Water is Life

From a Time magazine article:

Keeping Water Out Of Private Hands

Rudolf Amenga-Etego wants to make it affordable for all


Rudolf Amenga-Etego is no stranger to conflict. As a college student in the early 1980s, Amenga-Etego protested Ghana’s military rule; government officials threw him in prison and threatened to execute him. A sympathetic army captain helped him escape. These days he’s fighting global institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The subject of his protests: water.

Amenga-Etego became interested in water in 1999 when a group of his neighbors in the capital, Accra, complained that their water was cut off after rates nearly doubled and they fell behind in their payments. Backed by the World Bank and the IMF, Ghana’s government was readying its water system for privatization. “I realized that if we subjected water to market forces, we were going to price out a lot of our citizens from accessing safe water,” says Amenga-Etego, a lawyer by training who lives with his wife and three children in Medina, a mixed middle- and working-class suburb of Accra. He quit his job at Ghana’s Internal Revenue Service and challenged the water-privatization plans in the courts and on the streets. The government backed down last year and suspended privatization.

So what is Amenga-Etego’s alternative? He champions a community government model that breaks with the conventional wisdom that water systems should be run either solely by the state (often at a loss and providing poor service) or by the private sector (at a profit, providing better service but only for those who can afford it). Under Amenga-Etego’s model, the government supplies a town with bulk water, and the local community handles distribution, tariff collection and maintenance. Local management makes the system more accountable, he believes: “It’s putting power back into people’s hands. Water is life, and if people have control over their lives, they are empowered to be more productive.”

— Reported by Daneet Steffens/Accra

How to build a RainCatcher

I am a rain farmer. Mine is the easiest job in the world. Every human needs to drink about 180 gallons of water each year. Uncountable gallons of pure rainwater fall from the sky every day. My job, and that of all rain farmers, is simply to extend a grateful hand and receive the bountiful harvest. Rainwater is a resource freely given to all. A RainCatcher harvesting structure can be set up in a day, at minimal cost, using whatever materials are at hand.

There are many ways to catch the rain. Any existing structure (house, school, medical clinic, factory, office building, train station, market, etc.) when retrofitted with rain gutters, plastic tarps on rooftops, and rain barrels, becomes a RainCatcher. In this way, each structure can be converted into a rainwater factory, ready to provide thousands of gallons of clean drinking water. Ordinary citizens become rain farmers.

Along with turning existing buildings into RainCatchers, free standing tent-like structures can be erected wherever a new source of drinking water is needed. The following description illustrates how to build a RainCatcher. Though there are countless ways to catch rain, one central theme applies to all models: Set up a roof structure for rain to fall on, then channel the water into containers for storage.

Materials Needed :

  • tent poles
  • plenty of rope
  • tent stakes (steel or wood spikes)
  • tent covering (tarps made from local materials)
  • rolls of clear plastic sheeting
  • water storage tanks (plastic containers suitable for storing drinking water- from 50 to 1,500 gallons)
  • chlorine and/or iodine tablets (if necessary)

Many RainCatcher tents can be set up at key locations around a village or town. For however long the rainy season lasts, these simple rain water collection plants catch and store thousands of gallons of the purest drinking water available on the planet. With a consistent, reusable supply of storage containers, enough water can be caught and stored to last a community from one rainy season to the next. In full, opaque containers, water can be stored for an entire dry season. Chlorine and iodine tablets are readily available to add to any barrels that my have become contaminated by airborne/dust-borne bacteria.

This description is for a square shaped RainCatcher tent. Through experimentation, any shape or size can be adapted to the requirements of site and use. For example, if a single 1,000 gal water tank is available, tarps can be attached to the top of the tank and rise outward and upward to perimeter poles, creating a big funnel to channel rainfall into the single storage tank. Another example : set up safari-type canopies and place rain barrels around the edges.With any RainCatcher, the bigger the tent surface area, the faster the storage containers will be filled.

The only limit to how much rain water can be collected and stored is how many tent structures can be erected and how many storage containers can be rounded up.

Alms for All

Every half hour I get thirsty, reach for the ever present bottle of water and take a few healthy gulps. Forty-eight drinks of water each day, times 365 = 180 gallons a year. Meanwhile, a couple billion other people are unable to practice this basic ritual.

Have you ever caught and tasted rainwater? I don’t know why, but every time the rain comes I set up a primitive catchment system and start drinking rainwater. It’s an elixir. In a single storm I extend my cup and receive more than I could drink in a lifetime. Uncountable gallons of fresh drinking water are bestowed upon us daily.

Over the past few years, while catching and drinking rainwater, I have figured out how the increasing billions who go thirsty can also catch, store and enjoy clean drinking water year ’round.

Catching fire

To fulfill its design a car needs fire, a boat, an airplane, a train, each needs fire to move through the world. When the car ceases to run and the airplane is decommissioned, the boat mothballed, it’s because the fire is gone. We call this death. Same goes for us, we die when our fire goes out. So, for as long as we’re here, we need fire to move through the world. When we catch fire there is unlimited energy, unlimited creativity, unlimited resources. Pierre Teilhard de Chadin said it this way :

Some day, after we have mastered the winds, the tides, and gravity we shall harness the energies of love. Then for a second time in the history of the world we will have discovered fire.

My “Catching Rain” presentations always begin and end with a conversation about the importance of “catching fire”. If we catch fire, water will be plentiful, new opportunities and possibilities will suddenly become obvious, and we will have the energy to implement new solutions to old problems.

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