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By Paige Roth

Almost twenty percent of the United States is experiencing drought classified as severe, extreme, or exceptional, and global water demand will likely increase as much as forty percent in the next ten years. Storing rainwater has long been a promising solution to water shortages in drought stricken areas. But what if you could store rain on your own property in something almost every suburban family owns--a property line fence?


Trinity Engineers, Alexander Beck, Rachel Hure, Sonan Jattu, Rachel Matyasik, John Pederson, and Ailie Vuper, have designed an Innovative Rainwater Irrigation System that uses a standard residential fence in order to retain, store and purify rain water. This fence would be available for residential areas in semi-arid climates and parts could be easily purchased at a local home improvement store.

Team IRIS (pictured from left to right): Sonam Jattu, Ailie Vuper, John Pederson, Rachel Matyastik, Al Beck, and Rachel Hure.
Team IRIS (pictured from left to right): Sonam Jattu, Ailie Vuper, John Pederson, Rachel Matyastik, Al Beck, and Rachel Hure.

But why not just use a rain barrel? Some home owners associations will not allow rain barrels because of their poor aesthetics. The rain fence resembles a typical neighborhood fence line, making it appropriate for almost any backyard, without compromising visual appeal. Though rain storage is not legal in every state, Texas encourages water storage. And some cities, like Austin, even offer tax incentives. (To learn if rain water storage is legal in your state, click here.)

The rain fence connects directly to the gutter downspout on a house. Water from the gutter filters through a first flush diverter before flowing into the fence. Once in the fence, water fills at an equal level throughout. The stored water in the fence may not be pure enough to drink, but it can be reused for irrigation or basic plumbing purposes. The fence is connected to a pump that facilitates flow to mobilize water for drip irrigation or can be hooked up to a standard hose.

Team IRIS performs a full scale leak test on the Rain Fence.
Team IRIS performs a full scale leak test on the Rain Fence.

Each vinyl fence panel can store a whopping 1.6 gallons of water. The design itself attaches to any generic fence you can buy at Home Depot or Lowes. This new device could save buyers $100s of dollars, store 100s of gallons, and your neighbors wouldn't even know!

The connectors, or "lego" pieces, in the fence allow for uniform fill in the fence. The team designed these "cap connectors" (pictured below), which they printed using Trinity University's brand new 3D-printer, allowing the team to generate numerous custom plastic cap connectors. The team is currently in the process of applying for a patent for this innovative connective piece.

Team IRIS performs a full scale leak test on the Rain Fence.
The innovative Cap Connector design.

"Ultimately, we hope people can purchase these cap connectors for cents on the dollar at their local hardware store to convert their generic vinyl property line fences to rain storage units," said team member John Pederson.

To learn more about the Trinity Engineering Department, click here.