On quiet afternoons, Dr. David Simons, a renowned scientific pioneer in the field of myofascial trigger points, enjoys sitting on his sun porch and gazing out onto the magnolia trees growing in the backyard of his Floyd Street home.
When the drought last summer withered his plants and sickened his trees, Simons was greatly distressed. Knowing that the water restrictions in place would not allow him to water his trees for more than a couple of hours a week, he set about devising a system to get water to his plants another way.
After months of research, unexpected challenges and loads of hard work, Simons and a cobbled together team of plumbers, construction contractors and handy women devised a water reclamation system that captures rainwater from the roof of his house and funnels it into a system of hoses that eventually leads to a series of sprinklers that water his flower beds.
"It kind of grew like topseed," Simons said. "I had the basic idea. I knew what I wanted to do but I didn't have much idea on how to do it."
What originally began as a series of large plastic trash cans hooked together by a series of tubes has grown into a sprawling network of hoses, sump pumps, manifolds and a large 2,500 gallon tank of water, which stood 2,000 gallons full Tuesday morning.
According to Sharon Barker, Dr. Simons' assistant, nearly every piece of equipment used in the system was purchased from Home Depot with the exception of the 2,500 gallon tank, which was purchased online. Barker estimated that Simons spent close to $6,000 on equipment plus approximately $2,000 on labor.
Much like a cactus, Simons' system stores water during times of plentiful rainfall only to see it disbursed during times of drought.
Simons said he was moved to action after reading Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," last year which he said brought him to the realization that the North Georgian drought was part of a larger pattern of climate change. In an era of climate change, Simons predicts the Southeast region of the United States can expect a greater frequency of droughts and a general decline in rainfall.
"All of this happened because I realized we had reached the tipping point [of global warming]," Simons said.
Rainwater from 11 downspouts on the house roof is collected in trash cans set up beneath them. At some corners around the house where downspouts were not available, chains were put in place to guide the water in its trickle down to the rain barrel below.
A sump pump, installed at the bottom of each can, pumps out the water once the water level rises to the top.
"As long as you keep [the sump pump] plugged in, it'll kick on," said Jared Rutberg, a construction contractor who worked with Simons on his water system.
Water pressure then pushes the water through a series of hoses set up on the outskirts of the house and sometimes buried underground, to two collection manifolds.
"The system can operate out of gravity because the system wants to go to equilibrium," Rutberg said.
From these manifolds, the water is then directed into hoses that go underground by way of a drainage pipe Simons already had in his backyard and into a 2,500 gallon tank. From the tank a third manifold redistributes the water into another network of hoses, which link to a series of sprinkler systems set up around the backyard.
A clicker then operates the sprinklers, which water Simons' beloved Magnolia trees, azaleas and perennials.
"You can put out a lot of water with it but you can't run 12 sprinklers with it," said Rutberg of the reclamation system's capacity.
Rutberg said the system devised by Simons, himself, master plumber Jerry Bales and Simons' housekeeper, Angela Holcomb, is infinitely adaptable and can be recreated at almost any home.
"There's a million ways that you can run this for your house," said Rutberg, adding that the square footage of the roof and the number of downspouts would determine how much water could be collected.
While Dr. Simons' water reclamation system is only used for the watering of his lawn and gardens, there are possibilities for the internal household use of captured water, or grey water, such as using it to fill toilet tanks.
"There are so many ways that peoples can use their downspouts," Rutberg said. "What he's got here is a great way to preserve his flower beds without worrying about water restrictions."