofs, tile roofs with geothermal water-cooling for example can collect enough water to take a bath in most cases. Solar-powered air-moisture harvesting and wind-powered air-moisture harvesting can complement dew harvesting and are currently being tested in Australia.

The International Organization for Dew Utilization uses foil-based condensers for regions where rain or fog cannot are not efficient enough. The secret to dew harvesting in general seems to be the thickness of materials, the thinner materials are, the harder it is for them to retain heat, so thatas soon as the dew has passed down to the collector, most of the leftover heat is dispersed allowing for more dew to condense more rapidly.

The method that will work best might just be a plastic tarp suspended over a barrel with a clothes line for some people, while for others, a fancy first-class metal roof with technological advancements that make all other roofs look old-fashion is the thing.

But dew harvesting is simply the collection of water condensation from cold surfaces either artificially cooled or naturally occurring, and is ideal for conditions where rainfall and groundwater sources are scarce.

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Volume 2

Posted in Books by Administrator on June 5, 2007.

Brad Lancaster lives what he preaches and Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Volume 2 is just as useful as volume 1 is, but has a more detailed focus on water harvesting earthworks.

This is a practical guide to all those tropical Oasis that once existed along the silk road between Europe and China thousands of years ago before Rome destroyed Carthage.

In this self-contained rainwater harvesting manual, you can learn to cultivate your own plot of unproductive piece of Sonora Desert into something similar to those of the Mediterranean 1001 Arabian Nights. Passive low-tech water harvesting that is historically proven to with Mother Natures own purifying process.

So what exactly are water harvesting earthworks? Well, if you read his first volume on rainwater harvesting for drylands you already know, but for those of you looking to get straight to it; water harvesting earthworks are about using the land in favor of natures water cycles to capture clean rainwater in favor of local indigenous plants as well as sustainable land management practices that are agriculturally more environmentally friendly.

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Volume 2 builds on the basic do-it-yourself landscaping architecture for homesteaders and landowners interested in a more sustainable living with more detailed how-to information and a plethora of varying earthworks, uses of mulch, vegetation, greywater recycling and the overall customization that fits your particular site.

The four factors that put this volume apart from the other two in this series are Earthworks, Mulch, Vegetation and Greywater Recycling.

Of course volume 2 wouldnt be complete if it didnt review the basics that were well developed fully in details in volume one, such as a more holistic planning, guiding principles, and a range of strategies that will help you assess your water harvesting potential, but here, the emphasis is on recovering drylands through more creative earthworks.

Developing desert and drylands into useful, sustainable green areas, is a way for us human beings to steward the earth through our own lands and Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Volume 2 takes us closer to working smarter, not harder.

This volume two of a three part series helps people take responsibility for their own communitys food production, stimulating locally what should happen globally; true sustainability and stewardship.

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Volume 2 is a 336-page paperback written by Brad Lancaster, published by Chelsea Green and does what the author has been doing for years; it teaches through real life stories, how to take back the desert for a more sustainable tomorrow through water harvesting earthworks that cost nothing yet replenish everything the way the Earth intended, lending each creature their role.

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Volume 2 is not merely a comprehensive do-it-yourself guide to water harvesting earthworks for more sustainable living in uninhabitable desert-like conditions; it is also an integral part of the path to universal stewardship of space-station earth.

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands – Volume #1 Interview with Brad Lancaster.

Rainwater Collection for the Mechanically Challenged

Posted in Books by Administrator on May 30, 2007.

Rainwater Collection for the Mechanically Challenged was written as an introduction to the noble and sustainable art of rainwater harvesting for the homeowner interested in doing-it-oneself.

Written by Suzy Banks, Richard Heinichen and Illustrated by Tre Arenz, its an easy to grasp filler-in on the basics, straight from chapter one.

With the whole process detailed in easy to grasp language that is captivating while at the same time technical enough to give the reader a sensation that they already know what the authors are talking about without sounding too drab or boring.

This 108-page paperback was first published by Tank Town in March of 2006, the rainwater harvesting company owned and operated by the authors themselves.

Measuring at 8.9 x 6 x 0.5 and shipping at 12 ounces this book will make sure that your first rainwater harvesting projects are all successes, because the authors have made all the mistakes for you and explain why certain things need to be done a certain way in a funny voice that lets the reader laugh with them.

From micron measurement, troubleshooting, pump problems, filtration hanging gutters, valve checks, and even understanding chemicals and pollution, the photographs and drawings make the text of this DIY handbook both funny and smart.

Covering everything you need to know for harvesting your own rainwater from the roof of your own home, Rainwater Collection for the Mechanically Challenged is for the homeowner looking to become a little more environmentally conscious, self-reliant and sustainable for a better America, and a better tomorrow.

Rainwater Catchment Systems for Domestic Supply

Posted in Books by Administrator on May 30, 2007.

Rainwater Catchment Systems for Domestic Supply: Design, Construction and Implementation is a guide to low-tech solutions for both ground and roof rainwater harvesting the world over; including socio-economic issues in other cultures.

With studies from around the world, this book has numerous examples for anyone (but especially professionals in the area), looking to construct a low-tech rainwater catchment system, even from scratch if necessary.

Authors Nissen-Peterson and John Gould have put together this 320-page paperback measuring 6 1/4″ x 9 1/4″ and shipping at 1.3 pounds; first published in November of 1999 by Practical Action.

To achieve, either the total or supplementary household water-requirement, this book takes in all aspects of design, construction, techniques, sizing systems, putting up gutters, choice of materials, training, operation and maintenance.

As well as non-technical factors such as social, financial, cultural, institutional, political, general issues, health and water quality are all discussed in detail; especially recommended as a resource manual for aid workers.

With drawings, photographs, step-by-step accounts of different household situations and Nissen-Petersens own two decades of practical experience in Asia and Africa, this book caters to researchers, builders, architects, water engineers, development workers and managers looking for an edge in todays professional high-tech world of rainwater systems.

Rainwater Catchment Systems for Domestic Supply: Design, Construction and Implementation is the professionals guide to low-tech ground and roof rainwater harvesting solutions that have been tried and tested for more than 20 years.

Design for Water

Posted in Books by Administrator on May 30, 2007.

Design for water by Heather Kinkade-Levario is a guide to rainwater harvesting, stormwater catchment and alternate water reuse mainly in urban environments, focused on professional engineers and architects already working in a related field and looking to get started in passive water collection.

This 240-page paperback was recently published in June of 2007 by New Society Publishers and holds an ecological taste to it, inspired by the latest tend in our country for sustainable practices in the use of water.

Design for water is a way of thinking about how our western society uses and abuses Mother Natures life giving elixir and proposes strategies for the professional of tomorrows America, to take precautions for the now.

Outlines for municipal systems, parks, schools, industries, commerce, residential communities, and multiple sources-landscape for water collection providing also, case studies, references, schematics and even specific details as well as how to assemble and apply equipment.

Rainwater harvesting for wildlife, filtration, analysis, purification, distribution, reuse, storm water reuse, storage, setup, active systems and passive systems are all well detailed.

Some of the more modern catchment techniques already in use are also dealt with in order to make this book more appealing to landowners, developers, municipal decision-makers, landscape architects and engineers.

Design for Water was developed to make research on sustainable water practices more accessible to the professional in the know today with guidelines and important information for preparing the most passive alternative available.

Ceramic Water Filters

Posted in Filters by Administrator on March 8, 2007.

Ceramic Water Filters are a low-tech solution to the problems of water pollution that threaten a third of the worlds population.

Potters for Peace founded in Nicaragua, in 1986 is a network of volunteers, supporters, educators, technicians and potters that work mainly in Central America and abroad with ceramic water filter projects all over the world.

Traveling the world and teaching the fabrication of low-cost ceramic water filters is what PFP has been doing since 1998, bringing cleaner, potable water to those who need it most.

Low-cost colloidal silver-enhanced ceramic water purifiers have shown in the field that they eliminate 99.88% of most water born disease agents.

Ceramic water filters are a very simple design; a pressed bucket shape 11 W x 10 D, made from a combustible of some kind (such as rice husks or local sawdust) and a local terra-cotta clay.

Milled and screened, the combustible material is burned out in the firing, leaving fine pores, then coated with colloidal silver.

The bacterial properties of the silver and the fine pores create and effective filter.

Between one and three liters of potable water can be effectively filtered per hour with a fine tuned firing process, and the final cost is between 10-15U$ per unit, with replacement filters costing only 4U$ dollars.

Ceramic water filters are manufactured to accommodate over the top of a five-gallon bucket with a spicket for water collection.

While the transportation and production costs will tend to vary from country to country, three or four workers in a basic factory could produce around 50 ceramic water filters a day.

Ceramic water filters are a low-tech solution to cleansing dirty drinking water, a solution that could save the lives of children the world over.

Potters for Peace Manuals

Coke Rainwater Harvesting in India Builds on their Promise

Posted in India by Administrator on February 8, 2007.

India has given Coke a challenge, with rainwater harvesting to meet their own needs and the needs of the people they share water reserves with and building on their promise; Coke is doing good.

“The Coca-Cola Company exists to benefit and refresh everyone that it touches.”

That is the Coca-Cola Promise and with festivals like the Jal Tarang 2006, where Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recharge of water were central themes, Coke builds on that promise effectively.

Paper & PET recycling, health, disaster relief and most of all education; Coke in India is making a difference.

Education is the key to making sure that everyone has water in India, and Coke rainwater harvesting projects have totaled more than 270 RWH across the country.

Qoute: The company’s business should refresh the markets, protect, preserve and enhance the environment and strengthen the community… Coca-Cola India provides extensive support for community programs across the country, with a focus on education, health and water conservation.

With 50 more rainwater harvesting structures planned for 2007, 10 in Delhi alone, Coke is slowly but steadily making a difference in the way business has traditionally been done.

Coke makes a lot of money off of the labor and water it extracts in India and traditionally, foreign companies take the money they make and put it back into their own economies rather than the foreign market.

Instead of doing either, Coke is going straight to the source, Coke is going straight to the people that make its money and helping them directly with what they need most, education and structures that harvest rainwater in more self-reliant and sustainable ways.

Now that is an ethical use of power that is for the greater good!

Simple things, like how to use a Drip Gauge can really sensitize a person, especially when there is an ongoing concern for awareness in water conservation.

Rainwater harvesting in India is a way of seeking out cultural identity; how many companies can say they help people get back to their roots?

Searching for the needs of today through quality education and infrastructure for better rainwater harvesting techniques and knowledge, that tomorrow, the grandchildren of our grandchildren, may be the wiser.

Coke rainwater harvesting in India builds on the Coke Promise with a steady and sustainable pace.

Coke Shareholder Meeting
Coke Rainwater Harvesting

Snow and Rainwater Harvesting in Himachal India

Posted in India by Administrator on February 1, 2007.

The state of Himachal is one of the most important tourist states in all of India, and the drought like conditions caused by global warming have recently provoked a major response from the government, Irrigation and Public Health Minister Mr. Kaul Singh Thakur has given Snow and Rainwater harvesting priority for 2007.

Stressing the importance of rooftop harvesting on all the institutional buildings, 72 structures have already been completed with 64 still in progress as of Feb. 1st.

Computers provided up to subdivision level have allowed a management information setup system to be implemented, making things easier for state wide administration on a centralized fashion that moves at the speed of an electron, a rather new concept in Himachal government.

The website was developed to support this international ecotourist state, providing transparency on a global basis showing what measures the government has taken to ensure sustainable practices to a sensitive culture.

Solans water supply scheme should be completed by October of this year, Shimla for December. Bhuntar, Bhota, Shah Tlai and Nauti Khad Shimla are projected for completion by the end of the year.

Sewerage schemes will also achieve focus in Rampur, Hamirpur, Una, Dharamsala, Jogindernagar, Arki and Kulu to be completed within 2007s current budget!

While the 45,367 habitations in the state are far to numerous to be attended this year, a drinking water facility will reach at least 4,080 by next year of which 3,000 have already been at least partially attended.

Thats showing the world what really conscious minded governments can do, HURRAY for Himachal!

Snow Water Harvesting


Posted in Methods by Administrator on January 5, 2007.

What is Greywater?

Greywater is simply used wash water from the bath, shower, sink or even rooftop rainwater harvesting; this is slightly polluted, very different from either potable (freshwater) or non-useable sewage water (blackwater).

Clean water is water with nothing but H2O, greywater has been used once for non-toxic cleansing, but blackwater carries pathogens that are too strong and unsafe for either animal or plant consumption.

But why is greywater important to us? The main reason is sustainability. The closer and closer our nation comes to becoming self-reliant and independent of foreign oil, the closer we come to understanding what energy efficiency is all about.

Making use of our nation’s abundant greywater production could potentially solve our water conservation issues, and bring us just that much closer to self-reliance and a more sustainable and healthier future for the children of our children.

What determines the main differences between blackwater and greywater are nitrogen and pathogen content as well as decomposition time.

Basically, once polluted with human fecal material the pathogens find a place to thrive and reproduce in any body of water, therefore, the best solution is simply NOT throw human fecal material in water in the first place, but our society is essentially Roman, with Roman practices.

Plumbing or “lead working” is part of ancient megalithic architecture and the word itself is of Latin origin, coming from plumbum related to the Greek “molybdos” (probably of an extinct Mediterranean language such as Iberian perhaps).

However wonderfully advanced they were to have invented such uses for “lead” as piping freshwater from the mountains into public bath houses and developing the very first spas on earth; such wonders have a price on ecology…

A price that haunts us even now…

In most bathhouses of those times; private “water closets” were also readily available for those bathing, but where did the water go from the water closet? Was the destination the same as the bath water?

The Romans and eventually the English would readily sacrifice a nearby river for ALL the wastewater used in the bathhouses (including that from the water closets).

An ecologically unsound and unsustainable practice that we still have to this very day

With modern methods of plumbing, this is no longer necessary, but our society continues to throw such radically different substances into the same shaft; polluting greywater, both due to force of habit as well as lack of knowledge

But that needs to change, and the solution is separating our greywater from our blackwater, NOW, not tomorrow when it’s too late.

The amount of nitrogen and human fecal materials found in blackwater is absurdly difficult to remove sustainably if not incredibly impossible at the moment.

