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San Diego Unified Piloting Rainwater Collection System

Above: Three barrels each capable of holding 300 gallons make up the new rainwater collection system at Franklin Elementary, Feb. 1, 2016.

Aired 2/2/16 on KPBS News.

With the drought in mind, two schools in the San Diego Unified School District and one in the Encinitas Union School District are taking part in a new rainwater collection program that saves water and teaches science.

Two schools in the San Diego Unified School District — and one in Encinitas Union School District — are taking part in a new rainwater collection program that saves water and teaches science.

US-Israel Center at UC San Diego Rady School of Management is funding the pilot program. Developed in Israel by Amir Yechieli, a former science teacher, the systems harvest rain in more than 140 schools in the Mediterranean nation.

In San Diego at Franklin Elementary, three barrels connected to roof gutters make up the water reclamation system. Each barrel is able to hold 300 gallons that will be used to water the school’s vegetable garden.

The water collected this past weekend from just one classroom roof nearly filled an entire barrel. Principal Don Whisman said this is just the beginning.

“So we’re thinking that we may add the rain gutters from the building up behind us to feed in,” Whisman said. “We’re going to see how much water this system collects. We’re thinking that this one roof will sustain these three barrels.”

Amir Yechieli said the system can save and clean water for both gardens and toilets.

“It’s just a simple design," Yechieli said. "In a multi-tank system, as the water goes from tank to tank it becomes cleaner, progressively, until you get perfectly good water for indoor use.”

In San Diego, Franklin Elementary and Pacific Beach Middle School are piloting the program for use in their school gardens. In Encinitas, the Farm Lab School will be using the rainwater in its toilets as well.

San Diego district officials said there are already schools on a wait-list for a rainwater storage system.

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