Recently Stan Abbott hosted two of the leading Rain Water Harvesting Experts from Texas A & M University in the USA. Billy Kniffen is a Texas A & M AgriLife Extension Service Water Resource Specialist who focuses on rainwater catchment education with state wide responsibilities. Billy has served in extension for 29 years and he is currently the Vice President of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association.
Brent Clayton is an Extension Program Specialist for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Corpus Christi, Texas. As part of the Texas A & M University System, he develops educational materials and programs related to water management and conservation for the whole state.
The purpose of their weeklong visit was to observe rural and urban roof water harvesting practises in New Zealand and to also examine the rain water tank facilities at the Roof Water Harvesting Centre on the Wellington Campus. Texas A & M University are planning to develop a similar centre as part of their AgriLife Extension Educational and Research Service. During their stay numerous domestic and commercial roof water harvesting sites were visited in Auckland and Wellington including visits to a number of emergency roof water tank locations.
To coincide with Billy and Brent‟s visit a hugely successful one day seminar on Roof Water Harvesting was held in Wellington. The seminar topics included those on health risks associated with roof water harvesting, drinking water standards, demand management, design and management issues, and sustainable roof water harvesting for earth quake affected communities. While most seminar attendees were from Wellington some came from as far as Auckland and Tauranga and attendees included representatives and drinking water assessors from Local Authorities, Regional Public Health Units and Industry.
Billy and Brent informed us that while rural (sole supply) roof water harvesting in the USA is currently about 1% of the population (compared to 10% in New Zealand and 17% in Australia) in Hawaii approximately 50% of the population are on roof water only supplies and in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, there are approximately 40,000 rainwater tanks in use (and have been for over 100 years) and are still being added as more people move to those areas. As of September 1, 2011, every new state building, including state universities in Texas must have a rain catchment on it if it is 50,000 square feet and those buildings with less than 50,000 square feet must have one or both rain water catchments (for potable and non-potable use), or at least a rain tank retention system.
Stan Abbot says that the week spent working with Billy and Brent was a great experience and he is very excited about Massey University collaborating with Texas A & M AgriLife Extension Service in future to advance roof water harvesting research and education in the USA and New Zealand. He says that “Massey University already has a head start as the leading roof water harvesting centre in New Zealand but we can be even more creative and innovative if we take the opportunity to collaborate internationally with institutions such as Texas A & M University.”