RainCatcher Peru, coffee, and Slow Sand Filters

After handling the need for clean, uncontaminated drinking water, the next big issue is livelihood. The RainCatcher Peru project combines both.

There are 130,000 family coffee farms scattered throughout the Peruvian Andes. KC O’Keefe of Jungle-Tech is helping some of these independent growers to raise the quality of their coffee beans and increase the value of the finished product to be sold on the world market. You can read the whole story on jungle-tech.com. KC and I are designing a RainCatcher system to create a supply of clean water for both coffee production and drinking water. We plan to use his solar dryer structures to catch rain and channel the water into storage bags developed by International Development Enterprises. Go to ideorg.org to read about this ‘breakthrough’ in rainwater harvesting. Once at there, click “Tech Gallery”, then “Rainwater Harvesting” to read about and see the water storage bag in use in Bangladesh. With this product we can do several demonstration projects throught the provinces of Peru. Local growers will help build a RainCatcher/Solar Dryer coffee production system and then be able to take the neccessary materials back home to set up their own. These systems are low cost, low tech, non-mechanical, non-electric solutions for rural farming communities. Our aim is to have these operating on a thousand farms by the end of 2006.

The subtitle for Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point reads: “How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”. Our project falls into this category. Getting a thousand growers set up and producing better coffee will lead to information and materials spreading to the rest of the 130,000 farms. If growers are able to improve the quality of their finished beans, the return on their efforts will double, eventually affecting one million people who work on the small, independent coffee farms of Peru.

After catching and storing the rainwater, the next chore is cleaning it for absolute safe drinking. Another key person in this story is a man by the name of Humphrey Blackburn. He and his company, Blue Future Filters, have developed the “Slow Sand Filter”, a filter with no moving parts that requires no maintenance or electricity and provides clean water for decades. It removes all the diseases that spread in undeveloped regions through contaminated water sources. Humphrey just received contracts to ship a thousand filters to the tsunami areas and seven hundred to Iraq. The good news is rainwater can be caught and stored and run through these filters and, if rainwater supplies dry up between rains, any old river or stream water can be passed through the slow sand filter. Now we always have a back-up during long dry spells.

RainCatcher — water for California and beyond

Water for California

I have a solution to California’s, and the world’s, water woes. It’s called the RainCatcher.

In California, and throughout the Western U.S., the demand for water is rapidly outpacing supply. Current and future water needs for home and business owners, as well as for agriculture and industry, is so great that state government is desperately searching for new sources to tap, including adding six feet to the height of Shasta Dam. Massive, centralized infrastructure projects, paid for by increasing taxes and water bills, will not come close to meeting the relentless thirst of an ever expanding population. It is clear that for the next many decades, water will be the defining issue for California and the neighboring western states. What if every house in California caught and stored 10,000 gallons of water each season? That would add up to billions of gallons that wouldn’t have to be imported and purchased.

The California RainCatcher project will demonstrate how easy it is for homes; commercial and industrial buildings; municipal and public structures (office buildings, parking structures, etc) to be converted into rainwater collection centers. In this way each new and existing building can become a valuable source of water for landscaping. This would save billions of gallons each year. The water is free. Catching rain is easy. And plants love it, finding it preferable to chlorinated municipal water. Woodie Guthrie sang, “California is the Garden of Eden”. RainCatcher aims to nourish that garden by developing a new relationship with an old resource: rain. As with the installations we are doing in Africa, once a RainCatcher is in place, when the rains come no one is complaining, everyone is grateful. One at a time, as people get the concept of catching and using rainwater, the first question posed is, “I wonder why we waited so long to do this?” The wait is over, Raincatcher is here.

Where To Start

I am producing the first RainCatcher prototype for use along the coast of Northern California. My rainwater harvesting system will benefit both Californians and people in developing nations. Here’s how people in America can help their counterparts in Africa: Convert your house, garage or new building into a RainCatcher structure and 10% of the cost will go into the World RainCatcher Capital Pool. For every $1,000 spent on collecting rain here, $100 will go to setting up RainCatchers in Africa, where millions of people lack a consistent, clean source of water for drinking and irrigation. Each RainCatcher in America can help create a beneficiary RainCatcher house, school or medical clinic in Africa. This abundant resource will not only be enjoyed by millions here, but also shared with millions in developing countries. We have the capability of providing ample clean water for our own families and for others worldwide.

