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Innovative water structures save time and money during floods and mud slides.
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by Kathleen Landis

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"Water, water, everywhere..." That was what David Doolaege pondered as he stood in a sandbag line in a small North California stream. There must be a better way to contain floodwaters, he mused. That was is the late 1980's. By the mid 1990's, Doolaege had developed his patented Water Structures, and Opened for business as Aqua Dam, Inc.. Doolaege's product relies on the very element that causes the problem: water. It's uses cover the spectrum from property protection to temporary containment of spilled materials, to stemming mud slides. Water Structures' patented design consists of four components. The first: a series of impermeable inner tubes filled with water that provide the mass that creates stability. (Depending upon their configuration, the tubes are filled from one, or both ends through a 3-inch hole.) The second: a strong, woven outer tube that houses the inner tubes for structural integrity. The third: water; the fourth, a collar that connects the two or more Water Structures, when needed. The inner tubes are made from extruded plastic, much like household garbage bags, says Doolaege. The outside tube is made of geo-textile fabricated to withstand extreme pressure, harsh sunlight and normal wear and tear. Water Structures® are also reusable.

Sells & Rents the Products

"For most homeowners, Water Structures® should last a lifetime," says Doolaege. He adds that both the inside and outside materials can be replaced, if necessary. Doolaege both sells and rents his products, depending upon customers' needs. Construction companies tend to rent them while individuals tend to purchase them, he notes. Purchase is the cheaper alternative when the buyer plans to use the structure more than once. Water Structures® come in one to ten foot high units. While hesitant to quote exact prices, Doolaege says that a 4 foot high

unit sells for $39 per foot and a 6 foot high unit sells for $69 per foot. A group of  Sacramento residents are glad that they learned about Water Structures, albeit too late the first time. As many as 85 homeowners at Sacramento's "Woodside" condominium community incurred $1 million in property damages and $1.5 million in personal property losses during the floods of February, 1997. The condominium's location, on several sloughs, means that there is a constant danger of flooding. In 1998 those homeowners were prepared for the anticipated storms, according to property manager Judy Munz. Homeowners Association fees paid for the installation and lease of 1700 feet of two-foot high Water Structures, in late December, 1997. "The structures went up in a matter of hours and because of them we were not flooded out during the storms," says Munz, gratefully. "It would have taken seven or eight thousand sandbags and considerably more time to cover the same area on our 56 acres. In fact, we'd still be there," she says with a chuckle. 

How many Water Structures® has Doolaege sold? He says thousands of individual Water Structures, and hundreds of miles of structures. The majority of sales are within the construction industry. Approximately twenty percent are to individual buyers.

Going Global

Doolaege has customers around the world, in South Africa, England, Canada, and across the United States. He markets to potential customers via a web site (www.waterstructures.com), and through minimal advertising in "land" and "water" magazines. Mostly, his product sells itself through word-of-mouth advertising. A steady customer is the Army Corps of Engineers. The water wizard took a critical call from the Corps in February of 1997. It concerned problems along the Sutter Bypass Levee, located an hour north of Sacramento.

 "Between $5 and $10 million had already been spent to rebuild the levee and a second anticipated flood was going to wash it all away," Doolaege explains.  His daunting task was to install an additional 800 feet of Water Structures® to beat the rising water, in under seven hours. "We worked from 11p.m. until 6a.m., and completed the job on deadline. We charged them $15,000," says Doolaege. Three days later, with the problem under control, Doolaege's crew dismantled the structures. The crew was in and out within two hours. That same day Doolaege sold 300-feet of the same Water Structures® to a motel on the shores of Clear Lake, California, where they protected the structure during the February, 1998 floods. The only problem to date has been with vandalism. "Mother nature can't puncture our structures," Doolaege says. "Dogs can run on them; people can jump on them. You just can't walk on them with you golf shoes." However, if tears do occur the torn units can be patched with a special tape. So what does the future hold for Water Structures? Doolaege is full of plans, many of which revolve around recreational uses. He envisions a platform above the ocean where people can watch whales, and is already building platforms in lakes for use as play structures, and as temporary docks. "You can fall on these things safely, and they can be played on," he says. "We've found a different way of using water." And how are sales? "1998 kicked off well because of construction jobs and El Nino," says Doolaege, who adds that construction-related work brought in $25,000 in January of 1998. He doesn't wish to share his annual revenues but will say that revenues have increased every year since he began the business. Doolaege also adds that the Peruvian government is considering the purchase of hundreds of miles of Water Structures. For further information, contact:

Water Structures Unlimited, PO Box 206, Carlotta, California 95528 or call 800-682-9283. They can also be contacted via email at: info@waterstructures.com