Nine tenths of the nitrogen found in our nations combined wastewater is contaminated by blackwater, and most of that water was originally greywater before entering the city’s sewer system.

Engineers argue in most scenarios that wastewater, including greywater, if left untreated, will soon become anaerobic and foul, taking on the same characteristics as blackwater, which is why greywater must be treated quickly and in-house if not possible in-community.

The secret to really defeating the pollutants in greywater are oxygen breathing organisms like algae that thrive off of nitrogen and carbon. Problems occur however when the greywater is left to become anaerobic, then, yes, it is as unsafe as blackwater.

An excellent study done in Stockholm with a separated greywater/blackwater plumbing system in a multi-apartment complex (made by Lars Karlgren, Victor Tullander, Torsten Ahl and Eskil Olson) collected data for 12 weeks and discovered the following results.

Their article entitled “Residential Waste Water” reported that this small community could divide its greywater production into 30 gallons a day laundry wastewater, 20 gallons a day kitchen wastewater, 60 gallons a day bath wastewater and 10 gallons per day miscellaneous wastewater, coming to something like 56% of the total combined wastewater consumption of any given household per day.

The other 44% or so of wastewater was all blackwater from either the garbage disposal unit or simple toilet flushing; coming to a grand total of 80 gallons per day of blackwater!

Statistically that means that only 44% of the water being treated at the sewage facility was originally blackwater, the majority then was originally greywater? Why pollute that much greywater? Because our traditional combined wastewater system is too old, too Roman.

According to this study, on the average, if separated we would find that 56% of all our world’s sewage water is originally greywater and greywater uses far less energy to be properly treated than blackwater, meaning we are spending at least 56% more energy to treat our combined sewage than necessary with today’s modern technology!!

So, how can greywater be properly treated at home and harvested for reuse, irrigation or the safe replenishing of the aquifer?

A simple method for greywater harvesting is simple pre-treatment that dumps directly into a soil-box planter, which then produces useful irrigation water.

A more advanced greywater treatment system on the other hand, for those with more space could contain a septic tank, a sand filter, a pump and of course a planter bed, to then revert the treated water into field irrigation or even reused in the house as desired.

Depending on how much mechanical and biological filtration is done will depend on how potable greywater can be in final stages.

Chemical cleansing of greywater is at the very least undesirable, as greywater in most cases is already very close to drinkable before any filtration, but chemical filtration if done would be the final stage, usually in the form of chlorine treatment (not a completely sustainable alternative due to the chemical manufacturing process).

Aside from irrigation, and returning filtered greywater back to the ground reservoir cashes, a more immediate and sustainable use for already filtered greywater is returning it to the household tap from whence it first originated.

In this manner, while some greywater can’t be recovered, an average of 56% of the total household use is saved daily. Just imagine, 56% water savings per day, on laundry, bath and the kitchen sink alone!

Investing in a greywater harvesting system means a little remodeling, extra plumbing and finding garden space enough for the mechanical and biological filters, but once properly treated, greywater can be harvested by refueling one or two water boxes used only for the greywater system; preferably the bathrooms (even the toilets) and laundry room.

Unless you can be sure that the water is drinkable, the kitchen is not recommended as a redirect tap, but the bathroom toilet, bath and sink are all recommended, as well as the laundry room, as even the simplest methods of filtration should be enough for these uses in most households.

As with any controlled system of waste separation, each thing has its place, so if a system such as the above is of particular interest to you, don’t do anything like drink from the bathroom sink (as the water is still recycled greywater) or pour spoiled vegetable soup down the kitchen sink drain unless its in the garbage disposal organic matter mixed with water becomes blackwater immediately.

All in all, greywater harvesting is definitely a suggestion for a more sustainable tomorrow, as the water is treatable at home, and need not be combined with blackwater.

Greywater is reusable and one more of our earth’s precious resources, to be used wisely with economy and ingenuity for the needs of the now, predicting the needs of the future in one single detail, sustainability.

Gutter Brush

Posted in Products by Administrator on December 3, 2006.

Gutter Brush was not so much designed as it was discovered by accident, after Bob the founder of “The GutterBrush” accidentally left a twisted brush in his cabin gutter for a whole year thereby discovering a new way to keep the gutter free of debris.

Gutter Brush is a simple yet effective design, technically a polypropylene brush in twisted wire of a cylinder shape, available in two different sizes, 4.25 inches for the standard 5 inch gutters or 5.25 inches for the oversized 6 inch gutters.

The GutterBrush bristles prevent leaves and other types of rooftop debris from clogging the gutters and impeding water flow.

The airflow, sun, rain and wind all make sure that debris either dries out and blows away or self-composts and breaks down into small particles that wash into the downspout.

Cleaning, if ever needed, while maintaining the gutters themselves, is as easy as removing individual sections and brushing out the debris by hand, installing is just as simple as placing them in the gutter.

Gutter Brush works just as well with any material types, be they Asphalt, Cedar Shake, Slate, Tile, Rubber, Metal, Copper, PVC, Aluminum, Galvanized or Stainless Steel alike.

One box of standard sized gutter brush, 120ft per box will weigh some 26 pounds, while the oversized gutter brush box comes half that at 60ft per box and only weighing 16 pounds.

Ice dams are the result of improper insulation, and snow melt leaving a build up of ice in the gutter, of which Gutter Brush has no effect, but the bristles absorb heat, promoting rapid melting as soon as it warms back up.

Gutter Brush can be found in 3 feet and 18 inches, when a gutter is too short, simply bend back the brush upon itself and the desired length is then immediately achieved.

Gutter Brush is an excellent find, and an even more efficient mechanical filter for this fall’s rainwater harvesting, less upkeep and 100% preventive of downspout freezing or damage in winter’s coldest months.

Gutter Brush is one of the best gutter protectors for this winter, simple yet effective all year round.

Gutter Wand

Posted in Products by Administrator on December 3, 2006.

Gutter Wand was developed to make cleaning out clogged gutters all that much easier, from below, rather than above the gutter level.

Easily attached to a common garden hose, gutter wand has an efficient switch for better directing water flow with a blasting spray nozzle that extends more than half a yard.

This enhanced reach makes remote areas far easier to get to and less trips down the ladder.

Gutter wand also does sidewalks, driveways and curbs with ease, making bending and curving a thing of the past.

With a telescoping action, gutter wand extends from as small as 41.5 inches to a full 68.5 inches that easily reach those difficult curves around roof corners.

Gutter Wand will blast away at clogged gutters like magic.

Roof and Gutter Heating Cables

Posted in Products by Administrator on December 1, 2006.

The roof and gutter heating cable was developed to make sure that neither ice dams nor water, ever damage the gutters or the roof during the winter months.

Easily installed, fasteners are provided, products include:

Developing products for almost a century and designing upon demand, M-D Building Products has a long history of manufacturing expertise that lead the industry in almost every category.

Oklahoma City, OK and Gainesville, GA host this makers industrial plants; where roof and gutter heating cables are manufactured with the highest quality available today.

Metal, vinyl or plastic gutters and downspouts will be well protected all winter long, using energy efficiently with a new low wattage that is 30 percent more economical than traditional designs.

UL and CSA approved, this roof and gutter heating cable at 100 feet long, weighs no more than only 5.05 pounds, the perfect thing for protection against ice dams and excess water damage this winter.

Downspout Extension

Posted in Products by Administrator on November 29, 2006.

A downspout extension is a wonderful way to make sure that rainwater flows in the ideal direction, preserving foundations, plants and flowers.

This Downspout Extension fits snugly on existing elbows, either 2×3 inch or 3×4 inch downspouts, and swivels freely 180 degrees or flips up for better gardening or mowing as required.

The interesting telescoping option available with this model allows the length to adjust from three to six feet long depending on needs.

Made from lightweight PVC vinyl, a downspout extension is paintable as well as available in brown or white original as desired.

A downspout extension will allow for better control of large amounts of storm water runoff, keeping the foundation of your home drier, saving flowers,plants or anything else that might not appreciate the chaotic nature of an ordinary downspout elbow without ground directioning.

Flipped up for better storage in the dry season, downspout extension ships at only 4 pounds and makes for an all winter protection; especially indicated for spring thawing as it does not need to be brought indoors.

Flexible Downspout Extension

Posted in Products by Administrator on November 26, 2006.

Flexible downspout extension (product number 85019) is perfect for making sure that water flows in the proper direction, be that direction, underground, swivel or even joined together with another flexible downspout or extension.

Attaching quickly and efficiently to either 2×3 inch or 3×4 inch downspouts, this flexible downspout extension is a bulk, brown color that expands between 22 and 55 inches.

Shipping at 1.3 pounds, this flexible downspout extension can make a difference in how storm water runoff flows around your home.

Flexible downspout extension was made to bend, twist and extend to meet the needs of the home, be they rainwater harvesting or simple rain barrel catchments, as needed.

Rain Drain

Posted in Products by Administrator on November 26, 2006.

RAINDRAIN product URD46 downspout extension was designed to protect against soil erosion, lawn gullies, and washouts and enhance landscaping to keep foundations and basements drier, assisting in retaining structural materials.

When It Rains, It Drains.TM When It Shines, It Rewinds.TM Rain Drain is a rain removal system that extends from the downspout only when runoff water pressure forces the built in stainless steal coils to unwind up to three feet from the downspout acting like a lawn sprinkler with perforated holes instead of a mouth exit as with the traditional downspout elbow.

Rain Drain also comes with a built in flush system, simply remove the grooved plastic fastener and flush excess debris manually from the UV inhibited vinyl construction that blends aesthetically with its surroundings, available in four different colors; white, dark brown, green and tan.

Rain Drain downspout extension URD46 is a full 46 inches when extended, two by three or three by four inches at the flush valve and opens to four inches round while in use.

An easy to install gasket and clamp are included and Rain Drain should always be brought inside during the winter and freezing months to keep durability and pliable softness for each new rainy season.

Shipping at only 3.20 ounces, this heavy-duty vinyl RAINDRAIN URD46 Downspout Extension rain drain automatically unrolls during showers and rerolls when the rain stops, protecting foundations from dampness and runoff seepage.

Snow Water Harvesting

Posted in Methods by Administrator on September 1, 2006.

As a delicate reserve, snow water harvesting has traditionally played an important role in the cultural identity of the agricultural peoples of the Himalayan Mountains.

Pragya.org is a development organization registered both in India as well as the UK as non-profit, working to develop vulnerable communities and sensitive ecosystems of the world in an appropriate way.

Looking to develop without destruction and provide empowerment for enabling choices, Pragya has made a commitment to projects such as snow water harvesting through holistic, sustainable development with a focus on vulnerable and neglected communities and ecosystems.

One of their finest achievements has been the development of artificial glaciers in the Western Indian Himalayas, a cold desert region that suffers from severe water shortage for both drinking and crop irrigation.

From climatic to geographic to human-induced challenges, the hardships for livelihood and habitation in cold desert regions are one of the most acute on the planet; and part of the solution in harvesting snow water in a sensible way.

Pragya Project began by mapping the harvesting potential of the area, documenting the traditional knowledge and practices of water sharing in the community and then on to making the community itself aware of the best budgeting, accounting and management practices.

Designing and introducing more appropriate technologies for snow water management through artificial glacier construction as well as the use of hydrams, and pioneering a water management model for the whole region.

Cultural identity and heritage play big roles in the Pragya model, roles that help members of the community come together in a way they had almost forgotten, helping them help themselves with self-sustainability that uses cultural identity in a unique way for modern times.

Lahaul, Spiti (Himachal) and Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir) are the places where Pragya.org is executing the first model projects, and more specifically in Spiti valley the first snow water harvesting artificial glacier has been built in the village of Poh around 10,500 feet above sea level.

Upstream, some 100 feet from the snow water harvester, Pragya ApTech team diverted the Nallah stream into a reservoir under the shadow of an enormous rockface, which begins freezing around December and thaws when irrigation is most dearly needed.

Around the rockface, the artificial glacier can store more than 625 kilos of snow and is completely free of rock or landslide risks. A concrete wall to one side and boulders against a metal-wire mesh the snow water harvester is a prototype for the region.

Harvesting snow water in cold desert regions is not merely a way to rehabilitate the land for crop growth, as it is also a way to bring cultural identity to a people in between the ancient times and the rapid pace of a global world.

Snow water harvesting can bring life to cold deserts and renew traditional heritage as an example of sustainability that all of us can learn from, globally.

Rainwater Tank

Posted in Harvesting, Products by Administrator on August 10, 2006.

rainwater tankHere is a small capacity (55 gallon) rainwater tank for rainwater collection. It is a tank and diverter system I make for catalog companies but have some overstock. These are pretty much as good as they get but because the design is different than my traditional rain barrels I only offer them here. This system can also tie into rainwater harvesting systems or act as a first flush type device. I am selling these units to support my environmental blogs so all support is greatly appreciated!

Note: The tanks are for rainwater harvesting for garden plants and fish ponds. If you are planning to drink rainwater you do so at your own risk, please filter the water.

Each Rainwater Tank comes with all you need for easy setup including:

55 Gallon Rainwater Tank (white and paintable) – These tanks are food grade and rugged, can handle all kinds of weather.
Brass Threaded Spigot – Solid Brass tank spigot that is threaded for ordinary garden hose.
Rainwater Diverter & Connection Hose – A smart rainwater diverter that runs until the tank is full then diverts back to the existing drainage pipe.
Winter Plug – For those interested in storing the storage tank during winter and leaving the diverter outside.
Instructions – Easy to follow instructions.

($150 with Free Shipping!)


Harvester BarrelWilliam Kolosi writes:

I ordered and received my harvester last week, and installed it over the weekend. It’s installed in Stow, Ohio, and we’re expecting rain tomorrow night—can’t wait! Attached are some photos.

After I took the photos I tied some string into a net that fits nicely on the top half of the barrel. I replanted some ivy from elsewhere around the house, and strung it up through the net. My goal is to have the harvester look like a shrub! Nice product, coming together with the downspout diverter.

Susan Hamilton from Grand Prairie, TX writes:
hosed diverter barrel
We had a half inch in the rain gauge, and the barrel filled completely up! It was a snap to install and seems to be very well made. I am extremely pleased with your product. Here is a picture for you to see the finished flowerbed with rain barrel installed.


