Product Review

A New Place to Store Rainwater: The Fence

Created by a 14-year-old student for a science fair, Water Fence provides an innovative solution for storing large volumes of water.

With the local science fair coming up, 14-year-old high school freshman Steven McDowell told his teacher he planned to solve California’s current water crisis—one of the worst in the state’s history. The incredulous teacher had his doubts, but McDowell set out to prove him wrong and began tinkering with a system that combines rainwater storage and fencing. His idea won the science fair (and several other regional awards), he applied for a patent, and the aptly named Water Fence was born. Interest in McDowell’s concept has continued to grow, and Water Fence has gone from a science fair project to a rainwater storage system that solves two major problems: size and aesthetics.

How do you make a large tank look good?

From a one-inch rainfall event, you can capture 620 gallons for every 1,000 ft2 of roof area: that’s a lot of water. Yet most rainwater systems are either too small to capture large volumes of water or too bulky (and ugly) to be practical for most uses.  (Rainwater Hog, which earned a Top-10 award from us in 2008, is an exception, with a tank system that fits between studs in walls or decking.)

Published February 1, 2015