Ken Laidlaw, owner of Valley Rain Harvesting, stands next to a 1,500-gallon tank filled with rainwater collected from gutters on the roof. His products will be among those displayed at the Oregon Green Expo today, Saturday and Sunday at the Medford Armory. - Mail Tribune / Jim Craven

Seeing Green

As clean water gets more expensive and rare, it's hard for many people to stand there and watch it run out of gutters and downspouts into the ground ... and these days they don't have to.

Water-savvy homeowners can catch rain in a tank and use it, at least for irrigation purposes, during our three months of long, hot, rainless summer.

Those water-saving tanks — available through Valley Rain Harvesting in Ashland — are just one of numerous earth-friendly products Rogue Valley residents can view today, Saturday and Sunday when the second annual Oregon Green Expo comes to the Medford Armory. The brainchild of local Realtor Don McCoy, the three-day expo pulls together some of the region's most knowledgeable people when it comes to emerging green technologies, sustainable living and back-to-the land ideas.

The theme of this year's expo is "Powering Up For The Green Economy," and some of the topics attendees can explore are natural/organic food and gardening, alternative energy and fuels, energy-efficiency/weatherization, green building and remodeling, sustainable education and lifestyles, holistic health and wellness, eco/geo tourism, recycling and water ecology.

Ken Laidlaw, owner of Valley Rain Harvesting, is one of the vendors who will be sharing information and displaying their wares this weekend at the armory. Laidlaw's company helps people reduce their water use through strategies that emphasize water conserving, harvesting and catchment techniques.

A 1,520-gallon tank from Valley Rain Harvesting, for instance, will cost you $1,500 with all the pipes and nozzles to feed a drip-irrigation system, Laidlaw says. He also sells and installs a 2-foot wide "slim line" that holds 300 gallons and a round, 660-gallon, low-profile model. They'll all be on display at the Oregon Green Expo.

The popular sustainable living conclave features scores of green businesses, a scad of DIY, money-saving and planet-saving ideas for your home and garden, domes erected in the parking lot, an eco-fashion show, ideas on buying local (to save fossil fuels), lots of local organic food, panel talks and people you can connect with to get going on green projects.

You'll be able to check out an eco-friendly, energy-efficient air conditioning system with integrated water production, providing a home's entire heating and cooling, says Dave McMurray of Water Source Technologies. It also purifies the conditioned air with ultraviolet light and creates pure drinking water.

Speakers will explore agricultural vitalization, local food issues, green jobs, energy independence and how to become a master gardener.

Exhibitors will display an array of green-sustainable products, including solar, geothermal, natural floors, camping yurts, domes, recycled outdoor furniture, green household products, water features and many others.

The idea of rain catchment is not necessarily one that's going to recoup a lot of your household budget, says Laidlaw, but should be used as a means of water conservancy. For some people, especially in rural, fire-prone settings, that could be a necessity.

"If the water isn't collected, it runs into Bear Creek and the Rogue River. A lot of reason to save water is to reduce your bill," he says, noting that Ashland and other governments are working on rebates to make the systems more attractive — and to lessen Ashland's annual worries about drought and dying lawnscapes.

Laidlaw explains that, if you have a shingle roof, you get a "first flush" of dust, debris and animal stuff from the roof — and this first three to five gallons is diverted so that mostly clean water goes into your tank. Roofs of tile or metal shed less stuff. Gutters have screens and that keep leaves and other debris out of water.

He points to nearby veggie beds and says his gravity-feed drip irrigation provides water for up to three weeks from his 1,520-gallon tank. To go through the entire three-month dry season, you can "daisy chain" four of the tanks together. They get full by the end of December and, he notes, it's nice to look in there and see a backup for the valley's "fragile" water system.

The Energy Trust of Oregon, which provides energy audits on request and has a weatherization program to help people save on utility bills, is a primary sponsor of Green Expo.

Times, vendors, events and other information for the Oregon Green Expo can be found at

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

Share This Story