Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Water Technology: The Rainpod

The Rainpod! (photo:

Technology Name: RAINPOD

In a nutshell, the Rainpod is a rainwater collection, storage and distribution unit, all in one.

On, Designer David L'Hôte says
"People usually water their plants and garden with tapwater although rainwater is free...Rainpod is a standalone rain collector. Its three legs are made of local wood trunks which makes each unit unique and reduces transportation impact. Its high placed tank delivers rainwater under pressure for easy watering, thanks to gravity."
It comes in various sizes and layouts like below (source: Mocoloco).

It works simply. The pod-like structure is the water storage unit, and incorporates little drain areas to let collected water filter in. The catchment area on top can be opened or closed as you need. The little hose on the bottom is exactly drains water from the storage unit using gravity.

The pod stands taller than the average adult and consequently uses gravity to move the water.

My review:
I came across the UFO-like Rainpod a few days back when browsing around the internet. In the beginning, I didn't get what it was. But as I thought about it more, I really liked the idea. It looked like it would work really well in a developing country. Why?

The good:
Well, it is cute or atleast cuter than the typical rainwater system currently in use. It might generate buzz and encourage use of the system (maybe 3-4 villagers can buy a larger system and share it between them). But aesthetics are never the number one point for buying something, particularly in the BoP population. So let's put that aside.

I like the size variability, which gives a poorer customer options of size and payments. I love the all-in-one design, which makes it possible for someone to even start a rental business with these pods (want some water?? Rent a pod!). Its essentially transportable, mobile, and easy to set up...all of which expand the possibilities of who, where, and when the Rainpod can be used. It can be used on urban rooftops and in rural areas. Its a complete system!

I really like the folding mechanism of the catchment. During the rainy season it takes more space; after it takes much less. But more importantly, because the catchment is easily folded in, it stays protected and relatively clean, while adding to the protection of the storage unit from contamination.

The hose at the very bottom means that ALL the water will get used up and drained out (water and pod can be regularly flushed out easily). And finally, because it stands taller than the average man, the tank is not necessarily in anyone's way and it harnesses gravity for distribution (you can even stand under the hose and shower!).

I just really liked the overall design of this unit. It included a lot of elements that few people think about, and although it was clearly designed for the western world, I think it will work very well in the developing world.

(oh, and the outer pod surface area is good advertising space. Get a couple of ads on there, and the pod owner can make his money back on the pod! head works very well!)

The what: I'm not sure how easy it is to clean it and what the mechanisms involved to do so are. And I really have no idea what the cost of the whole Rainpod or its replacement parts are (operation and maintenance costs are critical for BoP). I don't even know what material it is made of. I looked everywhere for these bits of information but couldn't find any.* Its still a prototype thats hunting for a manufacturer (so this information is a little time away). But it is cool. And by adding a few amenities (see under variations), Rainpod could really be a superstar.

Variations I would suggest:

1. Smaller wall or roof mountable units would be awesome, so that urban dwellers can claim its benefits as well, particularly if you are in a multiple house dwelling with no roof access.

2. An optional clip on/off filtration system can mean making the water instantly drinkable.

3. Adding a solar element might turn it into a solar water heater, or during the summer, when it doesn't rain, the tank can have optional solar panels or metallic parabolas to generate power. Maybe you can even harness the gravity drip energy of the water and have a mini-hydropower generator.

4. Increase the catchment space (by launching the catchment material out further) or incorporate ways for house gutters or other existing systems to work with the pod.

*I did find one blogsite that said the Rainpod came with an automatic timer and irrigation system. It carried upto 800 liters (212 gallons) of water was retailing for GBP 698 (USD 1378). This site had no pictures or description to really distinguish the pod I'm talking about, and since I can't find their reference (and these are professional journalists!), I'm assuming that the information is still at large.

Other reviews/information:
All about Rainwater Harvesting

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