1. Decide where the rainwater should go
    2. Put it there.

    Any questions? How are we doing for time?

    This may seem like a simple approach, but in fact it stands in opposition to the most common approach to securing dry buildings.

    In the common approach, water is the bad guy, the bogeyman, a cunning and relentless threat to the health of our families, the sponsor of toxic this-and-that, a fluid with a nefarious mind of its own. We must build defenses against this enemy, layer upon layer, and lots of vents, knowing that in its deviousness, water can find even minuscule flaws in our defense layers and exploit them. Look at the literature. From the 1953 pamphlet How to Win Your War Against Water: “The villain of the piece is ‘dat ol’ debbil’ moisture. He comes in as many guises as a chameleon.” From Save Your Home from the Menace of Moisture: “Oh, it’s a battle, all right—a constant struggle between mankind and moisture. The price of victory is eternal vigilance. It’s up to you, of course, as it is to every home owner.”

    If this strikes you as resembling, in style and phrasing, the hyperbolic anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s, then congratulations; you’ve recognized that persuasion in politics and marketing has the same source in Edward Bernays’ propaganda. Fear has an on-button but no off-button. Worry has several persistent hooks, such that when one is relieved, others remain.

    Obviously, my outlook differs from this. My approach is predicated on the notion that there is nothing on earth as cooperative and manageable and docile and indispensable and endearing as water, ignoring shipwrecks, floods and hurricanes for the moment.

    Where should the water go? Here are the rainwater water deposit sites in order.

    1. Gold star: replenish the ground water by percolating rainwater through the soil. This is what nature does with rainwater. Take a hint. It makes a deposit in the below-grade clean water bank account.
    2. Silver star: storm drains. Nature does this, too, moving rainwater into streams and rivers. This is where most of the rainwater that falls on buildings winds up. It’s ok, it keeps the streams and rivers flowing. It requires tax money to maintain the municipal system in operation.
    3. No star: Below-grade sump pumps. The water that lands next to a building may be guided down to a footing drain, by soil structure or maybe even a drainage layer. And the footing drain leads to a sump pump which, when the electricity is running, will pump the water right back up to where it came from, hopefully a few feet further from where it started.

    There’s a conversation I’ve had hundreds of times:

    Building owner, manager, contractor, designer: “We’ve got this awful water problem right here.”

    Me: “Where do you want the water to go?”

    BOMCD: “Huh?”

    Me: “If the water shouldn’t go there, where should the water go?”

    BOMCD: “Huh?”

    If the water is where you don’t want it, then it’s not where you want it. (Huh, say what, Yogi?) Figure where it goes and put it there.

    In this post I addressed rule #1.  I have several posts in preparation on how to follow rule #2. You might begin with my earlier post Flashing Takes Wings. Thanks to Jeffrey Siegel for the opening lines of this post.

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