I entered a contest that I saw on our company’s home page, about water conservation. A group that the company sponsors through our ESH department called Green Star held a contest and had two categories, one was water conservation, and the other was xeriscaping. I sent in pictures of my rain barrel, one pic of it hooked into the gutter and the other pic of the side with the soaker hose. I won first place, and got a $50 master card to spend wherever I want to. I’m doing the happy dance J!

Interested in traditional rain barrels? (click image below)

Buy a rain barrel from Aaron's Rain Barrels

Pringle Creek Community

Posted in Diversion by Administrator on July 18, 2006.

First Green Streets in Salem Oregon

The old site of Fairview Hospital in Salem, Oregon, is now being paved with green streets and a large rainwater harvesting neighborhood.

Normally the storm runoff from houses, streets, curbs, sidewalks, driveways, lawns and so on, would find its way out to lovely Pringle Creek, thus poisoned by the city pollution.

The streets are made from porous asphalt that soaks up rain with beautiful planters along the roadside in the place of gutters and galleries, thereby returning 90% of the storm runoff to the aquifer.

The porous asphalt soaks in the rain, where it drains to the soil below a thick layer of rock. Large swaths of land — called bioswales — next to the roads will be planted with grasses, bushes and mosses that absorb water and filter contaminants, such as oil that leaks from cars.

“It’s not only very attractive landscaping, they are also functioning,” Myers said.

The 32-acre property will now hold some 180 homes and become a living example of greener urban living in Oregon, especially for Salem residents who are proud of the endeavor.

Only 10 percent of the normal runoff from the 32-acre urban lot will actually make its way into the creek, creating a far more sustainable environment for everyone.

The total rainwater harvesting catchments system for returning 90 percent of the runoff to the aquifer, clean and potable will include 5,400 feet of green streets and 2,300 feet of green alleys, all of which are private property, as the state does not allow this new and relatively untested technology in public transportation as of yet.

50 projects per year are granted by the state involving porous materials, and 1,000 bioswales projects per year. All of which go to lighter loads such as sidewalks and parking lots.

Pringle Creek is the state-of-the-art example of what residential people can do with water before it leaves their yards and goes into the streets, creeks and ocean,” said Sally Miller, who plans to live in Pringle Creek Community. “All of the things that Pringle Creek is doing costs society a lot less money because there are no pollutants in the creek, so the fish are safer to eat. … If we all did that as a society, we would all be more healthy.

Pringle Creek Community – Pringle Creek Community Website.

FerroCement Jar

Posted in Methods by Administrator on June 14, 2006.

Are you are looking for a rainwater storage device. What are the options?

You could purchase a barrel from one of the major big boxes or one of the specialty stores on the Internet. But dont we have another option? Why dont we build our own?

Ferrocement jars have literally been around for centuries; there are examples that are hundreds of year old. So what is a Ferrocement jar? Basically it is a water collection and storage container made of cement.

A Ferro cement jar consists of a base, a barrel section and a top. There are many different sizes but they all start out with a base of some size usually about twenty to thirty percent bigger than the barrel. This allows the barrel section to be built on the base. You can use boards or bricks to create a form for the cement base. It is best to let the cement cure for about a week before starting the barrel. You could use quick Crete or mix your own cement.

The barrel section is built around a frame that forms the shape of a barrel. Once you have your frame you can wrap the frame with sacking. It is a good idea to wire the sacking to the frame. Now you are basically going to paint a thin cement mixture onto the sacking. The mixture is one part cement and two parts sand. You will continue this process painting, letting it dry and painting again three times.

Now we can add our additional support. Wrap chicken wire around the now hardened barrel section. It is advisable to secure the chicken wire and make sure you secure from the inside out. This way you will be able to disconnect and take out your frame and sacking.

Now get some cement and fill in all the holes in the chicken wire. Visualize frosting a cake. You want the entire barrel covered and smooth. Let your first work dry and apply two more layers of icing to be sure of a strong barrel. You want the sidewalls to be at least 25 cm thick.

Once your barrel section has dried remove the framing and sacking and repeat the icing process two times on the inside.

Now we have our base and barrel sections we need to connect it to the base. Wrapping wire around the bottom of the tank and laying a section of the wire on the base will accomplish this. You them connect the two with cement. You will need two applications on the outside and two on the inside to assure a watertight seal.

The aboves are the basics of making a ferro cement jar if you can visualize, visit the links below for good examples.

Building a ferrocement rainwater jar

Ferro-cement Jar – Instructions for manufacture

Image Credit:
Peter Morgan

Coke Shareholder Meeting

Posted in India by Administrator on June 14, 2006.

Coca-cola’s shareholder meeting at the “Hotel du Pont” in Wilmington, Delaware was a lively one this year and rainwater harvesting, water depletion and India’s water concerns are kicking at the door. Protester’s tried hard to steal the spotlight as Corpwatch reports:

A circus-like gathering of protesters vied to get the attention of, or steal the spotlight away from Coke CEO E. Neville Isdell: Harvard students beating on plastic barrels with drumsticks, union reps unloading into bullhorns and a blind taste-test daring passers-by to tell the difference between Delaware tap water and the much more expensive variety that Coca-Cola sells under the toney name Dasani.

Coke CEO E. Neville Isdell: Inside, Isdell, suckling at a plastic bottle of Coke, proclaimed the painfully obvious: “Not everyone in this room is going to agree with everyone’s views,” he said. “In the end, we truly want The Coca-Cola Company to be regarded as a great business and recognized as a great corporate citizen.”

One shareholder who labeled such complaints “an attack on capitalism” that diminishes Coca-Cola’s brand won enthusiastic applause from profit-minded shareholders, or what it calls its “share earners.”

Protesters complaints:

• One, sponsored by the New York City Employees Retirement System, sought the establishment of an independent committee to examine whether Coca-Cola colluded with Colombian paramilitary forces in anti-union violence against bottlers in the South American country;

• Another, sponsored by the As You Sow Foundation, pushed for a report that would come up with a strategy to recover and recycle more used bottles and cans;

• A third, sponsored by Harrington Investments and the Sisters of Charity in Cincinnati, sought a report “on the potential environmental and public health damage of each of its plants, affiliates and proposed ventures extracting water from areas of water scarcity in India.”


Coke Rainwater Harvesting

Posted in India by Administrator on May 9, 2006.

Rainwater Harvesting in India at Coke factories

It has been almost 17 years since the fast-food war was un-officially won by Pepsi in the US and Coke took refuge in the developing third world. Since that time, people living in the states have rivaled in a fun kind of way their preferred taste, but when you choose Taco Bell, and the only thing available are Pepsi products, you tend to give in to what is at hand.

In the developing nations such as Brazil and India, Coke has been the dominating element in their everyday lives for years, competing even with national brand names like Guaraná Antartica and Thumps up. India opened its international trade restrictions in the 90s while Brazil has felt the Coke presence since the early 70s. A scenario that repeats itself all across the globe in developing nations.

So why is it said that Coke exploits developing nations? That is an ethical question that needs to be held up by facts and then pondered by ones self. While it is true that Coke survived the 80s and 90s with their foreign manufactures and sales, it does not necessarily mean they redirect all their profit away from those people who built it.

In the last 40 years, Coke has been through a lot, and now, a new question arises, the question of rainwater harvesting and sustainability. Coke itself affirms on CokeFacts.org:

The Coca-Cola Company has a special interest in water: we are a hydration company. Every product we sell contains water. Without water, we have no business and it is in the long-term interest of our company to be good stewards of our most critical ingredient. We are committed to helping protect and preserve this resource in all the communities where we operate throughout the world.

Coke is discovering that the world is globalizing itself ever faster by the day, and Coke helped make this possible. In countries like Brazil where resources are so abundant that people in urban centers pollute and waste as a way of life. Coke prospered in accordance to local customs and did irreparable damage to the urban landscape without ever even noticing.


Waterless Toilets

Posted in Filters by Administrator on May 3, 2006.

In the world concern to keep water clean and harvest it as much as possible, some specialists in the area of water harvesting have actually advocated the simple non-pollution through the use of composting toilets.

In Mexico City this year, Scandinavian and German environmentalists that have been working in West Africa with composting toilets took their toilets to the World Water Forum to show how they separate number one and number two intodifferent compartments to thus be used after proper sanitization without the use of expensive chemical treatments or water.

Cecilia Ruben is an environmentalist for the Stockholm Environmental Institute in Scandinavia and while at the fair this year demonstrated how with the proper following of guidelines in using their waterless toilets, people can achieve a useful agricultural product between 2 and 6 months time depending on the climate.

Linus Dogerskog was another environmentalist at the fair this year whos passion for composting toilets is so great that he sees it as the future and even plans on making one for his own home.

While composting toilets may not be something that everyone is happy about, they really are starting to make an impression on the world community, and so much in fact that some experts on sanitation even advise against the use of composting toilets, regarding them as Green Imperialismsuch as Iain Murray the Senior Fellow at Competitive Enterprise Institute located in Washington DC.

Historically speaking, Murray does have a point about human fecal material being dangerous, but the question of composting toilets is one that seems to be coming back every time the issue of sustainable agriculture comes popping up, again and again.Can a civilization be sustainable if they continue to poison valuable H2O with excrement that could easily be transformed into humus with just a little thermophilic composting?

While the fecophobics argue about the dangers, activists like Cecilia Ruben and Linus Dogerskog are really showing how composting toilets are safe and have been in the testing for years. According to Dogerskog, people in the world can now see human excrement as a resource to be reused rather than left to pollute otherwise, clean, fresh and even drinkable water.

Dogerskog has even shown how countries like china have already gone to scale on the production of their composting toilets they have constructed one million units” he says. While other parts of the world like West Africa(where Dogerskog himself has personally helped introduce a pilot project), are just now, beginning to go to large scale production.

Composting toilets like the ones shown this year at the World Water Forum in Mexico City are definitely proving to be an option in underdeveloped countries. With the whole logic of non-polluting in the first place and instead recycling human organic byproducts into a useful and potentially sustainable agricultural system, the developing world will be able to avoid the mistakes made in the past by those already developed.

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands

Posted in Books by Administrator on April 17, 2006.

I received a signed copy of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands (Volume 1) from its author Brad Lancaster not long ago. This book is one of the great resources on rainwater harvesting and is only one of three future volumes covering all aspects of capturing rain. The awareness I brought away after reading it is that my focus has always been on capturing rain from rooftops, Brad shows us how to maximize the rainwater capturing potential of the land. Here is my interview with Brad Landcaster.

You have written a great first volume on rainwater harvesting, would it be correct to say that volume 1 is more about rainwater management? Give us a quick rundown of planned volumes 2 and 3 and what each will cover.

  • Volume 1 covers rainwater harvesting and water and watershed management in a way that is easily and joyfully attainable for all of us. Volume 1 is the core of my three books, and it lays down the foundation for readers to conceptualize an integrated system that will maximize their site’s potential and efficiency well beyond just water savings and harvesting, while greatly decreasing the likelihood of mistakes.
  • Volume 2 covers specific step by step implementation of water-harvesting earthworks.
  • Volume 3 covers roof catchment and cistern systems. More specifics are available on my website.

When did you first get interested in rainwater harvesting and management?

I first became aware of a more sustainable and common sense approach to water management during my college studies in the 1980s when I realized how quickly Arizona and my hometown of Tucson were rapidly depleting their fresh water resources. I saw that we were killing the long term viability of our communities and ecosystems. I did not want to be a part of the problem. I wanted to be part of the solution.

I did not figure out how I could contribute to the solution until I learned of rainwater harvesting and sustainable living and design strategies in a permaculture course in the early 1990s. Permaculture is a method of integrated sustainable design based on natural systems.

Learning how to be part of the solution further crystalized for me when I visited the Water Farmer in Zimbabwe. The inspirational story of how he turned a wasteland into an oasis by harvesting the rain, and depositing more water into his watershed than he took out is the core of Chapter 1 of my book “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands, Volume 1”. He warned me not to run from problems, but to face them and make the needed changes in my own life. Living the example I wanted to live would have the greatest effect to bring on positive change and solutions.

Thus, I came home and strove to put more water into my watershed than I took out. And I too created a sustainable oasis on what was once a wasteland of an urban lot in downtown Tucson. I did it by following the water harvesting principles laid out in my book, and it has reaped many benefits including onsite organic food production, and increadible drop in my utility bills and cost of living, a beautiful award-winning landscape and garden, and a richer community in which the abundance of water harvesting is spreading. I tell more of the story, and how others can do the same in urban, suburban, or rural lots in my book “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands, Volume 1.”

What is it like writing 3 books and where did you get all those great illustrations?

It is far, far more work than I ever would have imagined. The project began 7 years ago, with the 3 last years consuming well over full time hours of work. But once I started I could not stop. I wanted to create the water harvesting resource or tool box I wish I had when I began water harvesting. I wanted a resource that would empower readers to do the maximum good with simple, but very effective strategies in their own homes, yards, and communities. With all three volumes, I’ve done it.

I try to empower my community in many ways not just with water. In that vein, I hired all local artists all friends and fellow water harvesters too. We worked together for a long time to create the illustrations throughout all three volumes.

I noticed that 10% of the profits generated with these books will go to the “Regenerative Fund” and what is the “Green Press Initiative”?

The Regenerative Fund is a mechanism I’ve created to get more on the ground examples of sustainable water haresting, because people “get it” fastest when they see it in person, in action, in life.

The Green Press Inititative is an effort to lessen the consumption of our forests a major living component of our watersheds in the production of books by promoting the use of recycled paper. I am a part of this effort, and all my books are printed on paper that is at least 50% post consumer recycled paper.

I see you have worked on all kinds of sustainable projects can you tell us about some of these?

I’ve helped create water-harvesting landscapes for many project including Milagro co-housing in Tucson where all stormwater is harvested on-site within water harvesting earthworks that are the foundation of the landscape. A huge amount of food is produced on site, while enhancing much of the native flora and fauna too.

Another project, Desert Harvesters, promotes the sustainable planting, growing, harvesting, processing, and eating of native plant foods. At the core of the project are mesquite pods millings and mesquite pancake chow downs with prickly pear syrup – see Desert Harvester for more.

And as to more of my projects, well, read my books and visit my website www.HarvestingRainwater.com.

Where can we purchase your books?

