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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 RainCatcher.org 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 www.raincatcher.org 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, www.raincatcher.org.

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

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