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, 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

Monday, 10 February 2014

Water Water Everywhere or Nowhere?

“Nepal is the second richest country in the world in water resource”- sometimes this sentence seems to be a satire to the people and the system who are deprived of energy and moreover the availability of water. Thirsty Kathmandu is one of the worst scenario of it while if we take our binocular 520 km East away from Kathmandu, we will see another city –Dharan thirsty for water. Dharan Municipality is one of the 99 municipalities; located in Sunsari district within Koshi zone in Eastern Development Region of the country. Covering an area of 103.38 square kilometres, the municipality gives shelter to 27750 household (CBS, 2011). It has gained its identity as one of the cleanest municipalities in the country along with proper management of waste and other resources but not water.

Drained by 2 rivers, the municipality is rich in the surface water and it also receives rainfall intensity of 2.6m/year and rainfall of 2626 mm annually. Unable to supply adequate water to the city dwellers due to dependency upon surface water and ground water, the city is suffering from water scarcity throughout the year. Nepal Water Supply Corporation (NWSC) the only government body responsible for water supply to the city dwellers has been able to supply only 10.9 MLD (Dry Season)  and 13 MLD (Wet season) out of demanded 15.4 MLD. To supply the water NWSC abstracts water from Sardu Khola, and Khardu Khola while it also extracts groundwater from 3 deep boring. Remaining water is being supplied by the tanker suppliers meanwhile very few houses have adapted Rainwater Harvesting System (RWHS). It is a tragedy that despite of huge potentiality of RWH in the municipality NWSC has not aggressively promoted RWH in the municipality which could reduce the pressure on existing city supply.

Despite such shortage of water and municipalities effort to promote Rainwater Harvesting through leverage in building construction permission fees, very few houses are adapting RWH in their home. “People are not convinced that RW is drinkable hence they do not adapt RWH system,” says Mr. Suraj Shrestha- Senior Engineer at Dharan Municipality. However people are not aware of the quality of drinking water supplied by NWSC as a result the lab which should be maintained by NWSC does not function due to lack of concern from both government and the people.
The problem:
The main problem of promoting RWH harvesting is the perception on Rainwater Harvesting, as they are not assured with the quality of water however none of the people have ever tried to actually check the quality of rainwater. Moreover the municipality also faces difficulties in providing knowledge regarding RWH to the people due to lack of expertise within the municipality;  there are no organization working effectively in promotion of RWH. Meanwhile people having thatched roof has constructed the gutter system in their home but unfortunately the water is passed into the drainage in the city.

Likewise people get water supply up to 9 hours daily, hence people also not motivated in adapting RWHS. Meanwhile people are using same quality of water for all the household purposes ranging from drinking to flushing and gardening in most of the cases which is not waht a sustainale water manager would like to see. One of the most renowned organizations B.P. Koirala Institute of Health Science (BPKIHS) consumes about two hundred thousand litres of water daily for which they have separate source. But the story of using same quality of water for different purposes repeats here as well. The hospital has waste water treatment plant and treats its waste water but do not reuse which could at least be used for flushing toilets in hostel situated within the BPKIHS compound.
The Possibility:
Since Dharan receive substantial amount of rainfall (2.6m annually), there is high possibility of promoting rainwater harvesting. Meanwhile the general housing trend of Dharan shows that people have a small garden in front of their home which solves the problem of land for construction of storage tanks for RW.

Since Dharan Municipality though has provided leverage in tax while approving building construction if RWH is incorporated in their building plant people are not aware of adapting RWHS nor have they shown any concern, the municipality itself wants to make people aware and make them adapt RWH in their home. Hence the programs to promote RWH will surely be supported by the municipality. Also the municipality in collaboration with UN habitat is launching Green homes project of which RWN is a component, the project to launch RWH is likely to be supported and boosted by both the organizations.
Way Forward:
Dharan municipality has high potentiality for promotion and adaptation of Rainwater Harvesting system. This is attributed by the substantial amount of rainfall, already existing few components of RWHS such as gutters in most of the houses with thatched roof and availability of land for construction of storage of RW.  
Also people are mostly unaware of the sustainable use of water (more specifically reuse of water) that can help in managing available water and reducing pressure on the water supply system. If the people are made aware about the benefits of RWH and further regarding sustainable water management with practical demonstration, Rainwater harvesting may be adapted by the people.

Similarly since the main concern is the quality of water, re-establishing the lab of NWSC and checking water quality at the lab can help in assuring the quality of water and promoting RWH. Also collaboration with the municipality and UN habitat could give the positive results.

At present performing a detail study on the possibility of RWH in Dharan could be a crucial step. Likewise since the issue is also with the sustainable water management in various organizations a study on water management at BPKIHS and other institute is necessary along awareness and training programs. It is also a good idea to develop RWHS demonstration site in the public places and launch a pilot project in one of the ward of the municipality to promote RWHS.

Water is everywhere in Dharan but the tragedy is its not being tapped to its potential. It is definitely not a good idea to increase dependency upon the surface water and groundwater and waste substantial rainwater into the sewerage. Now it’s to the people whether they trap water for their use or just waste it!! It’s the perception of people and authority whether they see water everywhere or they perceive there is water nowhere!!!