My website www.HarvestingRainwater.com, any bookstore (just order it), or your local library (if you request that they carry it). You can also obtain it at my water harvesting presentations and book signings look to the events page of my website for details.

Thanks for stopping in for a chat Brad, I am looking forward to landscaping my small urban lot to better capture the rain this spring. We will also be looking forward to volumes 2 and 3 – thanks!


Google Water Research

Posted in Research by Administrator on April 14, 2006.

Google.org and The Google Foundation are planning to support research in western Kenya to find ways to prevent childhood water related deaths as well as offer new solutions on how to make water safe for drinking. This research is being conducted by Alix Zwane and Edward Miguel of UC Berkeley and Michael Kremer of Harvard University.


This initiative fits in future plans of Google for the next 20 years, to spend 1% of its equity and profits, together around USD 1 billion (EUR 833m), on philanthropic activities focusing on world poverty and the environment. The money will be managed by Google.org which includes the work of the Google Foundation, some of Google’s own projects, and partnerships and contributions to for-profit and non-profit entities.The International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance calls upon Kenyan rainwater harvesters to contact Google and to explain their rural water supply solutions.

Ok great, I see lots of organizations out there collecting donations and talking but when are we going to see some action?

To purify water all it takes is:

  1. gravel
  2. sand
  3. charcoal
  4. a soda bottle
  5. cheesecloth

I understand that you can not always lead people to fresh water but with the money Google is offering, and the funds “non profits” are collecting, you could surely create some low cost products for village people to sell or barter. Rainwater harvesting and purification kits would also be small and lightweight.

You can even harvest fresh water from a small popup tent or wrap a baggy around a tree branch to collect moisture. How about low cost solar water distillers? Do they have hot rooftops surfaces in Kenya? Yep, they sure do! This information has been around for years.

Rainwater Harvester

Posted in Harvesting by Administrator on March 28, 2006.

I make/sell rain barrels from my other site I call Aaron’s Rain Barrels, it’s kind of a hobby part time business. Every once an awhile I get a nice customer testimonial that is relevant to this website so here it is. This rainwater harvester shows that you do not need to spend much to harvest rain. I also have a pile of all kinds of stuff here (imported from Germany) if you want to set up something for yourself or are in need of a little assistance. These “testimonials” make what I do well worth it and it’s amazing how far a few kind words can go when you make rain barrels in 20 degree weather!

Eric’s Rainwater Harvester

rainwater harvesterThought you might like to know of the great success that was obtained from your excellent products. Ordered the 3p Rainus from you along with a Rain Mammoth setup. Have since obtained a FloTrue Smart Valve Rainwater Diverter that flushes the first 10 to 60 gallons of water from the roof (the amount is up to the individual). They got blown away in hurricane Katrina and are trying to re-tool for production again.

I eventually obtained one from www.braewater.com , the last one on the shelf. Look at Flotrue’s Smart Valve Dealers page for more dealers. The product was inexpensive ($80) and performed excellently.

Then purchased a Katydyn Gravydyn 2 1/2″ gallon drip ceramic and carbon filter from REI.com. Look/search under water filters on this page for the Katydyn filter.

Had the rainwater tested by a Fort Worth, Texas microbiology water testing company and the test results came back astonishingly clean for being in the middle of a large city and using a composite roof.

  • Lead -.02 mg/liter
  • Sulfates-1.3 mg/liter
  • Nitrates- .02 mg/liter
  • Fecal Coliform – 0% none

Was also told this was at the very bottom of anywhere near the accepted parts per million. They said “drink it”.

This was very exciting for me and I share this with you as you mentioned that you were looking for an “off the grid” system to maybe offer to others. No electrical anything. If you look closely between the barrels in the picture that was sent, the Flo-True can set-up can be seen. The valve is mounted inside the “clean-out tee” at the bottom of the white pipes.

Thanks for dealing with me and offering some guidance; love your 3P Rainus filter by the way, does a nice job and my home is overhung by many trees. Have gutter leaf guards on the roof also.

Hope that Spring is coming your way and your days are a bit brighter. Keep up the good work for earth and her inhabitants. Best Rain barrel product on the market! I know, have seen many.

Maybe if your days are a bit brighter you could actually read the latest TIME magazine, April 3, 2006 Special Report on Global Warming “Earth at The Tipping Point”. Might make you feel important.

Oh, and keep up the work on the “Technorati” pages, this is where I gained a lot of initial insight on my dream of Rainwater Harvesting.

Kind Regards –

Eric V.

Thanks Eric, I will need to complete my low cost rainwater harvesting system this season, thanks for inspiring me, it was a long winter in New England.

Rain Chain

Posted in Diversion by Administrator on March 7, 2006.

Rain Chain – A Japanese Tradition

The kusari-doi, or rain chain is a Japanese invention that has been around for hundreds of years as a way to direct rainwater from the roof into a basin for drinking. Rain chains usually come with a water basin made from copper or stone to catch the water from the roof. A rain chain can come in many different styles and materials, to this day in fact, in Japan; people still make them by hand from copper. A copper rain chain will enhance the aesthetic nature of any house or garden, but in the past they have been associated with the Japanese tea ceremony.

In the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, rain chains are used near the waiting bench where people wait to be admitted into the tea house. The long walk to the tea house through an elaborate zen-budist garden will finally end up in front of the waiting patio, before entering the tea house itself, where there is a bench to sit upon and take ones shoes off. This is the perfect place to find a rain chain glistening with the sound of trickling water from the rooftop, giving spiritual meaning to the whole.

Both in western architecture and traditional eastern methods of aesthetic decoration such as Fung Shui for example, the rain chain makes an impressive addition to any roof. The sound of running water down a rain chain and into a basin is just one of the more beautiful aspects of a rain chain, but more importantly that it serves a purpose (to direct rainwater). Perhaps creative gardeners, or do-it-yourselfers, are looking for something like this to filter water before reverting it into a cistern; however, this system is too small for such an idea.

This is why funnel style rain chains work better than cup style, because a cup style rain chain could become far too heavy to support its own weight, and could break. A funnel style rain chain allows the water to constantly flow down its length in place of a downspout while rain chains that look like interweaving double rings will splash a lot of water around the original trajectory. Materials range from copper to plastic, and are hand made to this day in Japan.

People who make copper rain chains by hand are the ones who have been doing this for generations, and pass it on from father to son. But even in Japan the modern eye of industrialization has developed them into a market. The Japanese may pay anywhere from 200 – 500 US$ and up while buying the finished product in Japan. But outside of Japan, the rain chain is the work of tinkers and artesians, and almost lost art. Thus finding them means finding them custom made.

To make a copper rain chain is a patient and refined task that for the Japanese is a kind of meditation as well as production. Copper is a natural metal used in religious ceremonies and revered as part of the spiritual experience, so working with such a noble mettle is making ones thoughts noble as well. Very subjective, yet very much a part of the tradition that developed the art of rain chain crafting. Understanding how the Japanese make copper rain chains is just as beautiful as the rain chain itself balancing to and from the gutter.

Buy other rain chains here! Thank you!

First Flush Diversion

Posted in Diversion by Administrator on February 9, 2006.

First Flush Diversion

Brett Martinson and Terry Thomas of the DTU School of Engineering ( who also did a study on inlet filtration ) have another interesting file on first flush diversion that you might want to take a look at.

First Flush Diversion Study

The DTU has studied rooftop turbidities from a good variety of roofing materials in several different countries over the last couple of years. I will not get into the details but simply remind you that first flush is only one step in the process of removing sediment and does not make rainwater pure. Think of first flush diversion as rooftop particle removal, a first step in the process of making water ready for purification.

Inlet Filters

Posted in Filters by Administrator on January 30, 2006.

Using Inlet filters for rainwater harvesting is an important part of debris removal. It has been proven that a sloping inlet filter can efficiently self cleanitself. Brett Martinson and Terry Thomas of the Development Technology Unit School of Engineering, UK completed a study on inlet filter efficiency.

Inlet filter fabric that is stretched flat traps particles and requires cleaning while a filter that is inclined will self clean itself. Inlet filters are also low cost and can be made out a variety of fabrics including silk and muslim as long as they remove the correct level of debris. Muslin outperforms silk but there are also many other materials that will work.

There are only two things to be concerned about when using inlet filters:

  1. The amount of rainfall you are getting – If you are in a tropical region an inlet filter can become overwhelmed and rainwater will be wasted during heavy downpours. Increasing the catchment area of inlet filteration can make it more efficient.
  2. Contamination – Though inlet filters a less likely to get contaminated it is always good to remove and clean an inlet filter from time to time. A inlet filter that bows in will eventually clog so again, the inclined filter is a better idea.

Inlet filtration is just one step in a process to remove debris from rainwater, but it is a fact that angled debris removal with low cost fabric works.

UCR Rainwater Harvesting

Posted in Harvesting by Administrator on January 13, 2006.

UCR Rainwater Harvesting Grant

UCR Rainwater Harvesting GrantFive University of California engineering students have been given two grants to construct a rainwater harvesting system on the campus. The grants were given by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for $10,000 each to setup downspouts, rainwater diversion, catchment and storage tanks.

Their plan is to water the campuses vast lawns with collected rainwater, but there also is discussion about rainwater harvesting for the City of Ontario, which could meet domestic water needs for a projected 10,000 people.

The team is developing a prototype system and will present their findings to the MWD in February and compete for a national People Progress and the Planet Award (P3) which covers funding for other beneficial technologies as well.

Rainwater Cistern

Posted in Harvesting by Administrator on October 3, 2005.

Rainwater Cisterns – Basins, Barrels and Tanks

The rainwater cistern is historically an underground basin of water, but it can also be an above ground barrel or tank. Much like an artificial well, cisterns are used to make sure that water is not contaminated nor suffers from evaporation. Probably the most effective but overlooked form of rainwater storage in the modern era rainwater cisterns are practical and can be aesthetically concealed below ground, behind fencing or trellis. Good materials for cisterns include plastic liners or membrane material in wood frames, ceramic, fiberglass, “food grade” plastic and poly-tanks, as well as other potable liquid materials.

The two main reasons why people use cisterns are either for the sake of survival in a place where the only potable water is rainwater, or ecological awareness in search of sustainability. Either people need a cistern, or want one because they are concerned about how they (or others) are consuming water. A rainwater basin needs to offer enough capacity to collect enough useable water from a catchment surface. Rain barrels are exceptional tools for not only excess cistern water, but if connected together can catch enough rainwater to filter for using for cabins and other weekend getaways.

The rainwater cistern can hold large amounts of water and is completely sealed from contaminants, except those in the water itself. Where evaporation and external contamination can be issues with basins, the most practical thing about a cistern in all this is both size and location. Historically cisterns are put underground because it is one of the safest places to put something that is to be kept under constant temperature. Nowadays, we have giant rainwater cisterns that can be bought from manufacturers and become a wonderful element to add to your backyard, or barn, there is no reason not to be proud your rainwater harvesting tank.

Accumulated water is wealth in some places, and among the people of the sand in Africa, water is synonym for the word God, so important is this natural resource. Eskimos have more than 30 different words for snow, so important is it in their way of life.

In the average American family of four, anywhere from 900 to 1200 liters of water are consumed daily. So much water, what if it doesn’t rain for six months? Well, calculate the amount of cubic liters needed to safely use a cistern year round according to catchment size, rainfall, and daily consumption. The longest dry season, will determine the longest length of time without water, and that multiplied by days and liters would give the total size of any given rainwater cistern.

Drinking Rainwater

Posted in Harvesting by Administrator on October 3, 2005.

Think Before You Drink

People who think about drinking rainwater have a good idea, but their main concern is usually the rainwater quality. Rainwater in and of itself is not usually a problem, however Mother Nature does use water as a way to clean the sky as well as the rivers, lakes and streams. There are dangers and there are safety measures that must be taken, in today’s world of modern industry. First of safety measures, is the catchment system (area where water is caught, collected, directed and accumulated). Second is the filtration system (area and equipment used to make water potable). Third is the storage system (area where water is kept for sometimes long periods during consumption.

Pollution in the sky, dust particles, tar on roofs, chemical products that may be used for anything upon/of/within the catchment surface can end up in the rainwater tank. Water is more than life giving liquid; water is a substance that latches on to just about anything, that could be harmful (or even tasteful). The first step in understanding how rainwater quality can be achieved to the point of drinking it is the concept of hygiene. Water must come in contact with as little contaminants from the time of condensation in clouds, to the time it finally hits the human organism and if it does it must be filtered.

Keeping rainwater quality to the point of drinking it, means using a catchment system that is low impact; where, roof, gutters, downspout and primary containment areas, all have as little influence on the water as possible. Vinyl is good alternative for gutters and downspouts but all gutters can harbor bacteria. Asphalt is absolutely not a good choice, however unfortunately what is most found on the roof so the filtration process chosen must be effective.

Drinking rainwater that comes from a clean and well kept catchment system is still not acceptable for today’s standards of rainwater quality due to air pollutants that poison the water. Mechanical filters like screens and closed gutters, French drains, gravel, sand, sumps, grates, and wire mesh, and first flush units are all first steps in filtration. Just remember to always concentrate on bigger to smaller debris, and the filters will always be placed correctly in the catchment system.

Second step to achieving good rainwater quality from a catchment system is finer debris filtration. To really be sure that rainwater is suitable for drinking, the water must filtered. Do not take chances! Even if you live in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest, pollution can get into your rainwater. So unless you are a specialist and know everything there is to know be sure and use something like a reverse osmosis system to ensure pure water quality. If you need to take out bad-news chemicals, the chemical filter is the best choice.

Storing the rainwater for drinking later means SSS. (Safe, solid and sealed). Safe, is water that comes into the storage facility after being fully filtered. Solid, is water that cannot escape or cannot be tainted by anything from outside the container (hence the word solid). Sealed, is water that does not float away due to evaporation.

Quickly going over drinking rainwater, we see that there are three parts to the whole process, catchment, filtration and storage. Each part needs to be given the proper attention. And the biggest rule is “don’t get water dirty in the first place”, and you will always know it is good for you but for most this is not possible. If you are going to drink rainwater filter rainwater, check places like ebay.com for complete reverse osmosis and other filtration systems and make them you last step to ensure pure water quality.

Roofing Materials

Posted in Harvesting by Administrator on September 22, 2005.

