The real Preston

The real Preston is a self-filling rainwater reservoir.

The real Preston is a brick reservoir that stores harvested rainwater.

You may have heard of the phrase, “The Real McCoy” meaning the real thing, that is popularly attributed to an escaped black slave in Canada who studied further in Scotland becoming a certified mechanical engineer. He was really an inventor, with eventually 57 patents to his credit, one of which was an automatic oiler of steam engines, formerly done entirely by hand. The story goes that when purchasing an engine, prospective buyers would ask if it had “the real McCoy.”

Today, I introduce “The Real Preston”!

Few things are more empowering than becoming largely self-sufficient with regard to the supply of water for our homes. Most South African women remain to this day under the curse of being carriers of water; on their heads rather than by hand, it is true. It’s not only about an adequate supply, but equally breaking the chain of transmission of serious bacterial diseases like typhoid and cholera from a poor water supply. According to the CSIR, “rainwater can be harvested not only for domestic use, but also to provide water for schools and clinics.” All of the available options must include being able to store water on site.

Most commonly reported recently is the government’s favourite, a 5,000 litre PVC tank costing apparently some R28,000 to install. Apart from the exorbitant price, it has the serious drawback, not unlike the engines prior to McCoy, of having to be filled regularly by a tanker.

Another rather better option would be a similarly sized fibreglass tank costing about R10,000 but it too has to be filled. They have the advantage of being nearly indestructible, are fire-proof and can be repaired if damaged.

And now introducing “The Real Preston.”

The Real Preston has the distinct advantage over the government’s preferred tank that for only an extra R2,000 if will store five times as much water, viz 25,000 litres, but its real benefit is that like McCoy’s automatic oiler, the real Preston is filled automatically, with no need to wait for the uncertain arrival of the government’s tanker. Well, one does have to wait for the spring rains to arrive.

This self-filling Preston however does have one drawback; it must be erected adjacent to a building with a roof with gutters. It is absolutely perfect for schools and has the advantage that it comes in many different sizes. For a school the governing body would need to look at a 500,000 litre Preston for a pristine, reliable supply of water.

The cost of a 25kl Preston is roughly divided 50/50 between material and labour. Bricks, cement sand and stone, and a roof would cost about R15,000; digging the hole, by hand, mixing the concrete, laying the bricks, plastering and fitting the roof another R15,000. It would be done by six strong men in about two weeks unless they belonged to a trade union, in which case one would have to reckon on two months with a high risk of non-completion.

The 50,000 kl Preston would have huge economy of scale, but obviously would require the services of a properly qualified civil engineer. The home job just requires a bit of savvy. Plastering it correctly and placing some reinforcing in the base and in the walls are the only challenges. Unlike McCoy, Preston never had the foresight to patent his design. It’s not rocket science.

August was Women’s Month; few things would be more empowering than for government to establish dozens of teams to build Real Prestons, enabling women to spend less time carrying water, water of questionable quality. Underground the water is very cold, even in midsummer, and I find it perfectly potable, but the good wife  does boil hers.

As I write, the spring rains have arrived and we listen with pleasure to the gurgle in the downpipes, and watch the water level in the Real Preston rising; for seven out of nine years we have again escaped having to use a drop of municipal water. You could do the same; so could remote schools and clinics. There is no need to be beholden to state incompetence.

The real Preston

The real Preston was conceived after seeing the oiler designed by McCoy that revolutionised steam engines.

Our complete underground rainwater reservoir.
  1. Bernard Preston
  2. Our green home
  3. Green rainwater harvesting
  4. The real Preston


Our newsletter is entitled "create a cyan zone" at your home, preserving both yourself, your family and friends, and Mother Earth for future generations. We promise not to spam you with daily emails promoting various products. You may get an occasional nudge to buy one of my books!

Here are the back issues.

  • Mill your own flour
  • Bake your own sourdough bread
  • Microplastics from our water
  • Alternative types of water storage
  • Wear your clothes out
  • Comfort foods
  • Create a bee-friendly environment
  • Go to bed slightly hungry
  • Keep bees
  • Blue zone folk are religious
  • Reduce plastic waste
  • Family is important
  • What can go in compost?
  • Grow broad beans for longevity
  • Harvest and store sunshine
  • Blue zone exercise
  • Harvest and store your rainwater
  • Create a cyan zone at your home

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56 Groenekloof Rd,

Hilton, KZN

South Africa