Global Envision article

Below is a RainCatcher story, Water for everyone, that appeared on, an initiative of Mercy Corps.


Water for everyone

Posted on Global Envision: April 03, 2007

How one individual’s simple discovery, the refreshing taste of pure rainwater, is providing solutions in the developing world.

In Africa, simple solutions are helping provide much needed water. Photo Credit: Jack Rose,

In Africa, simple solutions are helping provide much needed water. Photo Credit: Jack Rose,

In observance of UN World Water Day on March 22, I talked with an individual who has made accessible drinking water and water conservation his life’s work. Jack Rose, the “RainCatcher” has been helping catch rainwater for use in African villages since 2004.

The rainwater experiment began in Kauai in the late 1990’s. Rose, a native of Southern California, was inspired during an El Niño winter that dumped constant rain on the island. That’s where Jack first began drinking rainwater and, a couple years later, the rainy coastline of Mendocino, California became the “laboratory, from which the RainCatcher projects in Africa were born.”

Since that fated time, Mr. Rose has made it a habit to collect and drink rainwater in his everyday life. He invokes the image of a crazed scientist, drinking from a stainless steel cup as the rain falls. He applied this passion for rainwater collection to his career, where he designs homes in Southern California. Inspired by simple, cost-effective design ideals, Jack began drafting and modeling rainwater collection tanks for home use and landscaping.

Imagine the image of a crazed scientist, drinking from a stainless steel cup as the rain falls.In 2004, Mr. Rose was invited to accompany a project called “Water for Children Africa” to Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. He saw the dire need for drinking water across the areas he visited and found simple solutions could create extraordinary gains. He used his experience collecting rainwater at home to set up a rudimentary system in the villages that he visited using RainCatcher tents and natural drainage areas. “Maji Ni Maisha”, a Swahili expression for “Water is Life” came to encapsulate Jack’s experience in Africa and reflect the dire importance of water access in many African villages.

A Raincatcher tank being delivered to Bosiango High School. Photo Credit: Jack Rose,

A Raincatcher tank being delivered to Bosiango High School. Photo Credit: Jack Rose

As the RainCatcher vision formed, Jack Rose began a partnership with Kenyan Fred Mango and a company called Kentainers, which produces water storage tanks for distribution in Africa. They are now installing their containers at schools across Kenya.

The schools provide an excellent location for the water tanks. They are generally at the center of villages and represent a source of pride for many villagers. Teachers, students and parents are the administrators of the water system once it is installed and are responsible for the security and maintenance of the container and distribution of the water. A complete system consists of a water tank, rain gutters, and a filter. Each system can be installed in one day and one truckload, carrying five tanks, can provide rain collection systems for five schools.

Jack Rose and Fred Mango, from Kentainers, Inc and director of Raincatcher Africa. Photo Credit: Jack Rose,

Jack Rose and Fred Mango, from Kentainers, Inc and director of Raincatcher Africa. Photo Credit: Jack Rose

For Jack Rose, the RainCatcher methodology is a simple solution to one of the world’s most urgent problems: “there are many problems in the world that seem unsolvable … this isn’t one of them.” The materials necessary to install five villages with rainwater collection systems cost approximately $4500, including filters. The filters used are made by the Swiss Company Katadyn and cost around $250 each. The filters are an added expense; rainwater does not require filtration, but it can filter out contaminants collected from dust or rooftop surfaces. Additionally, if filters are installed in the rainwater collection devices, the system can also provide a source of clean water during the dry season. After the collected rainfall has been consumed, water from traditional sources like nearby streams and creeks can be filtered through the tank and cleaned for human consumption.

“There are many problems in the world that seem unsolvable … this isn’t one of them.”It is the RainCatcher’s hope that the next generation across the globe will embrace the earth’s natural abundance of water and use it more efficiently to eradicate the water problems of today. The biggest obstacle to this task is awareness. The plight of over one billion people without access to clean water doesn’t receive the attention that is urgently needed to address the situation. Despite efforts by the United Nations and World Water Day activities, the frustration of unequal water distribution remains the fundamental concern for the developing world. In this struggle, Jack Rose describes himself as the world’s waiter, declaring:

“We are told that we should drink 8 glasses of water a day. Whenever you go to a restaurant, or sit down for a meal, there is a glass of water brought to the table. At humanity’s table, however, each day we are 8 billion glasses short, I am simply a waiter carrying as many glasses as I can.”