Roofing Materials for Rainwater Harvesting

I was asked the other day about what is the best roofing material for rainwater harvesting and it made me pause. I have the generic ideas once presented by others in the past but why not build upon them in a logical way and think about new solutions?

Roofing materials not good for rainwater harvesting:

Asphalt – The most common roofing material is asphalt which is not a good surface to harvest rain from. Crumbling asphalt roofing material debris can be separated during filtration but this type of shingle can also leach petroleum into the water.

Wooden Shingles – Wooden shingles are porous and harbor mold and fungus that will end up in your rainwater harvesting system. Wooden shingles are also treated with chemicals not fit for human consumption.

Metal – I remember cases of people using metal roofing materials, and then using the rain water for watering their vegetable gardens. Tests showed that the heavy metals in those vegetables were above the allowed limits. But be aware that today’s metal roofing materials do not break down as fast and there could be some that are considered safe for “potable” water.

Roofing Materials that are ok for rainwater harvesting:

Slate or Tile – Slate is a good surface to harvest rain from as long as it is kept clean. I have not heard much about this material and rainwater harvesting to be honest with you but it should work fine because it does not deteriate. Make sure you are not confusing slate with harmful asbestos tile which was mainly used as siding in the past.

Membrane Roofing Material – I have also not heard much about membrane roofing materials but in doing some quick research see that there are many products offered that are safe for “potable” water. A roofing membrane would be ideal because its chemical makeup is not friendly to bacteria. A roofing membrane could also be painted on an existing rooftop. If you are searching for this type of material just make sure it passes “potable” standards. A black rubber roofing membrane could also heat up enough to kill bacteria during sunny days.

Fiberglass – Fiberglass is a great surface to harvest rain from but it is not attractive to most people. It also is a bit noisy when it rains like the metal rooftop. If I was to build a tropical “off the grid” home I would use this roofing material because it is light weight to transport and serves its purpose well. In a more northern climate I would go a roofing membrane material.

Other Materials – People also collect rain from false roofs like tents or tarps. A large tarp can be kept clean and washed when it is not in use so the water is freer of pollutants. A tarp can also be used to cover a rooftop that would be hazardous for rainwater harvesting as a temporary solution.

I believe roofing membranes will become more popular than other materials because of their easy application. All it takes is for a couple of us to show how it’s done by covering our catchment surfaces with these high tech compounds. Remember that all rooftops are not clean no mater what material they are made from. Bird droppings and other debris will still fall and wash into rainwater harvesting systems. Also remember that a rooftop should be cleaned on a regular basis if used for potable water. Combine the right roofing surface material with first flush, course debris removal, fine debris removal and some sort of mechanical filtration system like reverse osmosis and you are “good to go”.

Rain Barrels

Posted in Harvesting, Products by Administrator on September 22, 2005.

Is a Rain Barrel a Rainwater Harvesting System?

Image of rain barrelYou can not call a rain barrel a rainwater harvesting system because it is missing important components for filtration. Rain barrels have been around for many years and are still seen on farms and homes that are environmentally conscious. A rain barrel can be either open ended or have a more advanced downspout connector installed in it to capture water directly. To be considered a rainwater harvesting system a rain barrel would need debris removal and filtration to get rainwater ready for consumption.

Even though some people still drink water collected in rain barrels it is not considered safe by those who understand the subject. Rain collected from rooftops is often contaminated with bird droppings, mold and other debris that stagnate standing water. The only way to make collected rainwater safe for consumption is to boil it but this should only be done for emergency use and not as a permanent solution.

You often see old rain barrels or trash cans with the cap removed under an area where rooftop runoff is plentiful. This open ended rain barrel is a mosquito incubating chamber (mosquitoes lay eggs in the standing water) and is unsafe to your family’s health. To modernize a rain barrel you must make sure it is fully enclosed. An old open ended rain barrel can be covered with cheese cloth or outdoor window screen to keep mosquitoes out but the water will not be safe for consumption without filtration.

Rain barrels should be used to collect water for your garden and house plants only. If you put the water through reverse osmosis after debris removal it is still not technically a rainwater harvesting system. It is important that you be careful of what you drink, people have become very sick from consuming polluted water. It is also important to make sure that you are not breading mosquitoes to protect yourself and your neighbors from the dreaded West Nile virus.

I encourage people to separate the meaning of rain barrel and rainwater harvesting system to help promote the importance of rainwater filtration and health. If you want to drink rainwater, educate yourself on all the components that make up a complete rainwater harvesting system and only use rain barrels for your garden. Add first flush, coarse debris removal, UV sterilization and reverse osmosis to rain barrel collected water and yes, I would consider it a safe.

Rain barrels are great for educational purposes, they help build an awareness of our environment. For those who enjoy home and garden plants rain barrels can also help conserve water and lower our water bills.

Interested in a traditional rain barrel?

Rain Barrels

French Drain

Posted in Diversion by Administrator on September 19, 2005.

What is a French Drain?

The French drain is basically a trench filled with gravel. This trench is meant to keep the water runoff from a sloping piece of land to be rerouted in a productive manner. It was invented in Concord by the farmer/judge Henry French (Harvard Graduate). When surface water (such as heavy rain) is invading any given area where there is a serious drainage problem, this could be the key to recovering flooded areas.

The French drain first came into the public eye in the year 1859 when Mr. French first published his book on farm drainage, in Concord, Massachusetts. The whole beauty of his idea came from careful observation. For it was not his diploma in law that showed him the ways of the land, it was his keen eye for observation and the ways of Mother Nature. He knew, like all simple farmers do, that water runs downhill, and just loves to accumulate in the most inconvenient of locations. Suffering from constant flooding, Henry French kept paying attention to water behavior until he figured out the best way to make sure water would run in the direction he wanted, without trying to go against Nature’s natural laws. Thus he figured out the concept of what we now call a French drain.

Not only did Mr. French discover this interesting style of drainage he also came up with many other drainage solutions and strategies for an ongoing problem. But what makes the French drain stand out from all the others? The fact that it is a drain that needs little to no upkeep. Most drains suffer from the same problem, over and over. His system design was developed around the idea of a common ditch/trench or gutter/pipe system of drainage that had already previously existed. The problem with a trench or ditch system is that they backup and get clogged easily. But gravel… Yes gravel, small stones from broken boulders. Gravel works like a screen filter would. Usually, there should be at least one foot of slope in the trench for every 100 feet of horizontal catchment (which means it gets deeper, the closer to the drain pipe it gets). It keeps the surface water flowing without the other stuff that comes along with it in really heavy rain. The bigger the rocks, the faster the water will flow.

Speed is not all there is to an efficient drain design. If the water runoff is effecting the foundation of a house, by constantly accumulating for long periods until such time as it evaporates or seeps down into the ground, this could seriously compromise the structural integrity, such as with wet basements. Digging a sloping trench and merely filling it with gravel, won’t solve this problem, in fact, it could worsen such problems. So in order to fix any possible situations, the best thing to do would be to put down a layer of flexible landscape fabric (usually polyethylene), over the channel, or pipe being used for drainage. In the case of a pipe system (characteristic of this style), the landscape fabric will ensure that all the water gets into the pipe, without debris clogging the pipe entrance, as in the case of pipe screens (or kitchen sinks).

Ensuring that the French drain will not create seepage or water damage to any other nearby structures, there is also the factor of clean and well kept drains. In other words, is it going to go with the rest of the yard? This factor is what determines the way a French drain looks after it is all done. By just placing a layer of coarse sand over the top of the gravel and then turf grass over that, it is possible to make it almost invisible to the human eye, unless showing off is the point, in which case the top layer is chosen in accordance to taste (perhaps multi colored river pebbles).

By adding sand to the layers of gravel in a French drain, the water not only gets through the pipe drain (initial reason for this style), but also lends to purifying it for domestic consumption (bath, hose, cloths… etc.). Putting a top layer, gives the whole system a final look (which may or may not be important) for that given system’s design. French drain’s most important feature is the way they filter surface water without requiring daily maintenance. The pipes’ in French drains rarely, if ever get filled with debris, and water flows freely, keeping the water clean while recovering flooded areas.

Living Machine

Posted in Filters by Administrator on September 16, 2005.

What is a Living Machine?

A Living Machine is an advanced biofilter that has been designed to treat blackwater sewage. What demarks the living machine is the fact that it does the job of eliminating the human threat to our lakes, streams and oceans, through the purification of our raw sewage. For most people, the difference between whitewater greywater and blackwater is unknown. There are three things that make this innovative idea in biofiltration and wastewater management a real Living Machine, aesthetic appeal, reliable performance and high quality final effluent suitable for a variety of reuse applications.

Since the days of Rome and Constanople, when lead was first used to channel water and plumbing was born, and even before this, rivers have been sacrificed in the name of human convenience. But how convenient is it really to sacrifice a river? It is only convenient for those people living in small population up river. For others, however, it is not. Those who live downstream, and those who inherit the earth, learned to pollute the earth’s drinking water supply, in such a way as if to say that it was not a problem. But it is.

Living Machines do the same job nature would do (if we gave her the chance). Take blackwater (also known as sewage) and return it to its natural whitewater state (unpolluted by human waste). Greywater is that which only contains water from household drains such as the shower, the laundry room, the sink and even roof water. But once human organic wastes have come in contact with water, it is unusable by any complex living organisms. But Nature is perfect, and in her living self, microorganisms just love blackwater. In fact, microorganisms like it so much that they are the basis for the Living Machine. The process goes: anaerobic septic tank, anoxic reactor, closed aerobic tank (with plants to filter gases), open aerobic tank(s) (with snails, shrimp and fish), sludge is redirected back to the septic tank (or composted), while water goes to a wetland (usually indoor); finally it is ready for returning to the environment. A wonderful composting and irrigational product has been achieved, and Mother Earth is happy. And if further treated properly (without chemicals) studies show that the water could even be consumed more safely than when first polluted.

Biomechanical, a Living Machine is part nature part machine, without the Star Trek sci-fi fantasy. Living Machines are very practical and very real. As the Living Machine is a patented term and always needs to be spelled with capitals, we can quickly go over why. First of all, beauty… A Living Machine is first and foremost a philosophical attempt to unite human custom (unethical as they are), and the perfection of Mother Nature into harmony with each other. This environmentally sound and ecologically correct method of human wastewater management is reliable and efficient as its performance is 100%. When properly designed and constructed to suit individual or community needs, all Living Machines guarantee a safe, reliable, and high quality effluent. The uses of this Living Machine effluent range from the large scale crop irrigation to the small scale bathroom shower.

With our current usage of drinking water, and the approach of an ever growing ignorant next generation, new strategies must be found to deal with this looming and decadent downward spiral into the abyss of a chaotic and desolate future of sadness and sorrow. Living Machines are a desperate cry for hope and imagination in a pragmatic world that has been beaten down by generations of pessimists and down to earth traditionalist who “know Mr. Reality”. But Mr. Reality is not who these specialists expect.

Living Machines are a way to correct bad human habits that date back to the invention of plumbing and the scarification of rivers as waste management. The biggest dilemma is teaching people the difference between whitewater greywater and blackwater. Whitewater is clean and drinkable, greywater is not drinkable, but not highly polluted either, while blackwater has come in contact with human fecal material and is unfit for return to the environment without proper treatment (as it is an extremely dangerous pollutant). Living Machines are beautiful, dependable and insure a safe discharge of previously contaminated blackwaters into useful and efficient grey and white water. The Living Machine is not just a whimsical dream… The Living Machine is the future and the cutting edge of a dawning scientific revolution.

Rainwater Storage

Posted in Harvesting by Administrator on September 13, 2005.

Rainwater Storage and Economy

The rainwater cistern is historically an underground basin of water, but it can also be an above ground barrel or tank. Much like an artificial well, cisterns are used to make sure that water is not contaminated nor suffers from evaporation. Probably the most effective but overlooked form of rainwater storage in the modern era rainwater cisterns are practical and can be aesthetically concealed below ground, behind fencing or trellis. Good materials for cisterns include plastic liners or membrane material in wood frames, ceramic, fiberglass, “food grade” plastic and poly-tanks, as well as other potable liquid materials.

The two main reasons why people use cisterns are either for the sake of survival in a place where the only potable water is rainwater, or ecological awareness in search of sustainability. Either people need a cistern, or want one because they are concerned about how they (or others) are consuming water. A rainwater basin needs to offer enough capacity to collect enough useable water from a catchment surface. Rain barrels are exceptional tools for not only excess cistern water, but if connected together can catch enough rainwater to filter for using for cabins and other weekend getaways.

The rainwater cistern can hold large amounts of water and is completely sealed from contaminants, except those in the water itself. Where evaporation and external contamination can be issues with basins, the most practical thing about a cistern in all this is both size and location. Historically cisterns are put underground because it is one of the safest places to put something that is to be kept under constant temperature. Nowadays, we have giant rainwater cisterns that can be bought from manufacturers and become a wonderful element to add to your backyard, or barn, there is no reason not to be proud your rainwater harvesting tank.

Accumulated water is wealth in some places, and among the people of the sand in Africa, water is synonym for the word God, so important is this natural resource. Eskimos have more than 30 different words for snow, so important is it in their way of life.

In the average American family of four, anywhere from 900 to 1200 liters of water are consumed daily. So much water, what if it doesn’t rain for six months? Well, calculate the amount of cubic liters needed to safely use a cistern year round according to catchment size, rainfall, and daily consumption. The longest dry season, will determine the longest length of time without water, and that multiplied by days and liters would give the total size of any given rainwater cistern.What is rainwater storage? Simply put, it is a way to hold collected rainwater, in a safe, hygienic, filtered (if possible), and economical fashion so as to avoid seepage, contamination or evaporation. Hygiene is the most important part of rainwater storage, as water is a place for organisms to thrive. Once fully understood the concept of hygiene, the next concept is filtration, which can be an option that may mean the difference between drinkable and irrigational water. Economy is the last point of observation, as any good rainwater storage container, site, vault, or dank is doing the job of saving energy.

Etymologically we know that the word storage only appears after 1612, but descends from a Greek word “stauros” (stake or pole), for which in Latin later translated into store. He who builds up or maintains a store, is in a sense, creating “storage”, or goods, to then later be sold or used. In thermodynamics, the concept of storing energy refers to this kind of containment as economical. In architecture, ecological footprints, can trace the spent energy in any structure, back to square acres of land, or square meters of water, because basic units of measurement such as water and earth are the basis for all products the earth produces, including life.

