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RainCatcher’s Zielski looks toward expansion

David Zielski looks at a wall in the RainCatcher boardroom where Kenyan and Ugandan schools in need of a rainwater-harvesting system are scrawled on Post-it notes. Photo by Chris Bashaw/22nd Century Media
RainCatcher Executive Director David Zielski poses with a school’s headmaster in Uganda. Photo Submitted.
Chris Bashaw, Assistant Editor
12:27 pm PDT June 18, 2014

David Zielski looked toward a wall on the opposite side of the RainCatcher boardroom, where approximately 120 Post-it green and blue notes were placed in a semi-staggered pattern.

The green notes represented Kenya, blue was for Uganda.

“Each one represents a school that needs a rainwater harvesting tank,” Zielski said.

The executive director of RainCatcher then looked back across the room toward photographs of him and other members of the RainCatcher team smiling with locals during various trips to the two African countries, where the team  installed rainwater-harvesting equipment.

“But this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Zielski said. “There’s literally hundreds of schools that are ready to go.”

In late May, Zielski returned to Malibu after spending three weeks between Uganda and Kenya. He was there with a documentarian, who flew out from South American to gather footage of the RainCatcher team at work.

During the three weeks, Zielski said he was able to perform six-month inspections of existing collection systems and witness the completion of a new one in a single week – a rate 50 percent faster than is typical, he said.

As the systems exist in Uganda and Kenya, an 8,000-liter collection tank is fed rainwater by a gutter system that lines the perimeter of a school, church, hospital or another community building. Each system costs approximately $10,000 to install and is anticipated to last for 10 years.

While the nonprofit organization has its sights set on continuing to provide rainwater-harvesting systems to people in Uganda and Kenya, Zielski said he hopes that by 2015, RainCatcher will begin a worldwide expansion into not just other African countries, but those in Southeast Asia and South America as well.

The first step is presenting his plan to RainCatcher’s board of directors, but Zielski expressed confidence that there was  not just a feasibility, but a need for the organization to expand.

“I see RainCatcher just starting to grow,” he said. “This is RainCatcher 3.0 if RainCatcher 2.0 was allowing our stakeholders to see and track the effects their dollars have had.”

A core concept Zielski said he has kept in mind is that RainCatcher’s solution to the lack of drinking water in Uganda and Kenya isn’t a shoe that could fit on just any nation’s foot.

If the organization expands into India, Zielski said its team would have to take into consideration the country’s relatively inconsistent rainfall compared to Uganda and Kenya.

To work around this, Zielski envisions a building with a roof of at least 1,000 square feet, which would be used to collect rainwater and siphon it off into collection tanks inside the structure. The storage room would make up for only half of the structure, leaving the other half to function as a hospital or ashram.

But for now, the 120 green and blue Post-it notes serve as a constant reminder to Zielski and the RainCatcher team that their work is ongoing.  

“What we’re doing is so much more than providing clean water: It’s providing a future,” he said. “These people have been around for thousands of years and been drinking dirty water, but we can just provide them clean water, and I want to use my knowledge and experience of how to do it and make it sustainable for them.”