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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

How Do You Water A Community Garden Hidden Among High-Rises? With Air Conditioner Condensation

West Loop residents are thinking outside the box to bring water to their community garden in a vacant lot.

West Loop residents transformed a vacant lot at 37 S. Sangamon into a temporary community garden.
Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago
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WEST LOOP — Innovation was key when resident Moshe Tamssot looked to turn a vacant West Loop lot into a community garden.

Without an immediate water source on the property, the founder of neighborhood-focused Facebook page True West Loop had to think outside of the box to ensure the community garden at 37 S. Sangamon would thrive.

Since it sprung to life in May, a group fo volunteers has relied on harvested rainwater to bring their plants to life. The group fills up gallons of water across the street at JC Licht True Hardware before transporting them to the garden several times each week, Tamssot said.

Meanwhile, he worked with engineers from Merit School of Music, a music school that sits behind the Sangamon lot, to figure out how to tap into the air conditioning units on the roof and capture their condensate.

Now, the West Loop neighbor’s plan to harvest the condensate from the air conditioners on the school’s roof is coming to life.

Manny Reynoso, a union pipefitter, volunteered to help after hearing about the idea to build a water collection system on Merit’s roof for a community garden.

“When he said what he was doing, I said, ‘I’m your guy. I can help,'” Reynoso remembered. 

Reynoso, who lives nearby, has been working with Tamssot and volunteers from the garden to construct a system that will collect the distillate from the eight AC systems on Merit’s roof.

The group is using 40 PVC and high-density polyethylene pipes to collect the water into an intermediate bulk container, a reusable industrial container designed for the storage of bulk liquid.

“What we’re going to be doing is gathering all that water together bringing it to a central pipe, and running the pipe off the side the Merit School roof and down into a reservoir,” Tamssot said.

“Our mission is basically to create gardens in vacant lots,” Tamssot said. “But it’s more than just a garden. It’s all about growing community.