EC.720J | Spring 2010 | Undergraduate

D-Lab II: Design

Course Notes

Design Mini-Project: Low-Cost Rainwater Harvesting

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This year, we wanted to try something a little different to start out the course, a mini-project to be a quick overview of the entire design process. The project is one that’s been kicking around in my head for the last few months: a low-cost rainwater harvesting system. The problem with conventional systems is that storage is expensive, and so if people can’t afford to build a cistern, or invest in a large plastic storage tank, they don’t have many options. So the idea is to design storage bags that are super cheap, so that people can buy want they can afford, and can add to their capacity whenever they can afford to do so. And what would be cool is if you have these bags, then you could pop on different attachments for different purposes. For example, you could put the bag out in the sun, for solar disinfection, then bring it into the kitchen to provide safe drinking water; you could put on another attachment, and bring a bag over to the latrine, and have a hand-washing station; put on another attachment, and it becomes a drip irrigation system… There’d need to be a method for filling a bunch of bags at the same time, so that you wouldn’t have to go out in the rain to replace bags, and a way to move the bags around easily. It would also be way cool if there was an easily deployable structure that would provide a catchment system, so you could harvest water anywhere, not just off your roof.

This project has applications in a lot of places, but it’s also one of the things that D-Lab might be able to do to help out in Haiti. Food, fuel and water are some of the immediate needs, and the rainy season is about to start. So I’m really excited to be working on it, and I think the students are too…

Photo of several students sitting around a table working on small paper cards.

Students brainstorming in class.

Photo of instructor Amy Smith with several students and a poster board.

Amy exploring new ideas with a team of students.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2010
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Projects with Examples
Design Assignments
Written Assignments
Activity Assignments with Examples