March 25, 2022

BLOOMINGTON, Illinois – A student-led project has established water access at the Peace Garden at Illinois Wesleyan University during the winter months.

Environmental Studies Major Ryan Reish ’22 led the plans for the development and installation of a water cistern to irrigate the Peace Garden greenhouse. He received help for the project from friends and other members of the registered student organization Peace Garden.

Ryan Reish ’22 tests the cistern water pump he helped design and install at the IWU Peace Garden.

The project began in 2021 when political science professor Jim Simeone pitched the idea to Reish during an internship. Reish, president of the Peace Garden, jumped at the chance as access to water had been a concern in recent years.

With a personal interest in irrigation, the project allowed Reish to combine his passion for sustainability, engineering and water management while helping the RSO he leads.

“The reason the cistern is so useful is that it completely eliminates the need to go to the Myers Visitor Center to get water, and it keeps our water from freezing in the winter,” Reish said. “Our independence from the municipal water supply means we don’t levy tolls on our already strained waterways and the fact that the cistern makes plant maintenance so much easier means we can grow more food. for the community.”

One of the challenges was the freezing temperatures experienced during Illinois winters. Although cisterns are not uncommon, creating one that collects rainwater and prevents it from freezing without access to electricity is a rare feat.

After countless hours of research, Reish came across Apocalypse Well Pumps, a Montana family business that makes freeze-resistant pumps. Founder Kurt Bloomback worked closely with Reish to design the project and develop a custom cistern pump for the application.

The first issue has been resolved. Reish spent the rest of his internship troubleshooting different ways to maintain the tank’s tank temperature. With the ground remaining at an average temperature of 50 degrees, Reish’s final design included the construction of an underground platform and insulation to secure antifreeze measures.

“It was good to know that I was building something that had never been done before,” Reish said.

Students work on the lid of the garden cistern
Ryan Reish ’22, left, works with friends to make a cover for the new cistern at the IWU Peace Garden.

Once the project design was finalized, Reish worked with other garden and community members to install the reservoir. The job was to dig a sizable hole to install the 275 gallon tank and attach the PVC gutter filtration system to collect rainwater from the hoop house.

“Another huge contributor to the project was Srinivas Garapati. He got involved with the Peace Garden because he was helping his son, who is an Eagle Scout, complete another rainwater harvesting system that connects to the same gutters as the cistern,” Reish said.

Reish expresses his gratitude to Professor Jim Simeone, community member Srinivas Garapati and his son, Peace Garden members, and friends for their continued support and assistance in making this project possible.

But Reish isn’t the only one grateful.

“Every time we water the greens in the hoop in the dead of winter, we thank Ryan,” Simeone said.

As a senior, Reish was able to leave his mark on campus by creating a project that will foster sustainability for years to come.

I like the idea that the cistern will be useful for years after I’m gone,” Reish said. “There was a lot of hard manual labor, but I have fond memories of building the project with my friends.”

Located on the east side of the IWU campus at 1212 N. Evans St., the Peace Garden’s mission is to meet the curricular and culinary needs of the student body while existing as a tool for civic engagement with the surrounding community, state, nation and globe. To learn more about RSO, visit the Action-Research Center page.

By Kailee Galloway ’23