Hygiene is not just a good idea when dealing with water, hygiene is an absolute must. Without good hygiene, there can’t be any kind of healthy use for the stored water. Living organisms that thrive in clear and shallow pools, just love a good rainwater storage tank, but people’s stomachs, as well as livestock, or sometimes even crops, may not enjoy the organisms in the water. So storage tanks MUST be kept hygienic! Cleanliness is essential. And if the water is to be used for drinking, all the more vigilant must a rainwater storage unit be.

Filtering is an option in rainwater storage, and in today’s world a very good idea. There are many different varieties of filters, but they fall into three categories, mechanical, biological and chemical. Any modern system will at the very least have a mechanical filter which must be cleaned regularly in order to make sure that the cleanliness and hygiene of the water can be kept under more demanding control. Sand and gravel are wonderful mechanical filters that mimic nature’s natural filtering system, and are widely used in rainwater harvesting.

The very concept of rainwater storage revolves around the whole idea of economy. Rainwater is energy. Be it energy for a seedling or energy for an ancient Redwood in the middle of the forest, rainwater brings life. But once it hits the ground, it goes back into the ground, then is purified by many layers, until it arrives once again into underground reservoirs, or streams and rivers, until finding its way to the surface, or the ocean, evaporates, and then condensates into rain once again. One of the most important factors in any good rainwater storage unit is that it is sound and has no seepage of any kind, is kept sealed as to avoid contamination and evaporation. The advantage of this is water for later on. Water to drink, water to bath, water to irrigate plants and crops, water for days when it simply will not rain.

Rainwater storage is a way of conserving energy. Safe storage of rainwater means excellent hygiene that avoids bad news organisms that thrive in still water. Filtering systems should be in place to make the storage of clean and drinkable rainwater a reality.
Economical use of the rain that drops from great Zeus’s palace in the sky and the mere mortal, whom without the gods is nothing, tries so desperately to collect it in pots and pales while stranded in a desert. With water, this mortal may be able to survive for just one more day of intense walking through arid climates. Rainwater storage kept desert trading caravans alive in antiquity, while crossing the desert; it can help a world in desperate need of new and innovative solutions.

Rainwater Harvesting India

Posted in India by Administrator on September 13, 2005.

Why discuss Rainwater Harvesting in India?

In India, rainwater harvesting is an ancient tradition. From as far back as 4500 BC, the simplest of earthworks in Thar Desert and Rajasthan, would harvest water from the falling rain. These simplest forms of rainwater harvesting would evolve in accordance to the eco-regions within India’s borders. Using rivers, floods, monsoon, underground rivers, surface water and the earth itself, the ancient cast of pallar (water managers) have been respected for thousands of years. Rainwater harvesting in India is more than an age old tradition that varies from region to region, rainwater harvesting is an integral part of Indian identity and cultural history, that without, India would never have been.

Vedic culture did not create rainwater harvesting as it was already being done (although rudimentary still quite effective) in the Thar and Rajasthan deserts long before the Harappan civilization in 2600 BC. Monsoon has a way of dictating how life in any given region will profit from determined amounts of rainfall. Once construction techniques began to improve, more elaborate structures could be undertaken to access water management issues in creative and innovative ways. Not only household water needs, but also farm and irrigation in even the most remote places such as the Thar Desert. To this very day, wells known as “kuis” or “beris” that collect fallen rainwater and prevent evaporation still exist, were first built by caravan travelers that had determined routes through the desert.

More developed wells called “kundis” or “kunds” are still used for drinking water, while “bundela” and “chandela” tanks with steps leading down into them were surrounded by pavilions, gardens, orchards to glorify the king. The type of rainwater harvesting techniques used in India, vary in accordance to the region. In northern India the Himalayan regions use glacier water and artificial glaciers to have water year round. The western Himalayan region which gives life to the Ganga also uses similar ditch technologies to replenish the underground flow of water and produce massive agriculture in an otherwise desolate area. The Thar Desert is an exceptional example of ingenuity and sustainability in low-tech communities. But ingenuity and creativity are what mark most about any region in India, as the solutions have time and time again come from the climatic and geographical conditions in which peoples had found themselves and still find themselves to this very day.

Whether they are harvesting rain from their rooftops, or courtyards, open community lands from artificial wells, monsoon run-off from the water of swollen streams or stored in various bodies or even harvest water from flooded rivers. Rainwater harvesting managers, called “pallar” are an officially recognized cast in India that deserves respect and honor. Usually “pallar” inherit their skills, and perform their service usually in accordance to region. The pallar are not trained in great universities from around the world, much less any inside of India, the pallar learn their abilities from one generation to the next and the most important part of engineering itself, experience. Years of careful observation on a day to day basis, when water needs effect everyday life, and even survival, their creative minds invent solutions that bridge the frontier of time and technology. Ingenuity and creativity in such largely diverse scales are responsible for the plethora of innovative ideas that come from this humble Indian cast.

Prehistoric India brought rainwater harvesting solutions as modern day India also does. These solutions which are diverse and innovative bring new insight into the world of rainwater harvest the world over. Insights that should be studied, and understood, not merely as a science but as cultural identity and a way of thinking that’s roots can be traced to antiquity. As India has so many different regions, it also confronts many different solutions for such a basic and essential human need as a single drop of water. Flood water, post-monsoon drought, underground river collectors, surface water aqueducts, and even evaporation proof community wells for drinking as well as irrigation and other methods of rainwater harvesting; the ancient art of Indian pallar is a tradition that should be respected and understood by anyone interested in better and more ecological ways to use the sky-gift of natural rain.

Rainwater Catchment

Posted in Harvesting by Administrator on September 9, 2005.

What is Rainwater Catchment?

The rainwater cistern is historically an underground basin of water, but it can also be an above ground barrel or tank. Much like an artificial well, cisterns are used to make sure that water is not contaminated nor suffers from evaporation. Probably the most effective but overlooked form of rainwater storage in the modern era rainwater cisterns are practical and can be aesthetically concealed below ground, behind fencing or trellis. Good materials for cisterns include plastic liners or membrane material in wood frames, ceramic, fiberglass, “food grade” plastic and poly-tanks, as well as other potable liquid materials.

The two main reasons why people use cisterns are either for the sake of survival in a place where the only potable water is rainwater, or ecological awareness in search of sustainability. Either people need a cistern, or want one because they are concerned about how they (or others) are consuming water. A rainwater basin needs to offer enough capacity to collect enough useable water from a catchment surface. Rain barrels are exceptional tools for not only excess cistern water, but if connected together can catch enough rainwater to filter for using for cabins and other weekend getaways.

The rainwater cistern can hold large amounts of water and is completely sealed from contaminants, except those in the water itself. Where evaporation and external contamination can be issues with basins, the most practical thing about a cistern in all this is both size and location. Historically cisterns are put underground because it is one of the safest places to put something that is to be kept under constant temperature. Nowadays, we have giant rainwater cisterns that can be bought from manufacturers and become a wonderful element to add to your backyard, or barn, there is no reason not to be proud your rainwater harvesting tank.

Accumulated water is wealth in some places, and among the people of the sand in Africa, water is synonym for the word God, so important is this natural resource. Eskimos have more than 30 different words for snow, so important is it in their way of life.

In the average American family of four, anywhere from 900 to 1200 liters of water are consumed daily. So much water, what if it doesn’t rain for six months? Well, calculate the amount of cubic liters needed to safely use a cistern year round according to catchment size, rainfall, and daily consumption. The longest dry season, will determine the longest length of time without water, and that multiplied by days and liters would give the total size of any given rainwater cistern.Rainwater catchment is the term used to describe any system that acts as a kind of sky net to capture and impound rainfall. What exactly is it that can be a rainwater catchment system? Are catchments strictly artificial, or can they be found in Nature as well? What about today? In today’s world, what is it that can be considered a catchment? Are there more common types of catchments that have been used throughout history, and what is most common today? What about the term efficiency? What is the efficiency of a rainwater catchment system?

The very earth itself in this definition of “rainwater catchment” works as one giant rainwater catchment system sustained by plentiful mountains and valleys across the many continents. The sky is so important to civilization, so omnipotent, that it has even become the foundation for hundreds of thousands of millions of different polytheisms since the dawn of humankind. Oxumare, the afro-brazilian goddess of rain and the rainbow is said to be a monster for six months out of the year and a beautiful woman named Bessem the other six. Probably due to the way the ancient African Jeje people would deal with rain, six months rainy season and six months dry season.

It is no wonder the etymological origin of the word catchment reconstructs mental images of “the hunt” and the animal being caught. As if a net were being furled like a sail in a horizontal fashion in expectation of the falling monster Oxumare who then replenishes the body to give life and beauty as when the rainbow appears after a storm and the smell of steam rises from the intense spring heat which evaporates upon the leaves and forms dense clouds of condensation upon flower petals and gently roll down into the center.

During the heavy rain the mountain remains firm and solid forming rivers down its side into gullies and ditches that eventually take to underground reservoirs and rivers into springs and surface going rivers that run for miles and miles to finally find their way to the everlasting sea. Yet in the sea as well, Oxumare finds her monstery form and then settles into the gentle rocking of mother Yemanja (goddess of the sea).

We humans make reasons for these things that happen in nature. And we imitate. Rainwater catchments in today’s reality no longer accept the poetic explanations of our primitive ancestors. Now things are based on the logic of a new and superior god known unto all as SCIENCE. It is HE who defines the truth, and it is He who tells us how a catchment system should be. Mostly, they are but imitations of the mountain top, the valley, gullies, underground reservoirs, rivers and springs.

Look closely at the roof of any house, or at the shape of rainwater harvesting cistern’s lid, and the whole mystery is reviled. Just a few things however need to be understood about the rainwater catchment system as a whole when used on roofs. First the catchment area, the area is the space on the roof that water hits. This includes the overhang and the gutters. The gutters organize the flow of water caught by the roof, and direct it into a downspout, where it is filtered like a kitchen sink drain and then finally stored in a barrel, or any other collection recipient. All of these elements make up the rainwater catchment system, area, gutters, downspout and reservoir. It’s a very simple process and any household can implement one with a little bit of common sense and start making use of roof in this fashion.

Not all rainwater catchment systems are roofs on top of houses as mentioned, some are surface water catchment systems for fields to improve irrigation. But essentially all of them need these four elements: AREA, SLOPE, DRAIN and STORAGE. Area, gives the water a place to land. Slope gives it gravitational pull, so that it can pick up speed and momentum, thereby flowing toward the drain. Drain, channels rainwater in an organized fashion so that it can actually form a consistent body. Storage is the final resting place for the flowing bodies of water that come from the drain. Stored water can then be used for any variety of daily needs, baths, dishes, plants, animals, drinking (when clean enough).

Another interesting factor in the development of any rainwater catchment system is taking into account the efficiency of the system as a whole. Efficiency is a term that refers to the amount of water lost in the process from the time the water first hit the collection area to the time it finds its way into storage. Water collection efficiency in this sense, is more related to water that goes flying away from the system, or escapes in some way, before reaching storage, such as in the case of too much slope and the water over shoots the drain. When water hits the overhang near the edge, the velocity is usually so high that not all of it is collected by the slope, and also ends up lost. Faulty gutters are another reason for rainwater catchment efficiency loss, improperly installed downspouts, mechanical filters that are just stuffed with debris can be a problem as well. Seepage, evaporation and contamination are also efficiency factors, but have more to do with rainwater harvesting in the general sense, rather than the catchment system itself.

As the catchment system is meant to simply hunt and capture the water as in times of old, when water had to be found for the gathering tribe to survive. Rainwater catchment systems today try to imitate nature as if hunting a primitive monster. In nature, mountains, land, even the sea, are all forms of collecting and storing rainwater, but in urban dwellings, the roof, the gutters and a barrel can do the same job, for one family. In cities, rivers are dammed and community reservoirs distribute water for the whole population. On farms they can capture water from the barn roof or just an enormous cistern. All systems revolve around the concept of efficiency. Especially household rainwater catchments, as they must be carefully calculated in order to be more useful, that is more efficient (water lost is water unused). Water is a gift to us, to all creatures on the earth. We must learn to use it efficiently and responsibly if we want to see a more sustainable future for those who will inherit this earth.

Rainwater Calculator

Posted in Harvesting by Administrator on September 8, 2005.

Mathematical Principles of the Rainwater Calculator

The mathematical principles of a rainwater calculator are really quite simple. How much rainwater will fall? How long will the rainwater keep falling? Are there any times during the year when no water falls at all? When? For how long? How big and in what condition is the cistern or vault being used? How big is the area for catchment? How much rain can be caught in what period of time? Rainwater calculators are a simple mathematical script that can be easily done by any computer or calculator.

From the ancient times when architects projected megalithic waterways known as Aqueducts, to this very day, the sky has given mysteries to urban planners. The Greek inventor Archimedes knew of the ways in which the abstract world of numbers could be used to manipulate the mechanical nature of the world, and used this to his advantage. A legend is told of the great Athenian inventor Dedalus who invented among many things, a dry treasury under a massive lake, and that whole bodies of water had to be extracted and replaced through great calculation.

Rainwater comes falling down at its own pace. Yet it will fall none the less, it will. What a good sustainable project needs to keep in mind is from when to when does it rain? Is there a dry season? If so how long is it, and how much water is consumed throughout any given month. Knowing the total rainfall in a given period of observation is done by leaving a cylinder out in the rain for the duration of the observation, and recorded every now and a again. But to be wise a person needs to study all the rainwater fall charts and graphs for the last fifty years to make an estimate on how much rain will fall on the average in any given month, and base their abstract numerical predictions on an almost worse case scenario.

The total area of the catchment system will determine how much rain can be caught, during any given rainfall. Catchment systems are the basic area upon which the collection number is based. By multiplying length and width of this two dimensional space (surface of the catchment system), a final area for the rainfall is given a value. This section of space for the water to land on is not perfect, since it’s not a bucket or rain-barrel. It’s usually a flat surface or curved with an inclination to channel the falling water. Obviously some water likes to pick up speed and go flying right off the catchment surface to the ground. This is called efficiency and has its own value in percentage as well. If efficiency is 100%, then calculations run fine, if not, then the end calculation needs to be multiplied by the final efficiency value to determine rainwater calculator loss.

