How to Actually Fight Big Water with Pioneering Bottled Rainwater?

Rainwater Harvesting just got an all-new flavor, and it’s sparkling! Indeed, next to the conventional approaches where that water would be used for irrigation, Richard’s Rainwater kinda created a new market segment: bottled rainwater.

How can you fight Big Water by actually putting water in cans and bottles? How’s that approach greener and more sustainable? What could it unlock in the long term? We covered this:

with 🎙️ Taylor O’Neil – CEO of Richard’s Rainwater.

💧 Richard’s Rainwater markets what it claims to be “The Water of Tomorrow,” aka Bottled Rainwater!

This episode is part of my Series on the Water Crisis in America

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What we covered:

💧 How Richard’s Rainwater is the first company in the United States to get approval for bottling rainwater

💪 How putting rainwater into cans actually works, where and why.

🚱 How bottled rainwater actually solves two pains: water quality and water access.

🇺🇸 Why water challenges lay much closer than we commonly think, and how they are more and more embedded in our daily lives, even in rich countries like the US.

⚔️ How bottled rainwater actually tastes, and how to market it in the era of Evian, Fiji, or Dasani

😊 How the future might be to produce local point-of-use solutions to produce decentralized drinkable rainwater


➡️ Send your warm regards to Taylor on LinkedIn;

➡️ Visit Richard’s Rainwater Website

➡️ A big THANK YOU to Sciens Water for enabling this episode!

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is on Linkedin ➡️

Teaser: How Bottled Water may be a mighty challenger for Big Water

Full Video: My conversation on Bottled Rainwater with Taylor O’Neil

Full Transcript:

These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂

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Antoine Walter: Hi Taylor, welcome to the show.

Taylor O’Neil: Hey, thanks for having me. Nice to meet you.

Antoine Walter: I’m really curious to discover a bit more about your solutions, but that starts with something we just said, which is you are quite active in that theme of Rethinking Water. So what makes you rethink Water?

Taylor O’Neil: Our company, Richard’s Rainwater, is the first company in the United States to get approval for bottling rainwater.

We’re harvesting water in a completely different way, trying to set up a decentralized network of collection sites to work to make water local, to make it more sustainable and to build what we think of as like the first renewable solution that looks like solar power for water.

Antoine Walter: Can you just deconstruct that’s? So that I understand how that works. You said decentralized, distributed?

Taylor O’Neil: Yep.

Antoine Walter: Collecting rainwater, then bottling it. What’s the size of one of these equipment? And where do they fit?

Taylor O’Neil: We have a collection site today in kiln, Mississippi with a brewery called Lazy Magnolia Brewery. We’re collecting millions of gallons of rain water at that site.

The next one will be partnered with a brewery in New Orleans called Fo Borg. That site, we believe, will be the largest potable rainwater facility in the world, capable to produce more than 10 million gallons of bottled rainwater every year. Each site is slightly different. The amount of water that you collect is proportionate to the amount of rain that falls and the size of the collection area that you’re collecting on.

So every time it rains one inch, every 1000 square feet of collection area collects 550 gallons of clean water. It’s just a surface area calculation. And so when I say decentralize, that’s what I mean. We’re gonna partner with lots of different local establishment. And try to make water as local to each community as possible so we can move the water the least possible distance from where we capture it to where it’s consumed.

We think when you combine those two methodologies, so sourcing water in the most efficient way possible, meaning requiring the least amount of treatment and harvesting the most of that raindrop that will ever be possible to be made potable relative to it ending up in runoff or recirculating through the water cycle in terms of evaporation.

Collecting more, collecting cleaner, and then transporting least distance possible is pretty much the nirvana of at least packaged water. And then over time, we’ll think about ways where we could eliminate the package and partner with other types of entities to maybe distribute the water into refillable packaging, like right here on site at a university, or in a mall, or at a sports stadium or something like that.

