Makoto Murase

Reining in wasted rain

March 11, 2013

For more than two decades, Makoto Murase, generally known as “Dr Skywater”, has campaigned to awake the urban world to the appalling waste of an essential resource, pure rainwater. His mission is to convince city-dwellers that rain is a blessing, not a waste-disposal problem.

In his own Tokyo municipality of Sumida City, he successfully altered the regulations to require all large, new buildings to harvest amamizu, a Japanese word that connotes both sky water and sweet water. So far, more than 500 buildings and houses in Sumida have installed his system, with a total capacity of 19,000 tonnes.

Across greater Tokyo more than 1,000 buildings now harvest and reuse “sky water”. Murase’s latest project is linked to the Tokyo Sky Tree, the world’s tallest broadcast tower. When it opened in May 2012, the Sky Tree defined not only the latest in telecommunications – but also in urban renewal and sustainability. Thanks to Murase, the Sky Tree is a masterpiece in water conservation. Rain, which falls on the 634-metre structure and its viewing platforms, is channelled into a basement tank holding 2,635 tonnes of water, then re-used to irrigate rooftop gardens, in toilets and as an emergency supply.

Water collected from rooftops can be recycled for use in the garden. © Rolex Awards / Hideki Shiozawa

At the opposite end of the developmental scale, in rural Bangladesh, he is distributing low-tech, sky-water harvesting technology to spare families from the epidemic of cancers and water-borne infections caused by their use of contaminated surface and groundwater. His mortar jar and roof-chain system is low-cost, sustainable and affordable, even for poor families; manufacturing began in April this year. “Our hope is that amamizu innovation can make happiness for all by solving the drinking water crisis in Bangladesh,” says Murase, who is spreading his message worldwide, with publications such as his Rain Encyclopaedia, which was translated into English thanks to his Rolex Award.

Learn more about Makoto Murase

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