Fred Mango, Jack's African counterpart in the Raincatcher Africa Project, demonstrates how to use the filters. Photo Credit: Jack Rose

Fred Mango, Jack's African counterpart in the Raincatcher Africa Project, demonstrates how to use the filters. Photo Credit: Jack Rose,

An example of the tanks that are donated by Raincatcher Africa to each school, they can hold up to 6000 liters of rainwater for human consumption. Photo Credit: Jack Rose

An example of the tanks that are donated by Raincatcher Africa to each school, they can hold up to 6000 liters of rainwater for human consumption. Photo Credit: Jack Rose,

Individuals like Jack Rose are the catalysts of change. He is planning several projects which will help continue his work in Africa and raise awareness about the possibilities of rain collection in both developing and developed countries. One such project is “Water for Everyone,” a film documentary which will tell theRainCatcher story and convey the power of simple solutions globally. You can read more about RainCatcher projects at

Contributed by Lindsay Benson, Project Intern at Global Envision. Lindsay has a MA in International Political Economy from American University and her research focus is in global food policy.

Water is Life — Malibu Times article

Malibu Times article, Water is life — published: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 1:40 PM PST

Water is life

Jack Rose’s waters the world.

By Ben Marcus / Special to The Malibu Times

An Nov. 10 2006 L.A. Times story cites that dirty water is the second-leading cause of death among children globally.

An Nov. 10 2006 L.A. Times story cites that dirty water is the second-leading cause of death among children globally.

Malibu resident Jack Rose believes the next worldwide resource battle will be about water. However, if collected properly, there is more than enough water for most of the planet.

Inspired by his travels throughout the world, and for the taste of what he calls a magic elixir, rainwater, Rose is developing systems for capturing and storing rainwater that can be used by future generations of Californians and underdeveloped villages all around the world.

Rose, 58, has been developing what he calls the RainCatcher since the late ’90s, when he was inspired to capture rainwater by trips to two of the wettest places on earth: Kauai and Mendocino.

“In the late ’90s, I arrived on Kauai in the middle of an El Niño winter,” Rose said. “In a rental car wandering around the island, my first response to warm, sparkling tropical rain was to pull the car over, grab a big stainless steel soup pot from our gear and place it on the hood. I continued to catch and drink this elixir all winter. I would stand on the balcony bug-eyed with Einstein hair, raise a glass and toast this bizarre discovery.”

In the winter of 2002, Rose was living in Mendocino, which is green and lush like Kauai.

“I rigged up rain gutters on a cabin in the redwoods and caught many gallons,” Rose said. “This is all I drank for an entire winter–not from necessity, but from curiosity, passion, glee. Aside from the pure fun of catching rain, it is the best tasting substance I’ve ever ingested. Truly a chalice full of delight. One day, while holding up a glass, I realized that over a billion people on the earth can’t enjoy this simple act. What I came to take for granted was not available to many, yet, at times, India and Africa are visited by opulent monsoons, just like Kauai and Mendocino. Right there I decided to design simple ways to catch rain everywhere.”

Knowing that up to five million people around the world die from tainted water every year, Rose became possessed with the idea of capturing and storing water from the skies.

“Like the Richard Dreyfuss character in ‘Close Encounters’ making mashed potato ‘Devil’s Tower’ sculptures,” Rose said. “I began my work.”

A self-taught engineer who worked in construction for many years, Rose found the model for his system in the Golden State.

“I grew up along the coast of California with a mountain range, the Sierra Nevada, in my back yard,” Rose said. “Every year, like clockwork, moisture floats in from the Pacific, hits the Sierra, and drops an abundance of rain and snow. The mountains store precious water in the frozen state for a few months, then release it one drop at a time all throughout the long, dry season. For those billions who are chronically thirsty, all that’s missing is a means to catch and store each season’s rainfall. With the RainCatcher project I aim to bring the mountains to the people, tilting the playing field in their favor. Every possible structure can act as a mini-mountain and catch a lot of water.”