Bottled Rainwater addresses both water quality and access to water challenges

Antoine Walter: What is the number one problem which you intend to solve with your solution?

Taylor O’Neil: So I think it’s a perfect combination of the two most important things in water, which is water quality and water access. Rain is a naturally cleansing event in the atmosphere. It wants to collect everything that it touches, and so our process utilizes a natural event of the rainfall.

To let Mother Nature do its thing. We don’t bottle the first 0.2 inches of every rain event at each site. And then from there, we’re testing the raw rainwater. We’ve implemented a zero waste chemical free treatment process, so we’re putting the most, again, amount of that rain event into a usable form that you could ever possibly get from that event.

So increasing access and making water more available. But also prevents it from collecting the types of contamination that are becoming very common in service, water, and groundwater across the world. Meaning we can treat anything that is still there much more efficiently and effectively than the existing ways that water is handled.

By municipalities or other bottled water companies. And so it’s also increasing the quality of the water and limiting contamination. I think there’s all kinds of other really good things, like it helps with storm water management. It prevents you know, when there’s a super heavy rain event, prevents runoff from.

Collecting things and polluting other waterways. It prevents flooding in certain areas. So there’s a lot of benefits to what we’re doing, but I think from a pure water standpoint, it really is addressing the two biggest things that, that I’m sure everyone will be talking about today at the conference.

An increasing amount of Americans suffer from water quality problems

Antoine Walter: So this access to water, those are the 44 million. US inhabitants, which sometimes are exposed to bad quality tap water. Yes. And the 2 million people who simply don’t have access to any kind of drinking water.

Taylor O’Neil: Exactly. So that’s, I mean, when we first were got involved with Richard’s Rainwater, honestly it was because one of our largest investors has given lots of money to clean water charities, primarily in Africa and other parts of the.

And I would say the only thing that’s happened over the last five years since we got involved in rainwater harvesting is it’s become more clear to us and we think more clear to more people that there’s actually a pretty huge water crisis looming in the United States. So we live in Austin, Texas.

Our company’s based there every year since we got involved, there’s been at least three days where we were told to boil our water before you could drink it. That’s Austin, Texas. You know, generally perceived to be the next San Francisco in terms of technological investment and innovation. We just responded, sent 40,000 units of Bottled Rainwater to Jackson, Mississippi, where it rained so much.

That their municipal water system effectively stopped working. And then at the same time, we have drought on the West coast and you know, deteriorating aging infrastructure that is affecting millions and millions of people. It’s affecting our access to water, it’s affecting farmland, it’s affecting everything about humanitarian.

Relief as well as economic development. And so it’s awesome that there’s this conference where we’re gathering people from government and academia and private sector because realistically it’s gonna take more than a few rainwater harvesting bottling sites. It’s gonna take sort of macro thinking around the systems and processes and how we can connect places where it rains a lot with places.

Aren’t getting enough water before it’s too late. Sounds drastic, but before there’s more damage done.

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Selling Bottled Rainwater today – maybe Point of Use production solutions tomorrow?

Antoine Walter: What’s your business model in all of that? What do you deliver? What are the boundaries of what you deliver? Do you sell the water? Do you sell the system? What’s your approach?

Taylor O’Neil: Today we sell our water. We sell still water in an aluminum can, and we sell sparkling water in a glass bottle. It’s available nationwide at Whole Foods coming in. Sprouts available. Several regions of Kroger, most of the brand name retailers in our home state of Texas, like Albertsons and HEB in Central Market. So coming to a store near you soon.

And then as I said we believe that over time there will be other applications. For rainwater harvesting that were in the early days of evaluating the business model and the interest, but do believe that we could put it on a building like at Columbia University or Amazon’s warehouse or Tesla’s new facility and instead of using it to water the grass or not using it at all, which is usually the two most common approaches to, you know, rainwater harvesting today, we think we could turn it into potable uses and.

