This blog is dedicated to our Journalists for Rainwater Harvesting. They will report on examples of rainwater harvesting in their own countries and communities, helping us raise the profile of rainwater harvesting - both locally and globally.

Friday 18 September 2015

Rain Water Harvesting @ Sarjapur Road, Fire Station, Bangalore

We were driving past the Sarjapur Road Fire station and Rain Water Harvesting specialists Vijayraj and Michael Baptiste decided to make a stop to show me the facility that they had set up. This is in water starved Sarjapur where all around like locusts water tankers were rushing around carrying water to the hundreds of flats which have sprung up across the area.

This is a small station unlike the massive places we are used to in old Bangalore. Built in a modern style where the shelter for the fire engines is very futuristic, like something out of the cartoon characters, the Jettsons.

A massive ten thousand litre tank stood behind the main building into which the rain water from the entire roof poured into this tank. The water was directed into a large filter, which first threw out the dirt like leaves and other debris, before it allowed the water to flow into the tank.

Check out the picture and see the leaves from the nearby champak tree first removed by the filter before the clean water flows in.

But as Vijayraj explained in detail, even the run off once the tank was full was not lost. Pipes took the over flow into a massive underground sump where not a drop of water was lost.

For a Fire station in a water starved area is definitely a positive step to harness the rain and a positive step towards a sustainable solution making it less dependant on the government water supply.

Friday 29 May 2015

Rain Water Harvesting in The Grand Oak, Coorg, India

For a journalist who is passionate about Rain Water Harvesting it was exciting to see what Chitra Ganapathy has done in her home - stay called The Grand Oak in Coorg. A thirteen acre property, Chitra has over the last 15 years turned the acerage which was dry and barren into a lush paradise. How?
She has Rain Water harvested every drop that falls from the skies and let the water fill up a lake which she got dug 15 years ago which keeps the wells in the property and the water table up.

Huge Hume pipes criss cross the property and take the water down to the lake and the over flow goes into the stream which runs around the property.

Chitra has the stream running all around the property which as can be seen in the picture, is full with water through most of the year.

Once in the summer she needed water desperately and began to use the water in the lake she has dug. As the water in the lake went down the water in all the wells dropped to nothing. Then speaking to a water specialist he told her never to use the water in the lake as the rain water harvested there keeps the water table of the area high throughout the property.

The lake as you can see is a serene water body which her home-stay guests love to sit around and enjoy the peaceful expanse of water with large fish in it.

Rain Water is such a boon and Chitra has seen the benefits of harvesting it all on her property. We city dwellers need to learn from her and then never do we need to suffer from the harsh reality of no fresh water during our scorching summers.

Friday 27 June 2014

Rain water harvesting in a leafy London suburb

If its London, it must be raining ! This is the common thought that runs through most people's minds, so then where does the question of rain water harvesting arise?  Rainwater harvesting for me a journalist out of India is meant for countries with fresh water scarcity issues. Obviously that was an ignorant supposition as wasting of valuable rain water can happen anywhere in the world.  
Chatting with a London resident who lives in the leafy  London suburb of Woking, one finds that a system of 'harvesting' the rain has existed for decades here in London and he took me around his 100 year old home in Woking to explain the system.

"In Woking there is a system called a  soakaway where building regulations require you to adequately dispose of stormwater from the building. To try and ensure water is dispersed into the ground evenly and quickly you must consider the use of a soakaway in all homes, according to the council," explains David.

" You must use a soakaway, if design criteria can be met. Discharging stormwater into a drain will only be allowed if soakaways or other infiltration into the soil, methods are not suitable," said David.

So we were curious to know how  do soakaways work? Soakaways store the immediate stormwater run-off to allow infiltration into the adjacent soil. Then, they  must discharge their stored water sufficiently quickly, to provide the necessary capacity to receive run-off from a subsequent storm. The time taken for discharge depends upon the soakaway shape and size and the surrounding soil's capacity to absorb. Soakaways can be constructed in many different forms and from a range of materials .

Interestingly one cannot just build a soakaway without first checking if a soakaway is the most suitable means of disposing of stormwater. That is done by checking if the soil around the building can absorb water; the site is not on filled ground; the site does not slope towards the building and; the water table is not too high already. Other rules are that  soakaways can be sited at least 5m from any buildings and if one is close to boundaries the neighbour should be consulted.

The council gives guidelines which are interesting to read up on, regarding the building of the Soakaway In most cases where the soil drains well, and the roof area is less than 100m2, you will be able to construct an open chamber type soakaway, as follows:

Calculate the roof area to be drained into each soakaway. Then calculate the volume of the soakaway:
Roof area in m2 divided by 40 = Volume of soakaway in m3 (AxBxC)
The volume can then be measured below the incoming pipe and above top of foundation.
The council is particular that the  residents ask for an inspection of the drainage and the soakaway while it is being constructed.

David's soakaway was in the middle of his lawn! Well, if this can be done in London, why ever not elsewhere right?

