Rainwater Harvesting practices should be more widespread
Water resources related blogs scientific or editorial ones will provide a vast volume of information on wastewater treatment, water energy, water sanitation, water-related infrastructure to collect and manage water. The feeling has been just guilt with tap water running in our sink when same time water is more valuable than oil for some people.
It is paradox that climate change has caused in normally dry countries, some of them which face drought and hunger, heavy rains, floods, and the excess of water flow caused damages to agricultural efforts, destroyed buildings – and hospitals, even caused human deaths; at the same time we cannot solve the problem for all nations equally to provide clean healthy water and efficiency in agricultural sector
Floodwaters are left to evaporate or flow into lakes or the ocean, rather than be put to use to support agriculture and industry, supply drinking water to both humans and wildlife, generate power, and provide recreation. There is a clear need to bridge this gap.
Tremendous is the contradiction of human development in all sectors including in technology, yet inadequacy to secure water, or clean water, furthermore food related to the water. We cannot fight poverty unless we can utilize water for food production massively in ecosystems in need. Studies also reveal that almost half of the water is used unsustainably and violates life-supporting environmental flows of the rivers.
2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aims well to double agricultural productivity and Water Sustainability with methods which will reduce water consumption as currently part is lost in transfer and application. In Tajikistan, environmental flow constraints imply a 15% loss of food production, but a change from surface to sprinkler systems compensates for such losses. In the context of the SDG discussion, however, a lot of strategies remain largely unexplored and certainly merit higher political attention.
In fact, farm water management turns out to be a pivotal target in supporting the implementation of the ambitious yet conflicting SDG agenda.
While irrigation can be improved, rainwater management is the largest untapped opportunity to tackle the water-food security challenge
Smallholder farmers still produce more than half of the world’s food; often it is not the total volume, but the unreliable and erratic rainfall that poses the greatest problems.
Water harvesting, for instance, is an effective traditional, yet widely underexplored measure to collect and store excess rainwater for supplemental irrigation during dry spells
Conservation tillage and mulching – crop residues or plastic films covering the soil surface – are additional rainwater management techniques that help alleviate soil evaporation.
In semi-arid farming systems, such simple interventions can prevent crop failure, sustainably double crop yields, and strengthen climate resilience, directly improving livelihoods of the poor. While these traditional and affordable farming practices are sporadically applied, they can be scaled up, particularly in regions where both population and food demand is growing fast.
In summary, data showing that better irrigation systems can compensate for food production losses. Combined with optimizing the use of rainwater, food production can even see a 10% global net gain — with regional gains often over 20% — suggesting that the potential of farm water management intervention is well beyond what we expected.
Globally progressive countries which combat water stability threats already focus to stormwater optimization, by controlling flooding and water supply, like Singapore.
There is a governmental policy to achieve the development of an extensive network of canals and drains that spans over 8,000km. This network has reduced Singapore’s flood-prone area by almost 98% in only 40 years and directs rainwater to one of Singapore’s 17 reservoirs, where it is treated to be suitable for portable use (Zhang et al, 2015).
Today, about half of Singapore’s land area is used as catchments for rainwater collection. Catchment areas are heavily protected, and no pollution-causing activities are allowed in these areas.
Countries may be motivated to implement environmentally friendly policies for different reasons and often take different approaches to reduce potable water usage
Decentralizing of sewerage systems has proven to be highly effective in Germany. Brazilian and Chinese rural habitats have benefited from government-funded programs that allow them to capture water during the rainy season and store it for later usage. Singapore has invested in highly efficient canals and drains and has protected a large number of the catchment in order to avoid pollution of rainwater. Australia, one of the driest continents on earth, has encouraged citizens and businesses to implement rainwater harvesting technology by providing funding towards these projects.
Rainwater harvesting technology is central to the conversation about tackling water scarcity.
A market-leading water treatment system supplier, Cleanawater, states its mission to accept challenges of water scarcity by designing, manufacturing and installing commercial water harvesting and water treatment solutions for industry. The application of this technology includes reducing water usage at commercial and industrial sites such as wash bays, car washes, and workshops. By encouraging sustainable business practices, we hope to be leaders in water management and reduce the impact of water scarcity.
Treating wastewater for communities, industries, and remote sites, with a portfolio of sustainable solutions and market-leading technologies, another supplier, Fluence, has more than 30 years of experience in the design, construction, and operation of wastewater treatment plants, using proprietary technologies for a wide range of municipal, commercial, and industrial clients, for decentralized, standard, and custom-designed wastewater treatment solutions.