To start his project, Rose went to where the need for water was greatest. In April of 2003, he was invited to join “Water For Children Africa” in a humanitarian journey to set up water storage tanks for schools.

“While traveling through Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, I designed RainCatchers that people could cob together with local materials,” Rose said. “In the hill country, where every home grows their own food, I showed farmers how they could spread plastic up the hill, berm the sides to make a funnel and direct the next rainfall into storage tanks. I worked with a tent manufacturer in Nairobi to create RainCatcher tents that, instead of the middle rising to a peak, it sloped to a waiting tank in the center. Everywhere I visited in Africa I was greeted with, ‘Water is life, thank you for being here.’ Everyone wants clean water. They have the skill and the will, but lack the resources. I came back knowing that my job is to tell the RainCatcher story, to come up with ways to bring water tanks and filters that require no electricity or moving parts to remote villages and crowded townships throughout Africa.”

Closer to home, Rose is applying RainCatcher to Dolphin’s Run, a Malibu home that will get all its power and hot water from the sun, and most of its water from above.

“Malibu averages about 15 inches of rain,” Rose said. “The formula I use is the square footage of the roof area, divided by two, multiplied by annual rainfall equals the gallons you get for every inch of rain. This house has 5,000 square feet so that adds up to 2,500 gallons of storage a year for every inch of rain. That makes 30,000 gallons of water a year. This house will have a 10,000 gallon storage container buried in the backyard, and that will cover the need for landscaping.”

Rose’s next project is for a village called Bosiango in Western Kenya. The whole story began with an email plea from a David N. Ogachi, who told Rose of the water-borne diseases that his community, especially the women and children, were suffering from, to help install safe and clean piped water.

That began a long back and forth with Rose by e-mail, which can be read on the Web site. Rose is hoping to bring a truckload of six RainCatcher tanks to the village, which will allow them to capture and store 8,000 gallons of water.

“Right now they are getting their water from contaminated streams,” Rose said.

Rose is putting his Miata car up for auction to raise funds for the trip as a part of the effort to install rain-catching systems in places where it’s a matter of life and death.

“This is the real ‘Survivor’,” Rose said. “So I’m thinking about the ‘Global Garage Sale’ where people here offer some of the extra stuff laying around America to be transformed into water storage tanks for Africa. A jet ski here, piano there, etc. How many boats are sitting unsailed in America’s marinas? There’s probably enough stuff here to provide clean drinking water for the entire world. The exchange rate is very good, the reward is great. I’m offering my Miata as the first example of this concept.”

More information about the RainCatcher project can be obtained by visiting the Web site,

Los Angeles Times article: A global clean-water shortage, November 10, 2006.

A global clean-water shortage

Los Angeles Times article: A global clean-water shortage, November 10, 2006.

A global clean-water shortage

A U.N. agency report calls for action to save lives and energize economies by boosting supplies and sanitation.

By Robyn Dixon, Times Staff Writer
November 10, 2006

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA — While people in wealthy suburbs of Africa use water to maintain lush lawns and fill swimming pools, many slum dwellers struggle to obtain the crucial resource and pay much more per gallon for what little of it they can get, according to a United Nations Development Program report calling for an end to “water apartheid.”

At the same time, dirty water is the second-leading cause of death among children globally, after respiratory infections. It kills 1.8 million children younger than 5 each year, more than do HIV/AIDS, malaria, war or traffic accidents, says the U.N. report released Thursday in Cape Town.

“In the year 2015 they plan to send a spaceship to Jupiter to search for water, yet in Africa or India we can’t get water to people who need it,” Kevin Watkins, the report’s author, said at a briefing for media in Johannesburg.

The report’s main contention is that if countries increase access to clean water and sanitation simultaneously, the rates of child survival in developing countries can rocket “almost overnight,” Watkins said. Globally, 2.6 billion people have no access to proper sanitation. The 1.1 billion people who don’t have clean water use about 1.3 gallons a day.

