Professionals New Technology

“Designing Rainwater Harvesting Systems: Integrating Rainwater into Building Systems” by Celeste Allen Novak , Eddie Van Giesen , and Kathy M. DeBusk

Rainwater harvesting has existed for millennia. Along with agriculture, it’s one of the foundations of civilization because it allows human beings to store up water to sustain them through periods without rainfall. In recent centuries, however, rainwater harvesting and distribution became increasingly centralized with the establishment of elaborately engineered grey infrastructure systems.

By the present day, however, these centralized water distribution systems are aging and are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain, let alone expand upon or upgrade. That’s perhaps the main reason localized rainwater harvesting systems are becoming increasingly common. This trend towards on-site rainwater collection has some hurdles to jump over in order to fully blossom. Namely, local water regulations have been set up to discourage or simply outlaw rainwater collection for human use. While such regulations have been passed ostensibly for health reasons, the irony is that the water provided by utilities is also essentially treated rainwater, typically stored in some sort of reservoir.

There are a range of options for those wishing to re-using rainwater onsite, beginning with the variety of fresh, grey, and blackwater options, detention and distribution systems, as well as treatment options. In Designing Rainwater Harvesting Systems: Integrating Rainwater into Building Systems (2013; Wiley; 306 pp.; $85.00), coauthors Celeste Allen Novak, Eddie Van Geisen, and Kathy M. DeBusk take the reader step by step through the process of designing an on-site rainwater harvesting system. They start with fundamentals and move through regulations, goal-setting, design, installation, and long-term maintenance. Details are key, as, for example, goals can drive what types of system elements are chosen, and the system’s functioning must be carefully planned out to ensure efficacy and safety.

In addition to going through the design process, a generous interview section is included where the authors interview rainwater professionals. Their perspective fleshes out the practicalities of rainwater harvesting, and make for a useful complement to the largely technical manual that precedes it.


By Ryan Smith