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Harvest Every Drop Published in BC the Mag 
(the Bergen County Magazine)

HARVEST EVERY DROP

Student Madeline Abrams Develops an

Economically Accessible Rainwater Collection System

 Article written by Megan Montemarano

For as long as she can remember, Bergen County resident and junior at Green Meadow Waldorf School Madeline Abrams has been tinkering with everyday items to help solve problems. She started with puzzles and untying complex knots. She then moved on to creating structures using Legos or Kapla blocks, and clothing, accessories and gadgets using duct tape - really anything she could find around the house.

Through her school's curriculum and afterschool activities, Madeline continued her handwork - from fibrecraft and woodwork, to metalwork, ceramics, and fine arts - learning how to make use of materials in innovative ways. It was not until 8th grade that she switched her focus to robotics and digital tools. She created several items from scratch, including a mini-printer and even a robot that could maintain its equilibrium despite the effect of most outside forces.

With all this experience under her belt, Madeline's latest idea, Harvest Every Drop, took her innovative spirit to a new level - both literally and figuratively. This rainwater harvesting system serves a dual purpose of conserving water, and simultaneously supporting the environment.

"Since my early years, I've had an interest in addressing climate change, as well as a constant love of making things using my own two hands," says Madeline. "Throughout my life, and especially through my school's relationship with neighboring farms and gardens, I have engaged in farming, gardening, and working with the earth."

Through Harvest Every Drop, Madeline devised a way to vastly increase the amount of water collected during rainstorms using upcycled materials - namely, empty water bottles that are cut in half lengthwise, and connected with waterproof tape to create a roof gutter system. She then uses additional water bottles as a downspout to direct the water to a holding tank, similar to a rain barrel.

In the prototype that Madeline built at her home on a small shed, the system captured 25 times the amount of rainfall that otherwise would have gone to waste.

The water is collected efficiently due to the use of an existing surface area," she explains. "This means that any water that falls onto a roof would follow gravity into the gutter, to the downspout, and descend through the downspout and into the receptacle."

The retained water can then be transferred in many ways, depending on the surroundings and accessible materials. Some ideas include creating additional tubing or using plastic bottles to act as a hose. If there is a hose accessible, it can also be used to siphon or transfer water.

While extra hands are always a plus, creating the system can be done alone. Madeline also developed a step-by-step guide detailing materials and methods to help those ready to give it a try.

 

On top of water conservation, Madeline's invention certainly offers a unique way to reimagine the plastic water bottle as a way to continuously transport water, especially for communities where water is scarce.

Madeline recently attended high school for several months in Argentina, where she learned even more about the importance of water conservation. Over the summer she also enrolled in an environmental engineering course through Brown University's summer program, which provided mentorship and inspired discussions around water conservation to help further inform the creation of the Harvest Every Drop system.

"The water that is harvested can be used however it is needed...whether that is for irrigation and landscape, or, after boiling or other proper filtration, for cleaning or drinking," adds Madeline. "Not only could this water be used for humans and plants, but also livestock and other animals."

Over the past several months, Madeline has reached out to many Rotary Clubs domestically and internationally. During these meetings, she has shared her idea and taught others how to build a similar rain-harvest watering system in their specific community. To date, she has presented to approximately 40 communities, mostly in parts of Africa (i.e., Angola, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Uganda), and in the U.S. (i.e., California, New York). The feedback has been nothing but positive from the Rotarians, who are excited to learn more and implement the system to reap its many benefits. Determined to continue expanding the impact Harvest Every Drop could have on people and the environment, Madeline continues to actively connect with Rotary clubs around the world.

"As I try to make the system more accessible to people in many different types of environments, I have been presented with many ideas of how to make it even more adaptive," says Madeline. "These suggestions include finding materials other than duct tape to connect the bottles and affixing a permeable covering into the downspout to filter out any major particulates, which I have already implemented into the system."

The goal for Harvest Every Drop is to reach as many people as possible - whether in arid areas - or areas of agriculture - which Madeline is clearly on the path of doing. In addition to addressing water shortage and conservation, she hopes to also decrease plastic waste through her reimagination of single-use water bottles which not only take thousands of years to decompose, but also often pollute waterways, litter roadways and clutter landfills.

"If you have an idea and a passion, look around you to find materials that can help make your idea a reality," says Madeline. "Do not be discouraged if it takes more time than expected to bring your vision to life. Some of the greatest inventions were born from mistakes or even happenstance."

In addition to helping share the mission of Harvest Every Drop, the Bergen County community can work toward implementing this design in local gardens, farms, community spaces, and even backyards. Visit harvesteverydrop.com for more information or email info@harvesteverydrop with any questions.

You can also learn about the system on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube using the handle @Harvest EveryDrop.

Image by Max
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