Marianne de Nazareth

Monday 16 June 2014

Alliance for the Rain Movement

“Success will be bigger if we work together”, said Vessela Monta, executive director to International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance (IRHA), at a meeting held on 28 November 2013. Representatives of different organizations with a sole motive to establish Nepal Rainwater Harvesting Alliance (NeRHA) were present in the meeting. The alliance aims to suppress the feeling of competition among those participating organizations and bring them together for better outcomes in Rainwater Harvesting aspects of Nepal.

As the alliance is in starting phase, agendas on network criteria and necessities were discussed and prioritized. After the discussion among the participants, a scoping team of 5 members has been formed. Meeting to be held once in every two months is also decided and agreed. The profiling of all the activities related to rainwater harvesting practices by the member organizations was decided by the meeting. Along with this advocacy through newsletters and information dissemination in the website will be initiated. 

As it is going to take time for binding and shaping up the other functions of the alliance, Lumanti will act as Secretariat of the alliance until the alliance is registered according to the NGO’s rules and regulations of Nepal. 

Government shall be invited as an advisor rather than being involved in the networking aspect of the alliance. The meeting adjourned to be held on 31 January 2014 and a work plan shall be discussed next. 

By Bimala Gurung

Harvesting Rain for Terrace Farming

With the growing consensus among the city dwellers about the organic farming on the rooftop recently an exhibition for the promotion of terrace farming was held as a possible alternative way to maintain greenery, manage the solid waste and good security by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
Inaugurating the event Deputy Minister Prakash Man Singh advocated in favor of providing environment for the further promotion of terrace farming. The exhibition showcased different technologies for recycling, waste treatment, irrigation, organic farming along with the low cost water harvesting technology for sustaining farming practices.
With the concept of utilizing rainwater for terrace farming and other household purposes a model of Rainwater Harvesting system along with the treatment system and reuse of wastewater was demonstrated by Niva Rain in collaboration with Guthi, a member of Nepal Rainwater Harvesting Alliance (NeRHA). Visitors who were positive regarding the framing practice became even more enthusiastic when they were introduced with the rainwater harvesting system as it seems promising in delivering rainwater to fulfill their greenery mission.
Rainwater harvesting demonstration presented complete solution for the collection, storage, purification and reclamation of water for the mass of people who were still in confusion regarding the installation of system. The reclamation of water through constructed wetland along with the purification of water through Bio-sand filter provided answer to the queries of visitors who believed harvesting is for temporary only. Further limelight to the exhibition stall was added by Narendra Man Dongol who himself has installed the system and has been living on rainwater. His daily water demand and yearly saving on water was even more exemplary for the visitors.
With the water demand of 1200 liters per day, supplied through reclaimed water, 700 liters and rest 500 liters from the rainwater he has been able to save Rs.5000 per month. Amazed with the figures Niraj Dongol one of the visitors said that “dream of Kathmandu city as sustaining eco city seems to be possible, when every drops of rain are used in blooming every seeds through harvesting practice.”
The stall not only grabbed the attention through cost effective technologies but also introduced portable sack tank commercially known as ‘BOB’. The sack tank is easy to transport and weighs only 3.5kgs when empty. It can fit into an airline hand carry bag when folded and despite its size; it has a capacity to hold 1400 liters of water. The outer bag of sack tank is UV resistant woven polypropylene and the liner is 100% virgin polyethylene- a material that is approved for contact with food. The cost of this tank is NPR 5 per liter. While comparing this with the Reinforcement Concrete (RCC) tank that costs NPR 30 per liter and PVC black tank that costs NPR 11 per liter.
For the tenants who could not harvest their share of rainwater due to lack of space now can claim their share of water, informed Prakash Amatya, a member of NeRHA. For those who depend on still water of dug well, can now enjoy the fresh shower through harvesting of rainwater. Since this bag is portable, it could be used in monsoon months only and wrapped up for the rest of the season.
Excited with this new innovation Purna Limbu said, “Rainwater harvesting has always been alternative for the water crisis but this water bag has been alternative to the space crisis also, now everyone can have easy access to rain water”
Really, rainwater has been boon to the existence of living organisms, needless to say what its importance is in our daily life however, at the recent time when the world is facing serious water woes rainwater harvesting plays a vital role in reducing extraction of ground water to increment in ground water table. Considering this utility of rainwater we need to harvest  every single drop of water not only harvest rather also reclaim it so we could fully trust on rainwater, which  is not so herculean task just the right blend of available technology. If Narendra can depend on rainwater through this technology then why can’t we?

By Neha Basnet

Saturday 14 June 2014

Aalkohiti blesses no more!!

