TWP’s rainwater harvesting adventures began over a decade ago when we taught our first Watershed Teaching Tools workshop for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in 2010. That’s when The Watershed Project first crossed paths with Kat Sawyer (who is now our Greening Urban Watersheds Manager). Kat had just completed the installation of a rainwater harvesting system at McKinley Elementary, and TWP was looking for a SFUSD school with a rainwater system to host our teacher training featuring rainwater catchment as a teaching tool. It was the first of many collaborations with Kat to offer hands-on experience with cisterns as a compliment to water conservation education.
In 2012, our collaboration continued when The Watershed Project was awarded the contract for the Oakland Rain Barrel Program and Kat was brought on board to lead the project. ORBP was funded by the City of Oakland through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the idea was to reduce erosion and pollution in the creeks flowing down to the Bay by encouraging rainwater harvesting high in the watershed. When the program was completed in 2013, TWP had distributed more than 310,000 gallons of rain barrels and cisterns throughout Oakland!
To spread the word about ORPB and support residential efforts to install rain tanks, The Watershed Project developed several large demonstration projects in the Oakland hills and hosted hands-on workshops to construct rainwater catchment systems in public places. With our partner DIG Co-op (https://www.dig.coop/), the ORBP team built rainwater harvesting systems at Chabot Space & Science Center, Skyline High School and Merritt College, offering people experience building rainwater systems to empower them to install their rain tanks at home.
In 2016, TWP installed a rainwater harvesting system in the garden of AP Giannini Middle School by retrofitting the roof of a chicken coop for a Watershed Teaching Tools workshop with SFUSD garden educators. It’s fun to put education into action on behalf of water!