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Rainwater low-cost collection system (Africa)

If like me you are lucky to live in the tropics where the sky literally empties down non-stop between four to five months annually then you should consider installing a water collection system. Aided by the gradient of my cross hipped roof, this is exactly what I set out to do in the month of March. Averagely, the rainy season in Abuja starts in April and terminates around September. Abuja lies a mere 627 miles (1008km) of the equator and so it can be very hot, humid and wet here.

step 1; The hunt for wide October. Get a water barrel

It seems to state the obvious but you want to get yourself a water barrel. Size and durability should be your guiding principles. From my calculations, the median rainfall for Abuja is 12.5mm with July and August peaks of over 250mm and the rain comes with such velocity energized by sand and pebbles it could pierce a flimsy water storage. I did not quite have a size in mind but I wanted the biggest volume I could lay my hands on. I set out with my plumber. Our first point of call was also the location nearest to my house, the Gudu market, (principle of distance decay). We were tossed around from one shop to another with one seller even bringing out a rolling waste bin, this after telling us to wait while he fetches it specially from his other shop. Evidentally, no one had what we wanted at Gudu market. We were rerouted by another seller to the major road that adjoins the market (Oladipo Diya). By the side of the road, so obvious I wondered how we missed it was varieties of overhead Geepee tanks- big sized and medium - as well as rain barrels of different capacities and colors. At Gudu, my efforts had earned one important information- 200Liters was the biggest drum available.  But try as we may among this roadside sellers and moving from one section to another, we could only get 150 and 170L in stock. The price ranged from 3000- 4000naira. Reluctantly, we had to continue our search. At this stage, the temperature was soaring and everyone here was assuring us that we won't get 200L anywhere. To convince us to buy, one of the sellers even informed us only Dei-Dei market stocked that size. I was tempted to settle for the 170L  rather than drive that distance but my tenacity will pay off as you will discover
Out of luck here, I drove west towards Garki market, which as anyone who lives here knows, has some of the biggest homewares and hardware stores. I want to point out that another reason we did not settle at Gudu roadside, was that beyond size, the colors I found were not to my taste. There were green, red, pink etc. I wanted a dark hue for my barrel( slow down the rate of spirogyra activity). 
We found an affable guy at the corridor of the plastic section of Garki market, who also fortuitously owned a hardware store and was just opening. He assured us he had what we wanted. Black 200L water drum. We got to his shop and it turned out he also only had 170l, apparently, someone had beat us to it. One of his sales boys confirmed that it sold the previous day. We checked other stores but the ideal availability kept diminishing. The sun hot and running out of options, we turned towards the direction we came from but then took a detour before Apo legislative quarters. Utako market. Now, this is not my favorite market- unplanned layout, poor parking, overcrowding, insecurity and traffic jams were adjectives to describe here. It is one of the worst open markets we have. My personal objections aside and solely based on the recommendation from the chap in Garki market, we knew exactly where to go. (Go Utako, when una reach, ask of Uche, Uche plastic, e go get am)
He'd informed us to ask for the plastic section and look for Uche. His store was stacked with plastics and rubbers of all kinds- we told him what we wanted. He returned from the inner room with a black 200l water barrel. At the onset, I had in mind to buy the common cylindrical barrel but what Uche presented was a shape best described as that of our planet- oblate spheroid. It was also of firmer durability compared to the tube-like ones I had seen earlier. Third time lucky

Step 2; bore-holes, buy accessories, fit

Not quite far from the Utako market is the Chida Hotel along Solomon Lar road. North-west of the hotel is a cluster of zinc roofed buildings serving as wooden stalls, bukka1, open sewage and residential shanties. From the Utako market, it was the place we visited next. Acting on the recommendation of my plumber we arrived with our 200L rain drum. I don't know what this community is called and how they self-identify- the absence of street names here was discernible. I went back to Google map to see if I could find the name of the community but my search was negative.  It is nevertheless a colorful and vibrant location- a counter-culture to the glitz and glamour of the hotel and adjoining properties on the streets next to it. I have attached a map at the end, this location is marked A on it.
We soon discovered a resourceful means and the man to solve our problem. The holes we had to make was the point of deliberation in the market between the plumber and myself. I had explained to him, what I wanted. The drum to function effectively required three holes; bottom where the spigot would fit, the neck of the drum as a pathway for outflow when the drum was full, a triangular cut on the cover for inflow of water. Among the bric -a- brac, clothiers, fenced items, shoe salesmen, the local barista at this location "A" was an open hearth which served as the cooking place for the bukka. The man we were introduced to took our rain drum and set to work. I explained one more time what I wanted and he assured me he understood. Using a tong heated to a high degree of temperature, he pierced the two holes at the neck of the barrel. X shows one part of the hole in the image below 

Next, a metal tube that measured a little less in diameter went in at the spot where the spigot would be located. Finally, a saw was used to cut the top of the drum wherein the water will flow in. all this took about 30 minutes to accomplish. 

we purchased a caulk, back nut, washer, PVC compression and plumbing tape to finish the connection and void backflow and dripping from the system. All this are easy to accomplish or just a plumber to couple it.

Tips; buy the metallic spigot and not the thermoplastic cheaper ones, as they are not quite as durable.
ensure to bore holes at the correct angle for where the spigot would go in. Everyone has their sweet spot but you probably should aim one and a half inches off the bottom to easily fit in buckets and hose.
Prevent sand, stones, and insects getting into your barrel by fitting it with a net at the top tightened with an appropriate twine. Elevate your barrel by placing on concrete blocks or wooden pallets. For mine, I used two 6" blocks. wash the drum in and out before usage. Find a slope from the roof where the water flows easily.
If you have a rain gutter on your roof- connecting to the barrel is easy, cut off some of the downspouts and let the water run into your drum.
let the water collected be used mainly for washing and watering plants and other uses but not drinking 
Total cost (8,700 naira)
200l water barrel- 3000
spigot, washer, PVC compression- 2500
caulk and plumbing tape- unsure (I tied it to my plumber labor)
2-yard net- 1200

The picture was taken in March during light precipitation.

1- bukka a place (open and/or enclosed) with a passionate clientele where cheaper local food is sold.


95% of the world population breathe in bad air according to the Health Effects Institute based in Boston, USA. This is not good news by any stretch but we can all play a role to reduce this coverage of bad air and lessen the impact. Plant a tree. Trees do more than provide shade, they absorb harmful air pollution indoors and outdoors equally. Common species that work indoors effectively are spider plant, variegated snake plant, peace lily, bamboo palm etc


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