“It is hard to find anything that has a greater impact on human life than water,” Watkins said.

In cities such as Dar es Salaam, capital of Tanzania, people pay more for water than do New Yorkers, Watkins said. The water and sanitation crisis in sub-Saharan Africa slowed economic growth by 5% of gross domestic product per year, more than the region receives in foreign aid, the report says. A big increase in spending on water and sanitation would pay for itself in economic growth.

“No other investment could bring greater benefits,” Watkins said.

Collecting water is a colossal waste of labor, he said, with the burden falling overwhelmingly on women and girls. Sub-Saharan African women spend about 40 billion hours a year walking and queuing to collect water.

Some countries spend much more on their military than on water.

In Pakistan, where diarrhea caused by dirty water kills 118,000 people each year, the government spends 0.1% of its budget on water and sanitation. It spends 47 times that on the military. India, where 450,000 die of diarrhea annually, spends eight times more on its military than on water resources, and Ethiopia, which has one of the highest rates of infant mortality due to lack of clean water and sanitation, spends 10 times more on the military.

The global cosmetics industry is $200 billion.

RainCatcher documentary

Observations from my rain catching trip to Kenya

I know all too well there is no way to be here without being permanently changed. Such is my bond with Africa.

I give myself completely — blending with this place, these people, inventing a tomorrow where everyone has clean water to drink, everyday, just like we have at home.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask for — and so I ask and will ask, over and over and over again, until it is done.

If NASA can ask for billions of dollars to search for water on Mars, then we can ask the same for water here on Earth.

If the DEPARTMENT OF WAR can ask for 20 million dollars for one tank, then we can ask the same for 40 thousand water tanks. (1 army tank = 40 thousand water tanks, the equation of common sense)

Resources allocated for water exploration in space, redirected back to Earth, would provide clean, safe drinking water for everyone, almost overnight.

This isn’t philosophy or politics, it’s hardware: tanks, gutters, filters — distributed through the many non-profits already in the field, doing good work, bringing as much water as they can.

It’s just a matter of hardware. We have the resources, why aren’t we sharing all this? There’s far more than we could ever use.

Soon, the RainCatcher documentary will tell the story of ‘Water for Everyone’, featuring the historical, geopolitical, natural resource and humanitarian expressions of the relentless quest for water – Bringing to the big screen for the first time images of people all over the world catching and using rainwater.

Simple solutions for everyday problems will be be discovered and revealed and woven through the story.

Dramatic threads will include water wars and water woes, and amazing displays of nature’s abundance.

Example: One day’s rainfall on one mountain in Hawaii is equal to the amount of bottled water Americans consume in one year.

There are many such spigots all around the Earth. The RainCatcher documentary will put a bucket under each one and tally the catch, showing how supply far exceeds demand.

The film will clearly show there is no shortage of water given, just a shortage of water received. The gift has been offered, but we are required to meet it half way, we must put a bucket under the rain storm.

A billion buckets, actually. The film will spotlight all the clever ways people are already doing this around the world, including interviews with the inventors who dream up unusual ways to catch rain, store it, clean it and bottle it.

And the film will also show designs of the future, where every golf course is a RainCatcher, every shopping center parking lot, the rooftops of giant commercial and industrial buildings, and every new house is built with a ten thousand gallon water storage tank buried under the back lawn. (I’m creating the model for this in Malibu, near the High School)

There are villages in India with laws requiring homeowners to catch and collect all the rainwater that falls on their roofs. California will have the same law 20 years from now.

We’re not talking rocket science here. Just tanks, gutters & filters. That’s all it takes. That’s all I’m asking for.

There will be a day when clean, safe water is available for everyone. I have seen it. This movie points to that day with passion, grace and hope.

The problem is clear: 5 million die each year from exposure to contaminated water. Billions lack consistent access to clean water. Fortunately this is a solvable problem, a matter of hardware. My wish list has only three items on it: tanks, gutters and filters.

‘Water for Everyone’, the RainCatcher documentary tells the story of many people in many places already catching as much rain as they can, but needing more hardware.

Who among you can help me make this movie, tell this story and get this hardware to everyone who needs it?

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