The water for much higher value applications. So, we’ll continue to look at those things. And then we’re also early days of scoring our projects, much like carbon credits. , so want to get engaged in the world of creating water credits where we could connect water positive. Projects that are good and contributing to all the things that hopefully we’ll spend a lot of time talking about and learning about today with users of water that want to pay it forward and reinvest back in concepts that are gonna make them closer to water neutral, just like businesses are sort of mandated to become carbon neutral and by some stakeholders today.

Educating the market to a new bottled water flavor – that’s maybe a bit more sustainable

Antoine Walter: Talking of users, how do they react to your approach? Are they puzzled? Are they happy? Are they enthusiastic?

Taylor O’Neil: So, So the most common feedback that I get is that the water just tastes different. It tastes better. It would make sense to me because it’s actually cleaner than other types of water that you could consume.

And then, you know, it ranges the spectrum. And usually there needs to be a five or 10 minute discussion about, Does that make sense? What? What about this? What about that? But I think. In the end, when they understand what we’re doing, that we’re trying to improve local communities, improve water access, do something that really looks a lot like solar power, it doesn’t take very long for it to click and go, That’s awesome.

And then they start thinking about the other choices that are available on the shelf and packaged water. The more I’ve learned about packaged water, I think it deserves sort of the big slogan. Big tech, big tobacco, big water. I is one of the worst polluters, one of the biggest contributors in my opinion, to some of these problems.

You know, it’s mostly just municipal water put into single use packaging plastic bottles that end up in the ocean or the Mississippi River. The rest of it is basically sourced at a single point on the earth, like say Fiji. France and send from that single point all over the rest of the planet, it doesn’t take much thinking to understand that moving something as heavy as water from Fiji to New York or from Fiji to Canada or wherever the hell else it’s going is not a real sensible solution.

We could rethink that process quite easily together, and so I think there’s just a huge amount of opportunity for our products and to develop a procedure. Creating water in a package which has its own issues just generally, but doing it in a way that’s as thoughtful and positive as we possibly can.

What’s the impact Richard’s Rainwater may have mid-term?

Antoine Walter: What we’ll tell you in, let’s say five years, that the situation drastically changed, it shifted that eternally said, I mean, we said, Here, rethinking water, not slightly changed water. Rethinking is quite bold. Yeah. What is your boldest vision for the next five years?

Taylor O’Neil: When I talk to my team, I mean, it’s easy for them and for us to be MyAlly focused on our products and on our business, but I think that honestly, the way for us to put it in the context of rethinking Water, Would be to evaluate the number of millions of gallons of rain water that’s harvested, whether it’s by Richard Rainwater or anyone if we’ve been a contributor.

To deploying, in my estimation, one of the most simple ways for us to begin rethinking water, which is just treating it with much more respect and much more value by taking care of it in the form of first, in my opinion, rainwater harvesting. That will be one way for us to grade. If we’ve made an impact beyond our own business, are more people doing this?

Has it begun to be more widely accepted? Is it done in lots of different environments? And have we been a contributor in driving a little bit of awareness towards a concept that I think could change the world and is quite simple in its most fundamental format. It just needs. And interest and a little bit of willpower.

That’s a lot easier to think about making an impact that way than inventing a vaccine in six months, or, you know, inventing the internet or curing cancer or all the other ways that really smart people make an impact. This one’s quite simple. It’s just gonna require a lot of people smart in a room.

Getting focused and being more deliberate about thinking about a water cycle that we learned about when we were in fifth grade or third grade. And it doesn’t change. So it’s just about how do we access it more efficiently, take care of it a little bit better and really I think thinking, rethinking is a.

Is a perfect title because this problem is certainly here but easily fixed with the right folks in the room and the right amount of long term planning process possible.

Antoine Walter: Thanks a lot, Taylor, and I hope you have a good conference.

Taylor O’Neil: Yeah, thanks for having me. Nice to meet you.

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