by Charlene Burgi
| Rainwater collection tank in Hilo, Hawaii
My flight to Hawaii was still an hour from landing when the stewardess asked if I would like something to drink. Water was my choice of beverage, and needless to say I was delighted when she served me a cup of purified rainwater. The trip officially began at that moment, as I knew rainwater collection plays a big role on the Big Island.
This fact was further reinforced as I pulled my rental car into the guesthouse in the countryside above Hilo. I gazed out at the magnificent view of the gardens and beyond, only to find my view partially obstructed by a covered water tank.
Although I am certified to design rainwater catchment systems and have attended multiple conferences about the subject, I was struck by this new reality: During my vacation I would be living in a world dependent upon rainwater catchment for drinking, bathing, cooking and ... I was about to say irrigating, but this is Hilo where it rains almost every day. Irrigation is the one thing they don’t use rain catchment for, in contrast to Marin where many garden plants depend on our knowledge and assistance for added irrigation.
In my room I found information about the health of the water and the importance of conservation, which I appreciated. This lead to a delightful and more in-depth conversation with the owners of the property. They spoke about the importance of proper design and management of the system to ensure the healthfulness of the water for drinking.
I, in turn, told them about the growing use of rainwater catchment in Marin for watering gardens, as well as laundry-to-landscape systems that use recycled graywater for irrigation. I described how Marin gardeners put captured rainwater to good use even during wet weather to water container plants located under overhangs or indoors. And I mentioned that MMWD offers $50 rebates to help customers purchase these systems
Our concept of rainwater catchment was as exotic to them as theirs was to me. Again, this is Hilo where the rains fall almost daily and the average rainfall is between 130 to 200 inches year. Though they’re very careful about using water wisely indoors, conserving irrigation water is not something they give a lot of thought to! Similarly, irrigation distribution uniformity is a non-stress you're here. How much more perfect can you get than the natural distribution uniformity of rainfall? Welcome to Hilo, Hawaii!