The cistern size will determine how much rainwater can be stored between any given drought or low rainfall season. Rainwater calculators don’t do all the work themselves; the architect must have at least a small notion of his or her objectives. If it only rains for three months in the desert and then there are nine whole months of dry arid conditions, then a precise calculation of how much water is used per month needs to be well known. As the water collected in rainy seasons needs to be more than plenty to sustain its average monthly usage for the later dry months, take into account evaporation and seepage. The last two factors; evaporation and seepage, are directly related to the type of cistern being used. Underground cisterns tend to have a far more controlled evaporation, and if properly built seepage should not be a problem either (contaminants are probably the worse problems a cistern can face, but have little to do with calculations).

A = (catchment area of building)

R = (inches of rain)

G = (total amount of collected rainwater)

(A) x (R) x (600 gallons) / 1000 = (G)

As easy to calculate as that is, mathematical principles of rainwater calculators are based around personalized specifications, previous studies about average rainfalls in the area and calculated prediction. How much rain is falling per month, how much is used or wasted in the process? How much can be stored, how much is too much, how much is too little? Are there ever dry months, when, how long? Are there wet months to compensate for those dry months, and if so, how does that effect the potential size of the catchment system, or the cistern for that matter? What kinds of systems are being used? Are they likely to be more or less efficient? When Archimedes was sitting in his bath, passing these subjective philosophical mathematical equations over and over through his meditating mind, he was on the verge of planting the seed for future rainwater calculators 2,500 years later. Now it is we who must meditate and understand rainwater calculators. Meditate to build a better and far more sustainable reality than the one imposed by the Romans.

Rainwater Collection

Posted in Harvesting by Administrator on September 8, 2005.

The History of Rainwater Collection

The long history of rainwater collection, can be traced (in recorded history) as far back as ancient times some 3,000 years ago (850 BC) if not even farther. The need for water is a basic human essential for maintaining life, without it, no civilization could have prospered. Rainwater collection in ancient Constanople is one of the last megalithic structures of its kind. During the dark ages, technologies as advanced as these however seem to have taken a severe decline in the western world, while older less expensive techniques persisted up until the industrial era. With the advance of technology, time proven methods gave way to centralized systems of water collection, with pipes and collective communal systems. If we however, are to learn from our mistakes, we must study history and in this way rediscover the value of rainwater collection.

Rainwater collection is any method that brings and unites into a body or unit of fallen rainwater (surface water) in an organized fashion. On primitive scales this usually means an excavated cistern of some kind or perhaps just a banana leaf that empties into a coconut (not too sustainable). In Egypt for example the army would use the desert to their advantage, because they had secret cashes of rainwater collected throughout the desert in underground cisterns carved out of solid rock, they could stay in remote and undisclosed regions with no fear of any invading armies, with the surrounding desert acting as a deadly fortress. King Mesha of Moab in Jordan is documented from 850 BC as having commanded that cisterns be dugout by every family in the city Qerkhah for themselves.

In the days of the Roman Empire, atrium fed rainwater collection cisterns were common place and to this day an important part of history. In fact, the art of rainwater collection in the Roman Empire achieved great proportions up until the rule of Justiantinius Augustus Caesar and his empress Theodora in the early sixth century AD. The giant underground cistern in today’s Istanbul called Yerebatan Sarayi (Sunken Palace), was used to collect fallen water from the city above in an underground, megalithic and expansive vault with high columns that can be navigated by boat. Yerebatan Sarayi is certainly the last of its kind, as building a dam can prove to be far more inexpensive. Such as is the case with “Sete Quedas” that once integrated the boarder of Brazil and Paraguay, and was the largest waterfall in the world (now a hydroelectric dam).

The island of Malta has evidently a long history of using rainwater collection to sustain its overwhelming population, and in 1610 had its first aqueduct system constructed to improve water distribution from the small amounts found in the countryside to the seaports. But recent solutions are relatively new, as centralized plumbing has improved over time and the need for hygiene more distinct, older solutions for the collection of rainwater found themselves falling into disuse. One major reason for this change in water collection and distribution is due to disease. In Afghanistan, desert cashes exist all over the countryside, but drinking from them without boiling first can be lethal. Istanbul no longer uses Yerebatan Sarayi for drinking as it was easily contaminated by pollutants from the city above, as is a major problem in any urban setting, thus treatment plants were introduced.

As long as water is not a problem, people don’t really seem to care where it comes from or even how it gets in the house, just as long as it is there and useful. This mentality of forgetting as a whole is what must be fought, as it is through the past that we learn to make a better and brighter future, by not repeating the same mistakes as our forefathers. Clean rainwater collection throughout human history has taught us time and time again how this is possible, and also the dangers of doing it wrong. In antiquity, systems were but underground cashes ditches, wells, and cisterns. In Byzantine Constanople, works of art such as the “Sunken Palace” united engineering genius with art to produce megalithic architectural wonders and the constant difficulties associated with hygiene. If the history of rainwater collection tells us anything of value, it is that filtration is the most important key in any harvesting system.


Posted in Filters by Administrator on August 16, 2005.

What is a Biofilter?

A Biofilter is any group of microorganisms cultivated in a closed biomedia with the intention of purifying contaminated gases or liquids. How could a biological filter of this kind help purify harvested rainwater for example? One of the biggest points to harvesting rainwater is making absolute certain that the water is clean and pure enough to drink. Biofilters have been around as long as nature itself, but have become wide spread with the ever propelling of modern day technologies. In nature water purification occurs because one organisms waste is another organism’s food, and thereby sustaining the biosphere’s food web. Biofilters are usually a second or third stage of filtering, usually done following a mechanical filter, or series of mechanical filters. Once the basic concept of a biofilter is understood, the creative possibilities of building one become only as limited as the human imagination.

“Biofilter” comes from the term biological filter, which can trace its origins to the Greek words for life “bios” and thought “logos”, with the word filter having more recent meaning in the material “felt” used to stain liquids in the past. After pondering the etymology, a poetic linguist may say that biofilters are “living strainers”. Microorganisms that feed off of the impurities in a liquid or gas, and in this way producing energy to be consumed by other organisms in the food web. A biofilter will combine these basic principles of nature’s law in a more sustainable way by harmonizing humankinds distancing, artificial and ego intense glorifying technological advancements with billions of years of natural evolution. A biofilter incorporates the very essence of the third law of competition; when organisms learn to work together in order to survive in a niche.

The secret to sustainable water filtration systems such as micro organic biological filtration is: “let nature do all the work”. If microorganisms have air, water, food, then they will thrive. Some microorganisms live and swim freely in water, while others can skim to the surface for oxygen, while still others can be attached to rocks, pebbles, limestone, sand, and pretty much any hard surface, as well as straw and roots. In nature, processes, such as settlement and filtration usually occur through sand or soil. Microorganisms decompose and break down organic material into nutrients. The end result is a balanced food web of consumption and production.

Biofilters such as those that could be used in rainwater harvesting have mechanical filters like grates, wire mesh, sponges, brushes, sand, gravel and others that keep big things like leaves and twigs out as well as smaller ones that keep dust particles out only as a first stage. In second stages of most biofilters, for pond water, grey water treatment, and even blackwater management, the system chosen for biological filtration can vary as widely as those used in rainwater harvesting. Most commonly the upspout or downspout systems are chosen. In up spout filters, the water comes from below and gets in contact with the biomedia (pebbles, limestone rings, bones… etc.), which is home to microorganisms that eat any decomposing micro organic materials naturally and then storing the water or passing it on to another, more intense filtraion system, like activated carbon. Down spout filters work in a similar fashion, but usually have better primary filters, and recycle the water constantly back into the biofilter, or into others more refined as in the example of up spouts.

There are two main types of downspouts; trickle down (or drip systems) and flood systems. Trickle down systems work with pockets of air all throughout the biomedia, as the flow of water is random. The flood systems, on the other hand generally use a pump and their biomedia tend to move around constantly inside the biofilter chamber. Both systems are common in freshwater pond filters and saltwater aquariums, but if the water is to be consumable, it needs a finer drinking water biofiltration using multiple layers of sand and gravel (especially if the water comes from some untimely origin such as in the cases of wastewater management biofiltration systems). As is done in underground streams to purify the natural well spring, by running for miles and miles under the earth, until finally crystal clean drinking water comes flowing right out of the ground.

Sand and gravel can be as much a circuit of biomedia as those installed in top dollar aquarium pumped multi-system filters or even more highly evolved breakdown organisms, found in the ocean. The fact is however; biofilter microorganisms need a place to thrive! They need place that has “air”, “water” and “food”. Rainwater biofilters differ from other kinds of biofiltration systems because the water is already very clean, and needs very little to become drinkable, but if contaminated, these systems for being a hundred percent positive about the harvested rainwater, become far more important and sustainable in the long run than highly expensive activated carbon systems that leave ecological footprints.

Gutter Guard

Posted in Diversion by Administrator on July 26, 2005.

What is a Gutter Guard?

I often have people ask me about using Gutter Guards to eliminate runoff debris that collects in a rain barrel or rainwater harvesting system. What I have told them is that I am no expert on gutter protection but what I suspect is that they are only good for filtering large debris like leaves, twigs and branches. My suspicion was correct; I pried up a gutter guard on a friend’s garage and took a look. I found no clogged leaves or debris; rather, I found what I refer to as “gutter goop”, a thick sludge of microorganisms that took to living a healthy life in the dark, moist environment of the covered gutter.

Gutter guards come in all different shapes but ALL do the same thing. A gutter guard or cover goes over an existing gutter to prevent leaves and other debris from falling in and clogging the downspout tube. In the event a downspout tube were to become clogged, drainage from a rooftop could back up and run down the side of a house and into windows or soak the earth close to a foundation contributing to a leaky basement.

Gutter Guard Installation – Safety

Note: If you are planning on installing a gutter guard be aware that one of the most common accidents that happens to the “do it yourself” homeowner involves the ladder. If a ladder is set on soft ground and you climb it to secure a gutter guard, it can tip and you could fall, so please be careful.

In conclusion, gutter guards do exactly what the manufacturers of these devices claim they do; they prevent your gutter from clogging and will allow water to run freely through the downspout to the ground or whatever harvesting system you may have in place. As I said before, a gutter guard will not remove the microorganisms that stagnate rainwater and should only be used as one part of a complete solution to filter rainwater.

This page: Gutter Guard

Rainwater Harvesting Book

Posted in Harvesting by Administrator on July 14, 2005.

Forgotten Rain – Rediscovering Rainwater Harvesting

Heather’s book can be purchased from her website ( HERE ) Linking to it is the least I could do – books like this are often overlooked just as the subject of rainwater harvesting is, but this will change!

This rainwater harvesting book is packed with great images and drawings of everything related to rainwater harvesting. After reading Forgotten Rain you come away with a great knowledge of rainwater harvesting, rainwater collection systems and a better understanding of why we need to conserve rainwater. Thank you Heather Kinkade-Levario for helping to inspire others to harvest rain!

New: Read Brad Lancaster’s Interview and checkout his latest book here

First Flush

Posted in Filters by Administrator on July 8, 2005.

What is First Flush?

During the first moments of a rain storm pollen, mold spoors and other contaminants are washed off a rooftop and into its drainage system. If the downspout tube does not have some type of first flush device to remove this foul water it will be washed into a rainwater harvesting system. The water will then stagnate and make it even unfit for washing clothes. The combined pollutants can stagnate water quickly inside a rainwater tank so a first flush device is required.

Two of the more popular types of devices are first flush units and constant volume containers. Constant volume containers simply fill to capacity then spill over into the pipe leading to a rainwater tank. First flush valves are optimized to meet the rate of water flow using a filler ball device.

  • Constant Volume Container – If sized correctly it should remove 5 gallons of water per 500 sq. feet of catchment area. The container usually has a ball that rises and falls with the water level to block off the flow when the basin reaches its required capacity. A clever constant volume device will use something like a soaker hose at its base for slow water dispersal (which empties it when it stops raining) to not allow loss of cherished rain during a storm.
  • First Flush Valves – These valves are optimized to meet the rate of water flow. It uses a ball that allows a set amount of rainwater to fill its small core, and then when it reaches a required weight it presses a valve that blocks off the flow to the first flush device.
  • The problem with first flush valves is that they do not divert water to a rainwater tank unless there are ample amounts of rain coming off a rooftop. For smaller roof surfaces the constant volume container is a good choice. For places that have monsoon like rain showers a first flush valve will work fine.

    Both the constant volume and the first flush units work great for different weather. If they are correctly set to meet the flow of rainwater from a rooftop catchment area they are very useful in removing contaminants. Make sure if you are purchasing a first flush device that it has a removable screw cap so you can clean it out from time to time.

    Roof Washer

    Posted in Filters by Administrator on June 11, 2005.

    So what exactly is a roof washer?

    A roof washer is a device or even simply a method for removal of sediment and debris from collection surfaces shortly after the rain has started to fall. This is usually accomplished by diverting the initial rainfall away from entry into the rainwater harvesting storage tanks or cistern.

    The better roof washers will usually have a debris screen. A good debris screen will protect the roof washer from the damage that is caused by waste and vermin. Usually the debris screen should be corrosion resistant.

    A good roof washer will automatically divert the first 0.02 inches of rainfall per 24 hour period per square feet of roof area away from the rainwater harvesting storage tanks or cisterns.

    Roof washers should be installed in such a way that they will be easily accessible for regular maintenance to ensure that they are working well all the time.

    A roof washer makes a great difference in the quality of the water that is harvested. You will not believe how dirty a roof can get within such a short period of time. This is really not surprising when you consider the fact that roofs are prominently exposed to all the elements and will tend to attract dust, leaves, debris, bird droppings and a host of other dirt and grime that greatly impacts on the quality and safety of the rainwater harvested. So by having a roof washer to ensure proper cleaning using the rainwater moments before the water starts entering the storage tanks impacts tremendously on the quality of water you will always end up with.

    A roof washer should not stop the excellent practice of physically cleaning the roof just before the rains are due to start. Rather, both methods are supposed to combine to ensure a very high standard of cleanliness on the roof that will harvest the rainwater. Actually the two cleaning methods or systems should work hand in hand for the best results in rainwater harvesting.

