The rainmaker

An Illinois contractor invented his own stormwater management system to collect and harness the power of rainwater.

“In most states, you’re mandated legally to manage stormflow. You have to do something. You can use a pond, permeable pavers, a bioswale, rain garden, or other choices to minimize the impact of the site,” Kevin McClain says. “But rainwater harvesting will pay you back. (The Storm Water Interceptor is) the only system that will do so.”
Photos courtesy of Kevin McClain

In 2003, Kevin McClain started examining the available stormwater management systems that his company, Southside Landscaping, were required to use on construction projects and found them lacking. “I felt there were some real improvements that could be made to what was out there,” he says. “Some of the things I began recommending to the engineers on specific sites were implemented, but I felt I had more to bring to the table.”

Specifically, McClain installs his recently patented invention, the Storm Water Interceptor.

McClain began educating himself in the fields of civil engineering, fluid processing and soil science in an attempt to understand how to best manage stormwater. “In most states, you’re mandated legally to manage stormflow. You have to do something. You can use a pond, permeable pavers, a bioswale, rain garden, or other choices to minimize the impact of the site,” McClain says. “But rainwater harvesting will pay you back. That’s the only system that will do so.”

Following a trip to a wild American Mustangs preserve in South Dakota, McClain educated himself in civil engineering, fluid processing and soil science to invent the Storm Water Interceptor.

What really pushed him to focus on rainwater harvesting and stormwater management was a trip out west in 2005. “I visited a preserve for the wild American Mustang in South Dakota, and I saw how the Cheyenne River that passes through the area was silty and turbid due to environmental damage,” McClain says. “They were trucking water in for these horses from Wyoming. It was an eye opener. I felt I had to do something.”

McClain started designing his Storm Water Interceptor shortly after that. The system collects rainwater from the roof or areas such as permeable paved surfaces. Water is then directed into large underground storage chambers. The tanks range from 5,000 gallons to 742,000 gallons, with 15,000 to 21,000 gallons being an average size. After filtering, the collected water is used for irrigation. For every gallon of water that goes through the irrigation system, 65 percent is recaptured into underground storage within 24 hours.

The entire system is fully automatic, as are its supporting subsystems, which McClain also developed. This includes components such as underground tank disinfection, above-grade water disinfection and automatic irrigation head cleaning. Control panels monitor issues like water purification and, as necessary, manage movement of water to irrigation or stormwater management.

There are plenty of options to manage stormflow, but McClain says his system is the only one that will pay you back with rainwater harvesting.

While irrigation manufacturers have focused on making systems as efficient as possible, McClain says his system is an alternate approach. “Our initial product, rainwater, is free. We clean it up, we use it for irrigation, collect it again, and we clean it up and use it again. So, we’re saving domestic water fees and taxes and reducing the amount of water on the stormwater discharge side,” he says.

What McClain says is particularly noteworthy about his system is the patented bounce water filtration system. “Bounce filtration is unlike other filter methods; it uses water velocity and water movement to filter rainwater,” McClain says. “Bounce filtration is the key to rainwater harvesting. If you can’t get the water clean enough to use, there’s no sense collecting it in the first place.”

McClain’s company designs and builds all components for each system in-house. To date, he’s installed more than 30 systems for projects ranging from athletic fields to private residences. He believes that single-family residences are a particularly strong market for continued expansion; the ones he has installed are on homes in the $3- to $8- million range.

Installation of a complete system on a job of this nature runs about $25,000 to $35,000. Estimated cost recapture typically occurs in about six years. “One of the benefits with this system is that the money you’d spend on irrigation from May to September is going into recovering the cost of the system,” McClain says. “There’s no watering bill and no watering bans when you’re using reclaimed water.”

The system uses a bounce water filtration system that uses water velocity and movement.

McClain has been working with a number of builders in his area who implement the system into their projects. He says his crews can assemble the average 18,000-gallon system in 16 days from start to finish, including irrigation startup. He bulks up his crews from six employees to nine from April to November to tackle the increase in installations.

McClain plans to continue to develop subsystems and would eventually like to sell the patent to a company that’s as passionate as he is.

“When I first started, I knew I had a mission, but I didn’t know how complicated it was going to be. It was years of trial and error,” he says. “But I felt I had to do something for the planet.”

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