In 2000, the U.S. used 408 billion gallons of water each day. That’s 1,430 gallons each day for each of us. I can’t wrap my head around that number, until I think about my daily shower. Then there’s the dishes. Laundry. And, of course, the toilet. Washing hands, especially during flu season. I’m picturing 1,430 gallons of milk stacked up in my kitchen, and now it’s sounding about right.
There’s an organization called Bank-On-Rain that has been looking at water use in developing areas, especially extremely dry areas of Africa. We were bouncing some ideas around on Caroline Di Diego’s blog, Inclined to Design and Mike Williamson quoted average daily water use at 15 gallons each day for a family of 6. It’s clear these families are focusing on using the water strictly for cooking and very minimal sanitation.
Let’s run with this 15-gallon-per-day average for a minute, rather than trying to change the daily habits of these families. There is a fascinating way to meet that need using recycled materials. Better, it doesn’t require an infrastructure. Bank-On-Rain created a simple way to catch rainwater and keep it clean and potable using recycled containers. In Rwanda, there are two major rainfalls each year, yielding about 32″ of rain. The idea of Bank On Rain is to catch that water when it comes and store it for the dry season. The alternative? Women spending all day walking to the nearest watering hole just to come back with a few buckets of water each.
Bank On Rain uses shipping containers to catch the rain that falls on the roof of a structure. So, a 200-square-foot roof can collect 3,840 gallons of water, if it’s funneled into containers. That’s about 256 days of water. From a 200-square-foot roof.
Mike Williamson has found a readily available type of shipping container, called a “fish tote.” Each fish tote can hold 250 gallons of water. Simply creating a downspout system out of simple PVC pipe can fill 15 of these fish totes. While it won’t provide all the water needed for an entire year, it covers two-thirds of the year. That’s better than spending your entire life chasing after water. And possibly not having enough.
The cost for one rainfall catchment system looks to be around $300 each, if purchased. Inclined to Design and Bank On Rain are working with shippers that may donate clean fish totes, since those make up $270 of that cost. At $30 per catchment system, Bank On Rain becomes a fabulous way to help families get the water they need.
So, what are we supposed to do with this information? Well, first, check out the official statement of goals on www.bank-on-rain.com. If you know anyone who can help connect Bank On Rain with others who can donate shipping containers, all the contact information is on the web site. Please take that step. They’re also looking for people who have existing contacts in Rwanda and other parts of Africa who can help with delivering and setting up these systems once they arrive.
You’ll find further discussion on how Bank On Rain fits with larger water and infrastructure solutions, as well as the social implications of clean water on the Inclined to Design blog and the Bank On Rain Twine central.