    There is a huge difference between a rainwater harvesting system that has a roof washer and one that does not have. Although areas and locations of roofs will greatly vary and will impact on how dirty a roof is bound to be, there is little doubt that a roof washer inclusion in a rainwater harvesting system makes a huge difference, wherever the location of the roof is and whatever the circumstances of the environment there.

    Rainwater Collection Systems

    Posted in Harvesting by Administrator on June 10, 2005.

    My Rainwater Collection System

    I have been making rain barrels for rainwater collection for years and offer them from my other website. I have also installed multiple units together to make larger capacity rain water collection systems and there have been several people who have requested this. My rainwater collection systems are still not technically complete so I am working to change this by adding a downspout filter with first flush to the chain. The water that ends up in my new systems will be free of debris and ready for purification. People could use them as a temporary emergency water supply or without purification for their indoor and outdoor plants.

    Here are a few images sent to me by the Piper Family from IL of the steps taken to setup a rainwater collection system I sent them. The system is made out of (3) “food grade” 55 gallon containers that are connected together using 3” PVC fittings. Each unit has a threaded spigot to run standard garden hose to areas of the yard in need of water. There is also a 3” overflow at the end of the string of barrels to drain overflow away from the house using standard PVC pipe. Note: This is also a great way to dry up a leaky basement.

    Rainwater Collection System – Setup

    Here’s the original site behind the garage. The wire going into the garage is for propane. (The tank is behind the lattice “box” on the right).

    We lined the area in landscape bricks and laid down a few bags of paving screenings and crushed limestone. After it was level, we placed two cinderblocks two high on top to support each barrel. (12 cinder blocks and 6 pavers total) We used the pavers so the cinderblocks wouldn’t sink into the ground over time.

    This is the opening from the other side. There is an elbow here and about 1 ½ feet from the ground another 2 elbows to bring the pipe along the garage. The pipe runs along the back of the garage on an incline and out a few feet beyond the edge of the garage. We installed a screen on the end of the pipe to prevent little critters from possibly running through.

    Done! The boards gave us a surface to nail on some plastic lattice. (This lattice was left over from when we did the enclosure on the right about 4 years ago) I couldn’t throw it away at the time because I thought we might be able to use it again. Worked out perfect – we had just enough!

    It’s amazing how quick your rainwater collection system fills up! Since our gardens are behind the garage and house, it has become much easier to water. Now we don’t have to wind up the hose all the time and we don’t have to worry as much about the water rationing in the summer months. THANK YOU AARON!

    I always enjoy helping out people who are “hands on” like this. Since they are only using this rainwater collection system to water plants and divert rooftop runoff there is no reason for rainwater purification. I am currently making them a gutter strainer and first flush unit to remove debris that can stagnate standing water.

    There you have it, a low cost working rainwater collection system.

    Rainwater Purification

    Posted in Filters by Administrator on June 8, 2005.

    Dangers of rainwater harvesting without Purification

    Despite the fact that rainwater from rainwater harvesting is usually of a much higher quality than water that is obtained from most of the other sources, it still needs to go thru a rainwater purification process to be safe for consumption.

    Cleansing the roof and water tanks and having adequate filters in the rainwater collection system is not adequate.

    Sadly a few rainwater harvestors are fooled by the nice clean taste of rain water and the clean look it has, so much so that they think the water may not require further rainwater purification before it can be used for human consumption. This is a mistake that can have deadly repercussions.

    To start with, during rain harvesting, when the rain comes into contact with a collection surface like a roof, it will tend to wash contaminants off that surface. Some of these contaminants may be so small as to be difficult to see with the naked eye. And even if they can be seen they will tend to settle at the bottom of the rainwater storage tank where they will be virtually impossible to see when the tank is full, even if one makes an effort to inspect the water tank.

    Rainwater contaminants can be mold, bacteria, algae, protozoa and small particles of dust.

    But there is an even deadlier group of contaminants that can be present in rainwater from rainwater harvesting. These are micro organisms like bacteria. Not to mention pesticides, lead and arsenic. These are all highly poisonous to the body.

    If the rainwater from rainwater harvesting is to be used in the house for drinking and other household chores, then it has to be both filtered and treated so as to kill micro-organisms and remove all the contaminants.

    The rainwater must go through various steps of cleansing, filtering and Purification. They include screening, settling, filtering and disinfecting. The screening stage stops debris and large particles from entering the rainwater storage tank. The settling process then further cleans the rainwater by allowing the tiny particles that got through the screening process to settle at the bottom of the rainwater tank.

    Filtering is then supposed to remove sediment and contaminants and trap other smaller particles. The final process of disinfecting the rainwater can be done using chlorine, ozone or even ultraviolet light to kill harmful micro-organisms.

    Any rainwater from rainwater harvesting that does not go through a careful filtering and disinfecting process, is dangerous for drinking or human consumption of any sort and should be avoided.

    There is no point in taking the trouble to install a rainwater collection system and then being casual about the safety of the water you get from your efforts. Researching proper rainwater purification is the smart thing to do.

    Drainage Product

    Posted in Diversion by Administrator on June 2, 2005.

    Smart Drain

    I enjoy searching the internet for new drainage products because these materials can often be used in multiple applications. Here is a new drainage product called the smart drain which is an interesting drainage material.

    How does this drainage product work?

    This drainage product uses capillary action and requires very little head pressure to start working. In saturated conditions it draws water into its micro channels then provides additional drainage force to whisk the water away from the drainage area. You simply dig up a few inches of soil and roll the material into place.

    Drainage Product Benefits

    1. Uses no mechanical equipment, nice!
    2. Leaves just enough moisture to ensure optimum conditions for growth of grasses and trees.
    3. Can work in any soil type.
    4. Unlike ordinary perforated pipe, it doesn’t clog. Moreover the excess water is filtered, which reduces soil runoff, what you have left is clean water.
    5. It is also very easy to work with.

    Drainage Product Review

    I have contacted smart drain about this material and would like to get a piece to test it out in a rainwater filtration system which will give me an ??????????????TokyoDownTownCool idea of what it can do. What I can say is that if this material can do what they claim it does it can be used in all kinds of applications. Will keep you updated on this promising drainage product.

    Here is a video clip brought to you by smart drain, click image below to see this material in use.

    Gutter Strainer

    Posted in Diversion by Administrator on May 26, 2005.

    Proper rainwater harvesting requires that you fit the right kind of gutter strainer and other components to create a system that will be sure to work efficiently to deliver high quality rainwater into your rainwater harvesting storage tanks.

    Quite Harvesting often there Filter is a danger in selecting low quality cheap items to include in your rainwater harvesting system without first carefully examining if they are really capable of performing the task or tasks that they are supposed to.

    A good example here is the gutter strainer. Actually this is a key item in any rainwater harvesting system that may seem simple enough. Deceptively so. A gutter strainer is an important tool in the first step of the process of harvesting rainwater which is the removal of debris, leaves and host of other particles and solids that could easily end up in the rainwater harvesting storage tank making it much more difficult Rainwater to take the water to the next stage of the filtering process.

    The first question you will need to ask yourself in selecting a gutter strainer is if it will be able to separate debris in he gutter but not clog the actual gutter itself and prevent the valuable rainwater from flowing unhindered into the rainwater harvesting storage tanks.

    You can get really high tech and select a downspout filter. Especially for a larger rainwater harvesting system. Or you can do what most people do and purchase a low cost but effective Sydney gutter strainer. Either way you want a unit that will be efficient, effective and One needs to be very careful when dealing with items that are supposed to take the huge force that water usually exerts. You must have seen they damage that water can sometimes do, to land, buildings roads and so on. Thus it is a good idea to bear all this in mind when you are designing your rainwater harvesting system, no matter how big or small it is.

    Filtering of the debris done by a gutter strainer does not mean that the water is suitable for drinking or human consumption and use. Even if the water is very clear and clean, as seen by the human eye, it will still need to be further filtered and treated against the tiny microorganisms present in water but which cannot be seen by the human eye. These microorganisms can be very dangerous and harmful to the health.

    Still, ending up with water that is clean to the naked eye, apart from the tiny particles getting through that usually settle at the bottom of the tank, is usually a clear sign that your gutter strainer is working properly.

    The gutter strainer pictured here and above removes leaf, pine needles and other debris that would otherwise clog your downspout. There is also room for modification, you could add a stainless screen insert and use it like you would a more expensive downspout filter. If you are looking for a quick way to remove debris from you downspout these gutter strainers work well.

    Rainwater Harvesting System

    Posted in Harvesting by Administrator on May 21, 2005.

    Building a Rainwater Harvesting System

    I think it is great when ordinary people build their own rainwater harvesting systems.

    The story below is of a gentleman who made Non-Smoking an outstanding rainwater harvesting system out of a 1550 gallon rainwater tank. He later added (3) 3,000 gallon tanks after he realized how much water can be collected from his average sized rooftop. He also made and interesting “first flush” unit out of a galvanized steel trash can to remove 25 gallons of runoff during the first moments of a rain shower. Rainwater First flush units remove pollen, bird droppings, pine needles and other rooftop debris before filling the tanks.

    There is also a pump on the main Heart upper tank that is on a timer to keep it full to the 1300 gallon mark. He uses a pool strainer for the upper tank and a shop vac filter on ‘WHAT one of the lower three tanks to filter out any debris that might have escaped the first. Very nice setup indeed!

    “In the past it was common practice to catch rainwater, especially on farms where large barn roofs and thirsty animals made a good combination. My rainwater catcher started out as a single 1550 Teil gallon tank set at the corner of the house. I quickly found out that having just a 1550 gallon search tank was like having a single battery in the middle of a wind storm… I just couldn’t catch enough. Watching the tank run over only to make the driveway muddy was very frustrating!

    Rainwater is great for plants, showers and of course flushing the toilet. Evaporative cooler pads will not load up with minerals because there aren’t any minerals in the rain water. You will also use less detergent in the Downspout laundry”.

    Who says people cannot make their own rainwater harvesting systems?

    Downspout Filter

    Posted in Filters by Administrator on May 13, 2005.

    The downspout filter is a simple and yet hardworking and extremely useful tool in any rainwater harvesting system.

    The rainwater entering the downspout filter is usually controlled by baffles in the downspout filter which then collected in a sump basin. Immediately the water flows over the sump lip, it is then distributed over the first filter step of the several cascades.

    This first primary cascade filters out larger particles and solids, preventing them from flowing further or even going anywhere near the rainwater harvesting tank. This eventuality would usually make it a lot harder to take the water through the other stages of filtering and treatment of the water. By removing as much debris as possible, the downspout filter helps make the next stage of treatment much easier and much more efficient.

    Immediately below the first primary cascade is a fine filter which removes all particles that were not dealt with in the first cascade. This filter mainly deals with fine dirt and much tinnier particles that may have flowed with the rainwater from the roof top when the water was flowing into the gutters.

    All the time, both Rainwater large particles and fine dirt are discharged through the front of the filter. The result is that lots of extremely clean-looking water usually flows out of the filter outlet to the rainwater harvesting tank or discharge area.

    The 3P Rainus Downspout Filter is a high end, high quality downspout filter that also acts as a leaf and debris separator. So clean is the water usually produced that this is a good place to remind readers yet again that this downspout filter does not make water fit to drink or for human consumption.

    This is a durable product that can be fitted to any water down pipe. What most people like about it, is that it is easy to maintain and monitor. It efficiently and effectively cleans rainwater without interfering with or altering the flow. Solids are separated through the front opening.

    The Rainus filter can be installed on downspout tubes with the diameters of 110, 100, and 80mm. Adaptors facilitate an even wider range of connections.

    I currently testing a small capacity rainwater harvesting system for people who would like to collect water for off grid cabins, homes or to use as an emergency water supply. The systems uses first flush and a downspout filter to separate rooftop debris from water, details coming soon.

    Rainwater Tanks

    Posted in Harvesting by Administrator on May 10, 2005.

    Which rainwater tank is ideal for rainwater harvesting?

    Actually this is a question that does not have one right answer because there are many different rainwater tanks used in rainwater harvesting. Still it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of the different storage tanks used. This is because the rainwater tank is a very critical area of rainwater harvesting.

    Some of the most popular tanks used in rainwater harvesting are Polyethylene rainwater tanks. These tanks are much-liked because of the various advantages they have. Firstly they can be used above the ground and even below the ground. Coupled with the fact that Polyethylene rainwater tanks are less expensive than other varieties, it is not surprising that many folks opt for this type of storage tank to store harvested rainwater.

    Polyethylene rainwater tanks are also UV resistant, and rather than being heavy and bulky are very light in weight and easy

    Fiberglass rainwater Practices tanks are another popular type of rainwater storage tank. The biggest advantage they have is that they are resistant to rust and chemical corrosion. Fiberglass rainwater tanks can also withstand extreme temperatures.

    These are probably some of the reasons why despite the fact that they are much more costly than other types and varieties of rainwater tanks, they are still fairly popular in the market.

    There are other rainwater tanks storage tanks like the metal rainwater tank. Metal rainwater tanks are manufactured from copper, stainless or color polymer coated steel. These materials are usually rust proof and long lasting. Maybe the biggest advantages that these types of rainwater storage tanks have is the fact that they can withstand extreme temperatures without showing any signs of wear and tear.

    Another type of rainwater tank is the concrete rainwater tank. Although the biggest disadvantage of these rainwater storage tanks is that they usually crack over time, advocates of these tanks point to the fact that if the tank can be drained, it is very easy to repair and will then give you many more years service before it needs to be repaired again.

    But there is yet another worrying downside to this type of rainwater tank. And this is the fact that it attracts algae growth where sunlight is present.

    Maybe the biggest thing that concrete water tanks have going for them is the fact that they can keep water cooler than many other above ground tanks that are exposed to sun and heat.
    To be able to make a decision as to which is the best rainwater storage tank for your use for you, you will need to consider a few factors. To start with you will need to look at the sort of climate in the area where you would like to do your rainwater harvesting. Then you will need to ask yourself other questions like whether the tank will be installed below the ground or above the ground and what purpose the water is going to be used for. For example is it going to be for household use or for irrigation?

    When you answer this question you will be able to make the ideal decision as to which is the best rainwater tank to use for your rain water harvesting storage purposes.

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