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By Roz Rogoff

About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Think Small

Uploaded: Nov 2, 2012
I recently heard from Tom Spargo, whom I wrote about in a blog on water walls and RainSaucers back in September 2011. My neighbor didn't go along with the water wall and wanted a traditional wooden fence between our yards. So I had no need for Spargo's RainSaucers after that.

Spargo emailed me on Tuesday to ask if I could help find apartment dwellers in the Tri-Valley who would test his rainwater capture systems on rooftops and balconies. I offered to contact a friend with a balcony on her third floor condo, but Spargo decided he isn't ready for this test yet and pulled his request. By then I decided it was time to update my story on Spargo's RainSaucers and my addition of another 1550 gallon barrel to my rainwater capture system.

I was a little skeptical about RainSaucers last year. They seemed like a product with very narrow appeal. After all I had 5500 gallons of rainwater storage in my yard, all connected to gutters on the roof of my house. There's plenty of water to be captured from the average rooftop, even from a small house like mine.

You can collect .6 gallons of water for every 1" of rain on 1000 sq. ft. of roof. My house is about 1100 sq. ft. plus a 500 sq. ft. garage. Rainfall is about 15" a year, so the total amount of rainwater that could be harvested from my roof is as much as 14,000 gallons. I do not have enough storage for that much water, but with the additional 1550 gallon tank I could capture as much as 7,000 gallons of rainwater this winter.

All of the water I collect comes off of my roof, but Spargo's RainSaucers sit on freestanding barrels to capture rain where there are no roofs nearby. Roof water also needs cleaning.

I have covered gutters and what is called in rain harvesting jargon, a first flush system. The first flush diverts the first 50 gallons or so of rain that rinses off the roof so the dirty water doesn't go into the storage barrels.

In addition to the first flush on my laundry water barrels, I have a pair of filters in my garage where the water goes into the washing machine. When I had the system installed in 2009, I was told the filters should be replaced once a year. However they didn't need replacing until this year, when they clogged up with green slime.

Even though I have covered gutters, pine needles and other debris were clogging up the gutters and contaminating the water. The first flush pipes were also clogged up; so dirty water wasn't flowing out the bottom but was pushing more dirty water into my rain barrels. So this year I had the laundry filters cleaned and replaced and the gutters and roof cleaned too.

RainSaucers do not required a first flush because they are non-toxic, do not catch debris the way a roof or gutters can, and are easily accessible to clean off before the next rain. The drawback to RainSaucers is they don't collect a lot of water at a time.

A RainSaucer is typically connected to a 50 gallon water barrel; so the rain comes, fills the barrel, the water is used, and the barrel is filled with the next rain. That works in places where it rains all year round, but not as well here where it rains for six months and is dry for six months. That's why I use the big barrels connected to my roof.

Spargo, who is a San Ramon resident and started his business here, has not sold any RainSaucers in San Ramon, but he does sell them online and has a pilot project to provide small rainwater capture systems in Guatemala to replace bottled water used for drinking there.

While I keep enlarging my rainwater capture system, Spargo's downsizing Rainwater capture, which has many uses in regions of the world where clean drinking water is scarce. Americans are spoiled by our plentiful water supplies and water treatment and distribution plants.

After seeing the RainSaucers video on Guatemala, I realized how useful RainSaucers could be as part of any emergency kit. After the recent destruction by hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York, a small, portable, potable water capture system would be valuable to be sure that a family has access to clean drinking water for all family members for several days.

I always like to see new business startups succeed, especially local entrepreneurs in San Ramon. Maybe RainSaucers are not as tasty as Macadamia Nut pancakes or Schubros beer, but the benefits of clean, safe rainwater where ever you need it, should make RainSaucers a required part of any home emergency kit.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Rich Halket, a resident of Dublin,
on Nov 7, 2012 at 9:39 pm


These are cool ideas. I think given our climate grey water may be more impactful than rainwater capture. Have you looked into any grey water systems yet? One thing I push with Bert et al. is to make sure permitting is as easy as possible (it has not been easy in some jurisdictions). The next building we construct will have a grey water demonstration setup. Most likely our new corp yard.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Nov 7, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


I have looked into gray water. When I put my laundry system in three years ago, I considered having the discharge go out to water plants along side the garage. I decided not to do it because of filtering the detergent and bleach.

There are other uses of gray water I might consider, such as flushing toilets from sink or tub water. There are some simple systems and complex ones, but I haven't decided on how to do it yet.

Rainwater capture is pretty easy. DSRSD might consider offering a coupon or discount on RainSaucers or barrels. This is the easiest way to start a rainwater collection system. You could offer classes (or instructions) on how to make a rain barrel out of a 50 gal. trash can. It's pretty easy.


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