A stone spout once a model of conservation to many other stone spout and community initiatives is now looking for more efficient system that would revive it. Aalkohiti is dying, having the history of more than 1600 years, Aalkohiti has seen many prosperous and adverse years, and at times it gave life- water to majority of residents near it but now with starting of dry season the hiti itself is dying. Like all other hitis of Kathmandu this historic stone spout was counting its days to extinct however people from the surrounding community gave it life by ensuring continuous recharge of water to flow via Rainwater Harvesting, and gave it a modern twist by supplying water to 200 household ensuring the accountability of the water users to conserve the stone spout.

pond next to aalkohiti at present

Supported by various organizations, Aalkohiti conservation was initiated by the locals giving it life. Once people discovered the water in the hiti comes only if ground water is recharged, people concluded in artificially recharging groundwater by collecting rainwater of the 300m long pavement. “Two recharge structures were constructed, but at the moment one has been buried as it is no longer recharging while we are also facing problems in recharging via remaining recharging well, resulting in lesser recharge of rainwater,” shared Mr. Sushil Shrestha, a pioneer in conservation of Aalkohiti.

For more than a decade the recharge structure served to conserve Aalkohiti and supply water to more than 200 families in the locality through pipelines and hundreds of other families who collected water without any hindrance except in the dry season. “It was routine that Aalkohiti would dry during the dry season almost for two months, but this year the hiti has dried a month earlier probing acute shortage of water in the locality,” said Anil Shrestha a local resident.

While it is obvious that water source would dry up during the dry season, this time rise in temperature has played its significant role, meanwhile the less recharge of the water during rainy season is another reason that Aalkohiti is not serving people a month earlier than its usual routine. “The situation is being routine these years as we have buried one recharge structure and water recharging has slowed sown in another recharging well,” analysed Mr. Sushil. According to him the recharge well are being jammed with the mud from around the well and blocking the passage of the water as it has closed the pores of the gravel, resulting in less recharge. It is vital that we check and maintain our recharging system and also look for more efficient way to recharge, he added.

The in depth analysis is yet to be done, but for the moment the consequence is Aalkohiti has dried up before the regular time. People are now forced to buy water from the tanker to serve their ends while the functioning of the recharge structures is still questionable.

No doubt, with the adaptation of Rainwater harvesting and Artificial Groundwater recharge, Aalkohiti blessed many. Setting an example, success story of Aalkohiti inspired many other communities to adapt rainwater harvesting for the conservation of the Stone spouts. But at the mean time it has again pressed all other communities to look into the system and check if their system is working properly.

But reality is Aalkohiti has not blessed now due to some shortcomings, it is vital to rectify the loopholes, correct it, if one wants to be blessed with Aalkohiti for ages.

Friday 21 February 2014

Rain water harvesting in the Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha,USA

Two warm days in the middle of winter in Omaha? There was no way we were going to waste them. So off we went to the Henry Doorly Zoo, which according to its credits, it is the best zoo in the world. Standing in line with the chill wind buffeting us, we heard the majestic and reverberating roar of a huge cat from somewhere within an enclosure to our left. Could it have been a Bengal Tiger we wondered? We were definitely going to the Big Cat enclosure later. I mean who would have thought to see a zoo in the mid west of all places?

It was in the third area that we chose to visit-- the Desert Dome, we saw the world's largest indoor desert, located under a glazed geodesic dome which is a landmark icon of the zoo and for Omaha. Built at a cost of $31.5 million, the dome has plant and animal life from three deserts: The Namib desert of Africa, the Red Center of Australia and the Sonoran Desert of the southwest of the US.

The awe inspiring dome is 230 feet in diameter spanning over one acre, and is an engineering marvel as there are no supports to it. Standing 13 stories tall, the top of the dome is 137 feet above the columns. Geodesic means is a dome pattern of triangles that actually provide a strong structure. Interestingly, a gutter system, on the outside of the dome, is connected to two, 20,000 gallon underground storage tanks for the collection of rainwater. This rainwater harvested is used for watering the plants inside the dome which is a great sustainable practice.

The replicated Namib Desert of southern Africa boasted of tall date palms and climbing among the pseudo cliffs were rock Hyraxes, klipspringers and the most darling meerkats like out of the movies. We literally ran past the Desert Caves which had 21 reptile species from Africa and Australia, including venomous snakes such as death adders, a cape cobra and the Inland taipan which is the world's second deadliest snake.

The Red Center of Australia is one of the world's most unique isolated deserts and we were lucky to see what it actually looks like here. Here, rock wallabies lived along with tall bottle brush trees and a tiny leaved Eucalyptus tree and some peccaries. A white Kookaburra sat unmoving, its thick beak pointed away from our curious gaze.

The Sonoran Desert, which is found in the southwest United States and northwest Mexico, is the world's second most biologically diverse desert. This area had ocelots watching us as we looked at them, and a bunch of peccaries, who did not care and wallowed in the desert dirt. We walked past bobcats, and then entered the hummingbird canyon where we encountered a waterfall in the parched desert. We particularly loved the Road runner exhibit made famous again by the cartoon character Road Runner and Cayote. Among the flat, prickly pear cactus and the tall endangered Saguaro cactus forest live tame quail, lizards and the occasional rabbit.

For me a rabid Rain Water Harvesting advocate, the thought that this massive structure with its hundreds of desert plants and animals was using rain water to sustain its needs, was indeed heart warming. I did see a lot of snow everywhere when I visited, which obviously also does translate into water and was sure that those tanks were filling rapidly, winter or no winter!

Three cheers for RWH :-)

Marianne de Nazareth