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How Many Rainwater Guides Are Enough?

by Doug Pushard

As a few of you know, one of my pet peeves is the overabundance of largely repetitive rainwater harvesting guidebooks. How many is enough? Do we really need to continue spending hard earned taxpayers monies (or even private monies, for that matter) on doing numerous manuals on rainwater catchment? Do we need one for every city in the US or every major city in the world? Do these really create value?

At last count, I have well over 40 rainwater catchment related manuals and guides on my website! A majority of these are for the US and I am sure I don’t have them all (See Related Links for Listing and if you know of any others please send to me). When rainwater catchment was first reappearing on the scene as a viable water source, these guidelines were clearly necessary to educate and provide guidance for the masses. But given that was over two decades ago, can’t we stop creating new ones?

Clearly not all manuals are created equal. There are manuals about building codes, manuals for DYIers, (Do-It-Yourselfers) and others focused on water quality, maintenance, freezing temperatures and others on passive or active system design. With these specific concentrations aside, a majority of these manuals repeat pages and pages of the same information.

Every guidebook must be updated and maintained. Hundreds of hours go into these well-meaning manuals and as soon as they are completed they begin to slowly erode in accuracy due to new products and new findings.
Worst of all, most of these manuals are done through public funding and consequently open for others to use and copy. This is all taxpayer money that is being used for good local rationale, but not good global economic benefit.

A better approach is to create an open-source manual by slowly crowd-sourcing it online and allowing localization of the information as well as online updating of content. One large manual where sections can be chosen to create a local guidebook - a sort of localized Wikipedia if you will. For example, in New Mexico we really, really care about how to handle freezing temperatures; we would help edit and maintain that section. This is not the case for a manual suited for Florida or the Virgin Islands. Additionally, some areas may want to allow rainwater for potable water uses and other municipalities may not.

Creating one super-manual and then allowing cutting and pasting to create local manuals would accomplish this. Borrowing an idea from the software industry, this is what is known as an open-source document. The restriction being if you add something to your local document, you must add it back into the global document.

This concept is what has pushed the Internet and the current generation of technology forward faster. We would all benefit from the concept of leveraging the global community.

It is time we stopped repeating over and over the same information. Let’s move rainwater harvesting guidebooks and manuals into the 21st century. Let’s leverage the power of the community!

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