In 2000 a devastating rainstorm in Israel inspired science teacher Amir Yechieli to install Israel’s first water catchment systems at elementary schools. Today, his business, Rain Harvest, serves over 140 schools in Israel, including 40 in Jerusalem. Now this invention has made it’s way to rain-strapped California, as reported by NBC.
Students at three California elementary schools will use Rain Harvest’s barrels to recycle water by collecting rain. Students will set barrels outside and collect the rainwater to be reused in gardens and for toilet flushing.
It’s the first program of its type in California, said Susan Lapidus with the US-Israel Center at UCSD.
Each school plans to make the rain barrel program part of its curriculum, teaching students in the classroom about water conservation and about the large rain barrels outside their window. Along with conserving water, the program teaches children that water is a resource and not a commodity. The experience changes the water habits of numerous students, who become conservation leaders at a young age.
The program is being spearheaded by the U.S.-Israel Center on Innovation & Economic Sustainability at UC San Diego. Franklin Elementary in City Heights, Pacific Beach Middle School in PB and Encinitas Union School District Farm Lab are taking part.
How do rain barrels work? Runoff is collected by gravity or sump pumps from roofs and other areas into 3 to 4 interconnected tanks (storage varies by size of collection area and use rate). Sediments that settle in these settling tanks are easily drained through an opening until the water runs clear.
“The water conservation efforts the students in San Diego and Encinitas will spearhead is wonderful, but what really will be inspirational will be watching how the rain barrel program changes how these kids think about and use water,” said Susan Lapidus, Executive Director of USIC. “It’s very exciting to be able to bring this technology developed in Israel to San Diego. It is my fervent hope that this is just the beginning of technology transfers between San Diego and Israel.”
Amir Yechieli said: “We’ve seen a dramatic shift in water conservation in Jerusalem when we started to view water for what it is – a precious resource. The rain barrel program helps young people understand that and it inspires them to become conservation leaders, which has the potential to help change how water is viewed and used in San Diego.”
Adi Yefet, head of the water arena at Israel NewTech, is excited about the project: “California is looking to Israel for solutions for water scarcity. At Israel NewTech we connect the California market to Israeli companies and technologies, but one of the important things to learn from Israel is the releatively high awareness to the need to conserve water. Education is key, and we’re happy that in this area too, Israeli innovations are inspiring Californians.”