Steven's Story

Like many of the great ideas of our time, the WaterFence was the brainchild of a young man with a vision.

Here’s what the creator, Steven McDowell, had to say about his journey to create the WaterFence

Rainwater harvesting is not new; it has been done for thousands of years. What is new is my concept for storing it. The WaterFence System.

Fresh clean water is California’s most precious resource, and it seems that we never have enough to go around. As we all know we are now living in one of the most severe droughts in California’s recorded history. With climate change affecting our rain patterns we must now plan for the possibility of living with far less annual rainfall, so saving every drop could be essential.

Every year my school has a science fair competition in which every student picks a subject and creates an experiment and or project and researches it. Some work in teams, I chose to work alone.

This last year was my first year involved in the science fair and I decided to use California’s drought as my subject and how to help solve it as my project, using roof runoff as my source for the water

I wanted to concentrate on each person doing their share and preserving and storing as much water as possible.

Working alongside my father, I visited Friedman brothers, Home Depot and Lowes Home improvement stores to see what they had available for water storage, and the options were all extremely limited (your only choice being a 50 gallon barrel, which not enough storage to effectively curb water usage).

I went home and did research for additional water storage options and I did find large water tanks for storage, but all of the tanks with applicable storage capacity were huge with many being up to 18 feet tall and over 12 feet around.

These were too big, hard to move around, impossible to fill and really ugly to look at, so all in all they were not very practical.

I knew then that I would have to come up with a completely different solution. I walked around my neighborhood looking for ideas and what every house had in common so that everyone could participate in storing their water effectively, then it hit me, everyone had a fence around their yard and for the most part they all were made of the same thing…wood. I had an idea; what if the fence around my yard could be used to collect runoff rainwater!

I searched the internet for a product like this and found nothing like it at all.

I wanted to know how much water I could store in a fence the size of one around my residence, which is 80 feet by 70 feet by 80 feet. By making my fence pieces the same size as my fence, six feet high by seven feet long and only slightly wider, 12 inches, each fence section held approximately 320 gallons.

By using the standard math formula, 2000 square feet of roof (surface area) times 1 inch of rain, times the conversion factor, it equaled around twelve hundred gallons of water runoff. Also anytime it rains my fence added water to each storage unit.

I realized that I could hold almost 13 thousand gallons of fresh pure rain water.

I started designing my project to look like a fence and decided on clear plastic so I could show how water seeks its own level and would fill each fence section at the same rate. I connected each piece together and drilled holes near the bottom to allow water to flow between them.

I completed an original design for the WaterFence and tested it;I knew it worked and entered it into my High Schools Science fair competition  - I won first place!

My engineering teacher stated it was the best original idea he had seen in 14 years of science fairs and my science professor told me to patent the idea right away, which I did. Three of the judges approached me as well and asked me to install it in their homes immediately. I knew I must be on to something.

I entered my project in the Sonoma County Science Fair - I won first place! 

I then entered it in the San Francisco Bay Area Science Fair - I won first place!

Also at SF Science Fair a small group of projects were invited to a prestigious science fair called The Amgen Bay Area BioGENEius Challenge. At San Francisco Science Fair I won the U.S Stockholm Junior Water Prize Regional Award and the American Meteorological Society’s “Certificate of Outstanding Achievement”.

All of these science fairs were judged by accredited scientist, not parents of entrants, and after much acclaim I realized that this product needed to become a distributable reality, fast.

The journey to design, prototype and build the WaterFence has been quite a love of labor, but I am finally proud to announce that the incredible WaterFence system will soon be available for purchase. I’d like to thank everyone involved along the way, and continue to stress the importance of creating sustainable options for water conservation. In time I hope the WaterFence will become the industry standard, leading to reduced emissions and fresh water abundance wherever your home is.