Which are the models applicable in lands with a pure agricultural ecosystem? Why we don’t see advocate politics in dynamic groundwater or rainwater collection management in lands that truly need the water? Why governments are restricted only to desalination or water pipe transportation and do not invest in several models suggested by colossal water treatment suppliers?
In Saudi Arabia, studies verify the potential for rainwater harvesting at the household level in the dry climate of the Kingdom. The amounts of rainwater that can be harvested in several cities in Saudi Arabia were estimated and it was found that a significant volume, exceeding 7.5 m3/100 m2 per year, can be harvested. The per cubic meter cost of harvesting rainwater was compared to that of producing desalinated water:
It was found that harvested rainwater is cheaper to capture than desalinated water produced from renewable energy-driven desalination plants
But that is not the case for fossil fuel-powered desalination. The study as Mr. Mokhtar Guizani states also considered the effects of rainwater harvesting on mitigating floods and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A cost-benefit analysis of installing rooftop rainwater harvesting systems in Saudi Arabia was performed:
It revealed that it is economically feasible to harvest rain in cities including Hail, Jeddah, Taif, and Riyadh, while it is not recommended in the holy cities of Makkah, Medina, and Buraidah.
In Africa, as Dr. Esther Ngumbi states, sustainable crop production requires a consistent supply of water to make up the difference when the rains fail.
Across the continent, communities have employed new methods of harvesting rainwater, but these practices have not yet been widely adopted due to the high cost of the resources and technologies involved.
For example, in Rwanda, the expense of rainwater-harvesting tanks has prevented many citizens from storing water. A 5,000-liter water tank costs up to $500, while a 10,000-liter tank can cost $1,000.
Farmers and herders are using trapezoidal bunds and water pans to preserve rainwater for human and livestock consumption and to irrigate crops when drought strikes. Trapezoidal bunds, which consist of long ridges (bunds) of earth constructed on a hill in the shape of a trapezoid, catch rainwater as it flows down the hill.
Water pans—small water reservoirs created by excavating open ground—capture and store surface runoff from uncultivated land, hillsides, roads, rocky areas, and open rangelands. These systems, both recommended by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, have been successfully tested in Turkana County, Kenya, where locals collected water from flash floods and used it to produce fruits, vegetables, and sorghum (a source of grain). Other methods that are just as simple to implement include water ponds (small excavated depressions), water tanks (containers made from plastic, fiberglass, or concrete), land-based dams (a barrier that holds and restricts the flow of water), and rock catchment systems (developed from a rock outcrop to catch and store rainwater runoff).
African countries ought to invest in local and national government initiatives on a larger scale, as well as prioritize the rehabilitation of lakes and wetlands. These bodies of water can serve as giant dams, reducing the amount of water lost as runoff and preventing flash floods, which destroy property and take lives.
According to a U.N. report, the amount of rainwater that could be captured in countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, both of which are affected by drought and food insecurity, would far exceed the needs of their current populations.
The Kenya chapter plans to construct 1 million water ponds. The water collected and stored will be used to support agribusiness and dryland farming, a farming practice in arid regions that minimize water usage. Rwanda’s Natural Resources Authority, a government agency, also launched a program in one county that installed more than 4,000 water tanks to harvest rainwater.
These developments are positive, but much more is needed to make a real difference.
Less than 5 percent of Africa’s rainwater is harvested and stored for future uses. Capturing even this amount of rainwater provides many people with multiple gallons for consumption and agriculture during prolonged droughts, but at the same time, the rainwater-harvesting initiatives currently in place serve only a fraction of Africa’s 1.2 billion citizens. African nations need to ensure that no further rainwater goes to waste.
It makes us feel like observers against the tremendous efforts by institutions, missions, governments, and municipalities. But if we don’t act ourselves in every single way we can. It can be a donation, it can be a form of activism, it can be every mean to influence units or people around us implementing the subject of rain harvesting.
Jägermeyr, J., Pastor, A., Biemans, H. and Gerten, D. (2017): Reconciling irrigated food production with environmental flows for Sustainable Development Goals implementation.
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Blog on rain harvesting in Africa by Esther Ngumbi and Sam Dindi.
Esther Ngumbi is a distinguished postdoctoral researcher at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Entomology Department and a food security fellow with Aspen Institute’s New Voices Fellowship.
Sam Dindi works in the field of tourism and wildlife management in Kenya.
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