Stand Alone Rainwater Harvesting System
Walking Dead Rain Barrels
by RainSaucers Inc. on December 7th, 2015

Only a Walking Dead fan with a keen interest in Water technology would find this interesting. But to us, the way the survivors stay hydrated is the most educational part of the show. During the first few Seasons, when Rick Grimes and his group were either "on the run" or staying in temporary situations, the group was somewhat lucky. They were able to camp near streams or lakes, stay in houses where there was a well, or get liquids from abandoned cars, houses, and markets. But once they decided to settle down at that Prison in Season 3, things got decidedly more complicated. The Prison had no well.  With no local source of water, the team had to resort to the best alternative: rainwater harvesting. Since Season 3, we have seen rain barrels pop up two more times making it now worth commenting on. For the record (and let us know if we've missed something), here are the rainwater harvesting case studies from the Walking Dead:

Season 4 as the group settles in to the Prison

The group constructs a shelter in the courtyard of the Prison using corrugated metal sheets and wood beams. The shelter is used as shade from the Sun and as a place where they can cook and have outdoor meals. But the shelter is also lined with gutters that feed several strategically placed 55 gallon drums. As seen in the photo above, they elevate the drums by placing them on drums that have been cut in half. The harvested rainwater is dispensed into 5 gallon buckets and used for drinking, vegetable garden irrigation, and laundry.

Our comment: we see this set up all over the developing world. The corrugated metal sheets look pretty rusty but the water is probably still OK. However, three or four barrels won't be enough for the needs of the group later on when it grows in size.

Season 5 by the rival group at Grady Memorial Hospital

Isolated to the top floors of a Hospital Building, a group of police officers survive by growing food on the roof. They harvest rainwater from one section of the roof thanks to gutters that feed two IBC Totes that are mounted on cinder blocks.

Our comment: The IBC Totes are white, meaning that toxic algae will eventually develop unless they paint or cover the tanks. If the roof is asphalt, as is the case with most commercial buildings, the water will contain dangerous chemicals. This water is clearly non-potable although the 540 gallons is probably enough for the group's size.

Season 5 at the community of Alexandria

At her first interview with Rick Grimes, the Alexandria leader Deanna Monroe explains how the community was designed for sustainability. In addition to solar panels, "each home has a cistern", she says. Those cisterns turn out to be the 60 gallon Fiskars Salsa Rain Barrel systems you see at Home Depot. Such systems come with a diverter which has also been installed at the homes in Alexandria.

Our comment: when Deanna said "cisterns" we though she meant underground 5,000 gallon tanks plumbed back into the home for water use throughout the home. But she meant rain barrels which does not equate to that much water.  As discussed above, if the roofs are asphalt, the harvested water will have harmful chemicals. This "cistern" water is nothing we would want to drink "as-is".
In conclusion it would appear that none of these cases are perfect. But we give kudos to the producers for trying to bring a dose of realism to the show. Rainwater Harvesting is one of the best Survival techniques when other sources of water are difficult to obtain- as often happens when you are under siege by the Zombie horde.


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