12 Days of Sustainable Reads: Day 5 | Digitized House

Guide to the Connected Home

12 Days of Sustainable Reads: Day 5

12 Days of Sustainable Reads: Day 5
Day 5: Rainwater Collection for the Mechanically Challenged

In the technology-laden world in which we live, our mobile computing devices are enriched with high-definition screens that can display millions of colors, never mind that the human eye can discern but a fraction of them. In sharp contrast, for the heavily-illustrated book Rainwater Collection for the Mechanically Challenged, just two Pantone colors were used. What did the authors and publisher have in mind when they made such a binary decision, the copy and creative indelibly etched in blue and orange?

Rainwater harvesting book
Rainwater Collection for the Mechanically Challenged takes an often tongue-in-cheek look at DIY rainwater harvesting, creatively offering up its guidance through blue and orange inks.

It would be easy to dismiss such a decision if the intent was to deliver a subliminal marketing message on behalf of Boise State University, as the book’s creative treatment mirrors that institution’s signature colors. But we doubt that was the ploy, as there is nothing subliminal about this little guidebook—an often tongue-in-cheek perspective into the serious art and science of rainwater harvesting.

For anyone who sees an average of 30 inches or more of fairly clean rain annually … this book should see you well on your way to rainwater collection and self-sufficient nirvana. — Suzy Banks and Richard Heinechen

Rather, the selection of blue as the primary color is an overt decision, a fact immediately reinforced in the first chapter, A Day in the Life of a Raindrop. All of the text here is raindrop blue, and an illustration depicting the hydrologic cycle is drawn—you guessed it—in raindrop blue. And why the orange? It’s simply the complementary color to blue on the color wheel. We get it now.

From authors Suzy Banks and Richard Heinechen, the 112-page do-it-yourself (DIY) book has been on our bookshelf since it was published in 2006 and it shows, as about a third of those pages have separated from the binding. And if you are considering pursuing rainwater harvesting for your home—and you should be if you are inclined to think sustainably—then this classic should be in your collection as well.

As big believers and everyday consumers of rainwater harvesting, we did not need to be convinced of its viability and qualities. If you are a non-believer, then Banks and Heinechen will begin to seduce you—with a wink, of course—in the book’s introduction:

If you don’t think rainwater and all its benefits—zero hardness without chemicals or salts, sparkling fixtures, cleaner clothes and bodies, longer lasting appliances, better tasting vegetables in your garden—are worth the effort—then shut this book right now and move back to the city where you can be mollycoddled, where all you have to do is turn on the faucet, pay the bill, and hope somebody somewhere keeps you supplied with water.

rainwater harvesting
Drawing heavily on illustrations, this chapter on Siting Your Tank is filled with an outpouring of expert guidance. Here, the book meets the wireless level gauge we installed on our rainwater tank, which is 100% full as we write this.

There is a bit of rainmaking history going on here, as this is actually the second edition of this book. The first edition, published in 1997, was a shorter, lighter-hearted beginner’s read that had a decidedly handmade look and feel. By contrast, the second edition exhibits significant refinement and covers the topic much more holistically, with the work divided into the following chapters:

  1. A Day in the Life of a Raindrop
  2. The Storage Tank
  3. Siting your Tank
  4. The Buddy System
  5. Your Personal Clean Water Act
  6. The Set Up
  7. Tips and Troubleshooting

The book takes you by the hand and walks through—paragraph by blue paragraph, illustration by blue or orange illustration—the planning, sizing, installation, and maintenance of rainwater harvesting systems in true DIY style. It may take some additional legwork to locate your copy, however, as the book appears to be out of print. Major online booksellers such as Amazon and Goodreads normally have used copies available.

There is no other resource we have found that covers the spectrum of rainwater harvesting as prescriptively and succinctly as this one, whether you are considering building your own system or hiring one of the many qualified contractors that focus on this specialty. And you are sure to get a few laughs along the way, in a book that never takes itself too seriously. Where else on this planet could you find a book with a section entitled, She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Cistern?

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Tom Kolnowski

Tom Kolnowski is the Chief Content Officer & Founder of Digitized House Media, LLC, the publisher of Digitized House | Guide to the Connected Home. When he isn’t writing about smart home technology, sustainability, and high-performance architecture, you’ll find him exploring faraway destinations with his family.