I’ve been spending a lot of time at the science center lately–and not only because of my love for telescopes and the stars. As a member of the Oakland Rain Barrel Team, I have been helping to design and install a large-scale rainwater cistern at Oakland’s Chabot Space & Science Center. I’m happy to report that with the help of the whole team and lots of volunteers, we finished the project just in time for the season’s first rain!
The 2,825 gallon Bushman tank and landscaped rain garden system was designed and built by DIG Cooperative Inc., one of the Oakland Rain Barrel Program partners. DIG Coop is an ecological design/build firm and licensed contractor. We worked with a team of The Watershed Project’s youth interns to construct the system over the course of a week in September. We also teamed with The Watershed Project to hold a public workshop to teach people about rainwater harvesting and help us test the system.
The rainwater cistern is a first step toward this alternative form of watershed and stormwater management for Chabot’s facility, which sits atop the East Bay Regional Park and Skyline Ridge trail. In this system, rainwater is collected from 1,150 square feet of surface from the curved roof of the building’s entrance and walkway, with the first ten gallons passing to an underground tank, called the first flush diverter, and all remaining water running to the cistern. The cistern releases water with a battery powered irrigation timer to a series of landscaped basins. If the tank fills up, excess water is also released from the overflow pipe at the top level of the tank to the first basin.
This project helps the City of Oakland improve local watersheds by reducing flooding and urban runoff and maintaining rainwater on site. The observatory’s cistern will divert an annual volume of 16,400 gallons of roof runoff from hitting the surrounding Sausal Creek watershed. That water will instead be used to keep the native plant landscape around the facility lush and green, with plenty of beneficial insects. Please visit the science center and take a look at this project–it’s a great activity for a rainy day!
And consider harvesting rainwater yourself at your own house or school. Rainwater harvesting, bioswales, rain gardens and other low-impact design projects protect local watersheds from the pollution generated by modern life. Collaborative efforts like the Chabot project and the Richmond Greenway Bioswale Project help ensure the free flow of local creeks, reduce urban runoff, promote the spread of native plants and improve the natural beauty and biodiversity of our urban watersheds. They also are beautiful; they soften the harshness of an urban setting beset by paved streets and sidewalks.
For more information, contact our resident Rainwater Harvesting guru, Kat Sawyer at firstname.lastname@example.org