Harvesting Rainwater to Meet Basic Human Needs


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Harvesting Rainwater to Meet Basic Human Needs

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Harvesting Rainwater to Meet Basic Human Needs

  1. 1. February 2008
  2. 2. Harvesting Rainwater to Meet BasicHuman NeedsIts estimated that more than one-sixth of theworlds population -- about 1.1 billion people --lack adequate water supplies and have accessonly to non-potable water. A further 2.4 billionpeople have no improved sanitation facilities.The UN Millenium Development Goals will remain adream unless poor communities are a part of thedecision making process to manage, control and ownthe water source and distribution.Rainwater harvesting using rooftops andunderground tanks is a traditional approachestablished over hundreds of years. Rainfall onrooftops is collected and channeled into undergroundtanks or small reservoirs that can store and provideenough safe drinking water to meet daily needs formonths.The success of Barefoot initiatives in rainwaterharvesting and well recharging as part of the collective efforts of rural communities in India havedemonstrated the need to reintroduce traditional, low-cost technologies that communities can implementthemselves.The Barefoot approach draws upon local knowledge and skills, and involves local people toadminister, supervise and finance their own community development. This helps to reducedependency on external aid and creates a sense of local ownership in managing the local water supply. Constructing Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting Systems Constuction of rainwater harvesting systems in The Gambia will provide clean drinking water to school children in 6 rural communities. Working with Riders for Health in The Gambia, villages of Kankurang and Kanfenkeng now have rooftop rainwater harvesting systems constructed by Barefoot Water Engineers trained by the Barefoot College in Tilonia. Four more rainwater harvesting systems are under construction in other communities in The Gambia. Working with Safer Future for Youth Development in Sierra Leone, four tanks have been constructed and UNICEF has approved funding for rainwater harvesting systems in 4 more schools. Ten rainwater harvesting systems are also under construction or already in use in Mali and Ethiopia. Construction of Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting System in Sierra Leone >> In 2008, the Barefoot College will be working with NGO partners in Africa to create community-managed water systems: in Benin through a small indigenous organization, in Malawi through CCODE and the Homeless Federation, and in Mauritania through Norwegian Church Aid. Funding for nearly 20 rooftop rainwater harvesting systems in Benin, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, and The Gambia is being provided by ALCAN (Canada), Art Venture (Singapore), Fondation Ensemble (France), Het Groene Woudt (Netherlands), Norwegian Church Aid (Norway), Skoll Foundation (USA), and UNICEF. Guidelines for Constructing Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting Systems >>Water & Sanitation for Rural Schools
  3. 3. Thousands of remote rural schools all over the worldhave no water for drinking or sanitation. There arealso no simple hand flushed toilets in these schoolswhich often prevents girls, who need privacy, fromattending school. When children should be learningto read and write, they are instead walking longdistances to fetch water during school hours.Too often, the technical solutions being offered tomeet the drinking water needs of children in primaryand middle schools are not sustainable. The source isprimarily ground water. Its location, extraction anddistribution is prohibitively expensive. It is simply notpossible for all the government schools in any countryto have access to water by relying on groundwater.Rooftop rainwater harvesting is the only feasible answer. A typical rooftop rainwater harvesting system to collect 100,00 liters for a remote rural school requires a one-time investment of between $5,000 and $10,000, depending on whether the tank is constructed in alluvial or hard rock areas. For less than 5 to 10 cents per liter, this rainwater system can provide clean drinking water and functioning toilets in a school for 6 months in a drought region. Ground water recharge is a complementary, low- cost solution, that can be implemented by the community. By constructing small dams across dry tributaries and riverbeds and allowing the rainwater collected to percolate, it is possible to replenish wells and aquifers. By channeling surfacerainwater into unused and dry open wells, it is possible to revitalize the thousands of dry hand pumps andtraditional open wells for irrigation. Local people can be trained to repair and maintain their own handpumps.Learn more about Water & Community Development >>An Appeal to Provide Drinking Water and Sanitation at Remote, Rural Schools >> Clean Drinking Water for More than 239,000 Children in 7 Countries For over 20 years, the Barefoot College has worked with rural communities to develop their own rainwater harvesting systems and community-managed water supplies: · In India, nearly 1300 systems in 17 states with a total storage capacity of 47 million liters provide clean water to over 235,000 school children in remote, rural communities. · In Afghanistan and 5 countries in Africa, 15 rainwater systems constructed since 2006 with a total storage capacity of 1.5 million liters provide clean water to over 4,200 school children. Summary of Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting Systems -2007 >>Learn more about project funding for construction of Rainwater Harvesting Systems for Schoolsusing the Barefoot approach >>The Engineer vs the Community
  4. 4. It is an engineering practice all over the world tocollect rainwater in ferro cement tanks above ground -even though this approach has proven disadvantages.The disadvantages of above ground tanks are:· A limited amount of rainwater can be collected - notmore than 20,000 liters.· The heat of summer cracks the tank so its life span islimited.· The taps connected to the tank do not last long. Theybreak and there is often no one to repair them. Waterruns freely and no one bothers to conserve the water.· The cost of this type of tank for the amount of watercollected makes this alternative too expensive.· A private contractor is needed to construct the above ground tank.Communities relying on their traditional knowledge have demonstrated that it is cheaper, andmore cost effective over time, to collect rainwater below the ground.The advantages of the Barefoot approach to rainwater harvesting using a below ground tank are:· More water can be collected - 100,000 liters and more.· Water will not evaporate since it is underground, and if constructed properly, it will not leak.· There are no taps. Once underground, water can be pumped through a low cost hand pump so no water iswasted. Only as much water as the person needs is pumped.· Underground tank construction is cheaper, only costing between 2 and 10 cents per liter.· The top portion of the underground tank creates a platform that can be used for meetings or to conductnight school classes.There is no question that there is a need to change the mindset among civil engineers. Whether it is in themountains or on the plains, the Barefoot engineering approach to rooftop rainwater harvesting is the onlyfeasible solution for poor communities around the world.Join the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council >>Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council, December 2007 Newsletter >>