Harvesting Rainwater
Harvesting rainwater involves collecting and storing rainwater for future use. The uses of rainwater include drinking, bathing or cleaning. Because about 2.2 billion people around the world still lack clean water, harvesting rainwater is essential in collecting clean water. In India, about 54% of the subcontinent faces an extreme lack of clean water.

India’s Traditional Ways to Harvest Rainwater

India utilized the practice of harvesting rainwater for generations. Rural parts of India especially depend on harvesting rainwater to water crops, clean and do laundry and simply have something to drink.

One traditional rainwater harvesting method is surangas. It is one of the lesser-known methods of harvesting rainwater. It is mostly used in the Kasaragod district in the state of Kerala, which lies in the southeastern part of India on the peninsula.

Suranga is a type of horizontal tunnel in a hill. Waters flow through these tunnels into ponds. Suranga is a lifeline for the people in Kasaragod to meet their needs for drinking water.

Another common form of harvesting rain involves taankaas. Taankaas are underground tanks that serve as a reservoir. Taankaas provide water during times of water scarcity to 10,000 homes in the city of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarati near the Sabarmati River.

The Dangers of Harvesting Rainwater

Although harvesting rainwater is a simple and inexpensive method of collecting clean water, poorly maintained systems can be detrimental to users. Rainwater can flow over contaminated surfaces and collect parasites, bacteria and other harmful substances. The substances can cause diseases that would otherwise be avoidable.

The best way to avoid disease from rainwater is to use the water collected for cleaning or watering plants. However, since rainwater may be the only clean water source in India, citizens need to use it for drinking and cooking. The population in India can use a filtration system of chemicals to purify the water but sometimes they do not have the means to do so. Boiling the water is an inexpensive and simple way to quickly clean rainwater.

The Cost Effectiveness of Harvesting Rainwater

Despite the dangers of rainwater, it is still a safe and cost-effective method to collect clean water when used efficiently. The water collection depends on the area where people are catching the rainwater and the amount of rainfall in a particular region.

For example, a home in Delhi, India can catch up to 42,000 liters of water. With a terrace of 100 square meters and an average annual rainfall of 600 millimeters in Delhi, the 42,000 liters collected are twice as much as a family of five requires.

The installation of harvesting systems can occur at a low cost. If a family of five in Delhi can collect twice the amount of water it needs, the benefits outweigh the cost of installation and maintenance.

Although India suffers from water scarcity, innovative solutions including harvesting rainwater help relieve the stress of the water supply and provide safe, clean water for drinking, cooking, cleaning and bathing.

Chris Karenbauer
Photo: Flickr