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Rainwater Harvesting

Our school textbooks often tell us that 3/4th of the earths surface is covered by water. Why then is there water scarcity? How do we solve this dilemma? The answer often is ‘Rainwater Harvesting’.

What does this mean?
According to Boers and Ben-Asher rain water harvesting is defined as “a method for inducing, collecting, storing and conserving local surface runoff for agriculture in arid and semi-arid regions”.

How to harvest rain water?
Rainwater harvesting can be done in 2 ways:

  1. By storing it in containers that are present either above or below the ground
  2. By adopting a hydrologic process where water moves downward from surface water to groundwater known as ground water recharging.

The decision on whether to recharge or store the water depends on the rainfall pattern as well as the region it is being adopted in.  

Where to store the rainwater?
This is the next question that arises. The techniques found in Africa and Asia for storage arise from the practices followed by ancient civilizations. These can be largely classified into 3 parts i.e. catchment areas, collection devices and conveyance systems. Catchment areas are indicative of places where water can be stored namely the roof tops and land surface areas. The land surface areas assist in collection of a larger quantity of water. Collection devices vary from storage tanks as well as rainfall water containers. Storage tanks can be placed either above or below the ground while rainfall water tanks are above the ground and have taps connected to various points in the house. Conveyance systems focus on the steps that need to be undertaken to ensure a smooth transition of rainwater collected on rooftops for example into storage tanks. The most common system here is the down-pipe flap, where the rainwater is first collected in a particular container which has a funnel within it that enables the trapping of dirt so as to ensure flow of clean water later into another container after the rain has stopped.

The biggest advantage of Rainwater harvesting is that it is simple to install and operate. At the same time one of its major disadvantages is the high unpredictability of rainfall.

One of the largest rainwater harvesting systems in the world is at the Rastrapathi Bhavan grounds. This was initiated by the President of India in 1998 – K.R. Narayanan. Rashtrapati bhavan is spread across 360 acres and on an average requires 15 lakh (approx) liters of water for its residents and 5 lakh liters (approx) for its gardens. Rainwater collected from the roof and pavement around Rashtrapati Bhavan is hived off to an underground storage tank that has a capacity of I lakh liters and this water is for low quality use. Overflow from that is diverted to 2 dug wells for recharging. The water that is collected from the roads, rooftops and parks is also used for recharging. Further from one part of the property the water is directed to a dry dug well along with the water from the pool.
Its always better late than never, we each can begin saving water for our future generations through more conscious usage of water and conservation methods. If not, we have to hope that the wish to get water from the moon may just come true.

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