Manufacturers in Nairobi are making the tents and tanks needed for catching and storing rainwater for drinking and irrigation: Kentainers makes water storage tanks; Tarpo makes the RainCatcher tents.

Let it rain!

Water For Africa

Recently, the World Health Organization estimated that 5 million people die annually from water-borne diseases. The Big Question: How can we help to bring safe, clean drinking water to the billions of people around the world who are chronically thirsty? In many places, once the rain hits the ground it becomes too contaminated to use. The challenge, therefore, is to catch the water before it touches the ground and store enough of it to last throughout the long dry season.

The rainwater that falls from the sky is unlimited — why should our capacity to catch, store and use it be limited? We are preparing for a second trip to Africa to catch rain. My first trip took me to South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania in April of 2004.  I traveled through Africa with a group headed by Vickie Butcher, called Water for Children Africa. Starting in San Diego, California, our first stop was Johannesburg, South Africa where we spent a week visiting settlements and hospitals delivering supplies for mothers and children with HIV/Aids. Most of these sites will be receiving RainCatchers on future trips. Then we visited Kenya and Tanzania, setting up water storage tanks to provide clean drinking water for schools in the Mua Hills north of Nairobi.

Many people, back in the States and in Africa, contributed time, creativity and resources  to make this work possible. Every step along the way we were received with open arms and high hopes. Securing a reliable source of clean water is the first order of business. Everywhere we went I was invited to travel out to rural schools, orphanages, farms and clinics to design RainCatchers. As I toured a wide variety of locations and situations another need  became obvious: Shade! After the rain comes the hot sun, then the big RainCatcher tent  becomes a giant parasol, providing shaded gathering places. In most poor areas there are no trees, no shelter from the sun. People will be able to have a clean drink of water and a little bit of shade. While  in Africa I  worked with  suppliers to carry the necessary tanks and tents for rainwater harvesting so that from  America we can raise funds and, through email, purchase more RainCatchers and have them transported to new locations. These will be set up by the truck drivers who deliver the tanks. The networks are already well established. An eager workforce awaits our green light.

The beauty, color and texture of Africa is indescribable, the people as friendly and open as I have ever met. Each country is very distinct from the others. South Africa is a perfect home base , reminds me of California, but more European. Very cosmopolitan, diverse, and hopeful in the face of extreme adversity. Remember, this ancient place is home to a ten year old democracy. The window for change is right now. Progressive ideas have a chance to bloom here. It is exciting to be a part of a story so historically rich and also open to advancement.

I wrote this story from an Internet cafe in Arusha, Tanzania, on the high plains near Kilimanjaro. After traveling to the edge of the earth I found myself in the middle of the world, meeting a novel’s worth of interesting characters from everywhere. The equatorial highlands of East Africa are tropical at 6000ft elevation, blending the best of mountains and jungle. It is truly a world crossroads, a wild west with Marco Polos and Maasai and every imaginable color and culture, all blended together.

The purpose of upcoming travel to Africa, along with actually setting up RainCatchers, is to document the installation process and display it on the Internet so  people in need of safe drinking water all around the world can learn how to make their own. Built in a day, using local materials, the RainCatcher will become an immediate source of drinking water. Overnight, with the first rains, a remedy for the age old problem of inadequate and dangerous water supplies can be implemented. While it may take years and decades, if ever, for new dams and delivery infrastructure to arrive on the scene, people can begin today to develop their own pure water supply, at very little expense, with no bureaucratic or logistical road blocks.

Let it rain.

RainCatcher Kenya

Greetings from Germany. Our Africa adventure was a complete success. A manufacturing company in Nairobi is making RainCatchers to be available with 6000liter water tanks for all of Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda next, and South Africa. Everyone wants one. First focus is getting clean water for children via schools and medical clinics. Next to set up community RainCatchers all around poor townships, villages and settlements. Millions are in immediate need of clean drinking water. No time to waste. Upon my return I will be doing fundraising for the next trip (Sept/Oct.)

In Machakos, about an hour out of Nairobi, we set up nine water tanks at primary schools scattered throughout the beautiful Mua Hills. There are dozens more schools just in one district, but this was all we could afford on this trip. Hundreds of children sang for us, in gratitude of clean water. School is beloved by all. More details and stories to come. I am happy, healthy and working on my most inspired designs to date.