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The management at our house watches a lot of football and golf. Granted, we have 2 televisions, but I have better things to do than sit and watch tv all day long...however, I do tend to absorb most of what goes on around me.

The other day we were watching a golf tournament in lovely Bermuda. It was pointed out to me that the background scenery showed what looked like snowy mountains. I guessed that what we were seeing were very tall, white sand dunes. However, upon closer inspection, we saw that nearly all the roofs of the houses and buildings of the settlement around the golf course, had white roofs! Now...I am a very curious person, and am always interested in the why and wherefores of things I am unfamiliar with. So I used my handy-dandy computer to look up, "Why are all the roofs of houses in Bermuda, white?".

After some searching, this is what I found:

Bermudians are some of the most water-conscious people in the Western world, and this consciousness is built into their homes. The blindingly white, limestone Bermuda Roof—an architectural rain-catch concept with roots dating back to the 17th century—is singularly responsible for making human life possible in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The roof of each home is mandated, by law, to catch and redirect rain into underground cisterns that serve as islanders’ primary source of freshwater. While initially conceived as a means of survival, the elegant roofs have become an aesthetic landmark.

It’s an ingenious concept, even if the land itself does most of the work. Bermuda is a limestone island, so for most of the houses, the stone that is unearthed to make room for the foundation and mandatory water tank becomes the slabs that form the actual roof. The sloping slabs then catch, slow, and redirect rain through several pipes that meet in the underground tank. “When it’s heavy rain, you actually hear it in the various downpipes in the walls,” says Geoffrey Smith, an environmental engineer with the Government of Bermuda. “It’s actually a nice sound.” He says regulations demand that 80 percent of each roof be designated for rain catch, and that for every 10 square feet of roof, the tank below must hold 100 gallons of water.

Indeed, rain is exalted, and water waste is condemned. “Bermudian kids are always taught about conservation and the Bermuda Roofs from a young age,” says Gilbert. From taking short showers, to turning off the water while brushing your teeth—and, in rough times—flushing toilets as little as possible, the interplay between water and survival is ingrained from a young age. “We were raised to be cognizant of how much water was in the tank,” he says. “We had to make it last.”

I am a Mountain Girl and not a Water Girl. But, in the middle of a Montana Winter, it is nice to think that the sun is blindingly bright, shining off of white rooftops, and the beaches warm and tropical, somewhere in this world...

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