by Tim Willmott : Be the first to leave a comment
In 1998, communities in the Moneragala district in Sri Lanka’s dry zone initiated low-cost rainwater harvesting technology, using tanks to collect and store rain channelled by gutters and pipes as it runs off the roofs of houses. Despite an indigenous tradition of rainwater harvesting and irrigation systems going back to the third century BC, modern policy-makers have often overlooked the value of such technologies.
The UK’s Intermediate Technology Development Group‘s (ITDG’s) South Asia team worked with the community to develop a bottom-up approach to the project, aiming to build local skills among builders and users of the tanks, creating systems which allow communities to manage their own rainwater harvesting schemes. The community of Muthukandiya was involved throughout. Two meetings were held, where villagers analysed their water problems, developed a mitigation plan and selected the rainwater harvesting technology. Two local masons received several days training in building the 5,000 litre household storage tanks: surface tanks made out of ferro-cement and underground tanks from brick. Each system, including tank, pipes, gutters and filters, cost US$195 – equivalent to a month’s income for an average village family.
Just over half the cost was provided by the community, in the form of materials and unskilled labour. ITDG South Asia contributed the rest, including cement, transport and payment for the skilled labour. Households learned how to use and maintain the tanks, while the whole community was trained to keep domestic water supplies clean. In addition, a village rainwater harvesting society was set up to run the project. To date, 37 families in the area have storage tanks, providing considerably more water for domestic needs than households relying on other sources. During the dry months, households with tanks may have up to twice as much water available, which is also cleaner than the alternatives.
Rainwater harvesting is now used across the globe, and will become increasingly important as demand for water increases.