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Oregon School Showcases Demo Rainwater System


by Doug Pushard



The DaVinci Living Water Garden project is a collaboration between DaVinci Arts Middle School and Urban Water Works, a non-profit organization. The goal of the project is to educate students and citizens about storm water runoff and water quality, while also using the arts to celebrate the aesthetic properties of water.

The DaVinci project reroutes storm water runoff from roofs and parking lots, into cisterns and a 7,200 square foot water garden, and was designed and built by the students, teachers and parents of this school. Built on the site of an abandoned tennis court; the system includes a system of cisterns, pond, constructed wetland, and bioremediation swale that collects, cleans and absorbs 100% of the water that it captures. This garden reduces runoff entering the Willamette River; provides recreational and educational opportunities for the school and surrounding community; and provides a model for storm water diversion that could be implemented by households.

The most profound impact is the significant reduction in storm water runoff from this site. Allowing that water to percolate into the ground at the school brings positive results to the local water table, while supplying more than adequate water to support the plants in the garden. Surface water in the garden provides habitat for beneficial insects and support a greater diversity of plant and wildlife.

The harvesting rainwater system consists of two (2) tanks capable of holding 5,000 gallons (668 cu. ft.) of water. The tanks are above ground gravity fed from about 2,840 sq. ft. roof area. In an area that gets over 30+ inches of rain a year, just 3" of rain can fill the tanks! Overflow from the tanks flow into a pond. The cisterns supply a gravity fed irrigation system and supply irrigation water during the dry summer months.

The students at DaVinci, working with lead teacher Dan Evans and other teachers, studied water through a one year curriculum and held a community design workshop. During school year 2001-02, they refined the design and started construction. They had help from volunteer ecological designers, landscape architects, hydrologists, civil engineers.

The garden itself is a huge asset for the school, providing living laboratory and educational opportunities, recreational opportunities and a much needed green space for the surrounding neighbor. The process of building the garden has created a network of relationships between students and parents; students and outside professionals; between school and neighborhood; and school and city/region. The students who have participated have a greater understanding of their role in saving or destroying our planet, and the empowering experience of transforming their immediate environment in a lasting, beneficial way.

This garden is a simple, understandable model of sustainable methods for cleaning and reusing harvested rainwater, which can be reproduced by businesses and homeowners alike for a reasonable amount of time and money; plus it provides both monetary and aesthetic value for years to come.

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