When a storm ripped off half of the outlying wall at Amir Yechieli’s school, he stepped out of his role as a science teacher, and became Israel’s “Rain Man.” Yechieli had studied storm water runoff in the Sinai Desert for a master’s degree, so when he saw this, he calculated how much rain there could have been and figured out that the roof could supply six months of water to the school. With support from the administration, he gathered the necessary funds, and built the first system in the country the very next year. 15 years and more than 120 schools later, Yechieli is heading a new company called Yevul Mayim. By day, he teaches science at several schools near Jerusalem. By afternoon, and whenever else he can, Yechieli works with students and teachers to set up rainwater collection systems, often on his own dime.

It only rains for about half the year in Israel, but Yechieli estimates this is enough to collect about 100 days’ worth of water. With an initial capital expense of about $10,000, it takes about seven or eight years to pay back the investment in water savings, but that investment is worth gold.  The Yuval Mayim system is built with the kids, and they monitor it every day. Beyond the gallons of water saved, the children learn to notice unusual leaks in the system, saving damage from occurring. They even report leaky toilets.

His projects have peace appeal, too. Yechieli has done projects that bring together Israeli Arabs and Jews, Israelis and Jordanians from schools with rainwater harvesting systems. So influential has Yechieli been in the Israeli education world that he is now dealing with policy-makers on how to manage the 20 percent of rainwater that would otherwise flow to the sea.

“The major issue here is those kids,” says Yechieli. “When they grow up [and work] in influential places in government or wherever, they will be better citizens of this country.” He believes schools are a place to educate and to change awareness. There are now schools in Israel, thanks to Yechieli’s chutzpah, that are installing rainwater catchments and toilet intakes from the beginning of construction.

Changing Lives Around The World

And word has spread beyond Israel. Tag International flew Yechieli to Kenya to help build a system to provide water savings to some 600 villagers who had no running water. People were drinking from ditches, yet they had tin roofs that could collect rainwater year round.

“They don’t have money and they don’t have ideas. Even when USAID tried to help, the ideas didn’t stick. If you don’t include the people in the project, they won’t care about it,” says Yechieli.

In addition to continuing the project with Kenyan officials, Yechieli got funds from the Jewish National Fund to develop a rainwater catchment system at Kampala University in Uganda.

The university spends a whopping $15,000 a month on water despite being surrounded by lakes. Because the water sources are polluted, it takes an enormous amount of energy to purify the water. “I would imagine that by spending $30,000 they can save half the cost of water bills for the rest of their lives,” Yechieli estimates. To find out more, please follow the link below.

JUF.org

Photo from: JUF.org

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