The concept of harvesting rainwater locally began at the Upper Rogue Watershed Association several months ago when Coordinator Pete Mazzini discussed the idea, according to Dee Hawkins who is not only on the watershed board but Vice Chair for the Upper Rogue Community Center. Hawkins and Mazzini carried the idea to URCC. With about 40,000 gallons of rainwater annually pouring off the URCC roof and the lack of a public water system and fire hydrants, sustainability factored in.
Fire District 4 Chief, Bob Miller, said large commercial establishments such as the community center have been required to store water onsite for fire suppression for about the last 15 years. It is not a common fact, however, because Shady Cove does not have a lot of large buildings. As examples, Miller used the Edgewater Inn which has a swimming pool and is close to the river with water that can be easily accessed and Trail Christian Fellowship that was required to install a 40,000 gallon tank.
When funding for the catchment systems, technically called RainSpace, was secured, Hawkins said, “It all came together.” With $5,000 from the Medford Water Commission, $10,000 from the Oregon Water Enhancement Board, more than half of the value of the system contributed by Rainwater Technology, Inc., and an estimated several thousand dollars from URCC, the project was off and running.
In addition, the City of Shady Cove is named as a partner after lowering system development charges because less water will flow into storm drains. And the watershed association contributed by supplying four volunteers to help with the installation to keep costs down, said Mazzini.
The RainSpace is actually two systems. Each has one tank with the largest storing 12,000 gallons of water for fire suppression and the other storing 8,000 gallons for landscaping irrigation, according to Bill Savage, President and CEO of the company doing the installation. The larger tank is 31.2 by 12.55 by 4.1 feet and the smaller tank is 46.5 by 5.7 by 4.1 feet. Both are rectangular and will be completely buried.
The two tanks will fill continuously during the rainy season until capacity is reached. Any additional rainwater will go into storm drains and subsequently into the Rogue River. The water in the tanks will maintain a year-round 52 to 56 degrees and remain clean. “The beauty of storing water underground is there is no sun, no evaporation and as a result, no algae growth,” said Savage.
Building the RainSpace is not a simple matter. After excavation, RainSpace components are installed, beginning with a cushioning. Next is a waterproof, rubber liner followed by the installation of extraction wells and input and overflow piping. Then a series of bundled core or RainTubing is placed in the excavation to provide structural support. It is strong enough for cars to drive over and even park on. “The beauty of it is there is no lost surface space and people do not have to look at ugly tanks,” said Savage.
After the RainTubing is installed, backfill is then placed outside of the liner, corresponding with each layer of tubing. With the backfilling of the sides completed, the liner top is sealed in place and backfill is placed on top to the correct elevation of the surface, said Savage. When the finishing touches such as paving, hooking up plumbing lines and accessories have been added, the system is ready to go. Firefighters will just simply put their hose down the outlet and suck the water out.
Capturing rainwater for fire suppression and irrigation will benefit the whole civic complex and Shady Cove School, said Hawkins. The new 12,000 gallon tank at URCC will tie in with an existing 10,000 gallon tank at Shady Cove Middle School and meet the 22,000 gallons required by the fire department for fire suppression, according to Chief Miller.
Hawkins hopes the project will get people thinking what they can do to conserve water. With resources getting scarcer, innovations such as rainwater catchment systems are gaining popularity. Savage said, “There simply is not enough water to go around—so catching rainwater ensures you will have enough when you need it.”
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent