blank1.gif (246 bytes) Any land anywhere can be used to harvest rainwater
The fundamental reason: extend the fruits of the monsoon
The basic principle: Catch water where it falls
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What is Water Hearvesting

It means capturing rain where it falls or capturing the run off in your own village or town. And taking measures to keep that water clean by not allowing polluting activities to take place in the catchment.

Therefore, water harvesting can be undertaken through a variety of ways

  • Capturing runoff from rooftops
  • Capturing runoff from local catchments
  • Capturing seasonal floodwaters from local streams
  • Conserving water through watershed management

These techniques can serve the following the following purposes:

  • Provide drinking water
  • Provide irrigation water
  • Increase groundwater recharge
  • Reduce stormwater discharges, urban floods and overloading of sewage treatment plants
  • Reduce seawater ingress in coastal areas.

In general, water harvesting is the activity of direct collection of rainwater. The rainwater collected can be stored for direct use or can be recharged into the groundwater. Rain is the first form of water that we know in the hydrological cycle, hence is a primary source of water for us. Rivers, lakes and groundwater are all secondary sources of water. In present times, we depend entirely on such secondary sources of water. In the process, it is forgotten that rain is the ultimate source that feeds all these secondary sources and remain ignorant of its value. Water harvesting means to understand the value of rain, and to make optimum use of the rainwater at the place where it falls.

How much water can be harvested?

Urban scenario

The total amount of water that is received in the form of rainfall over an area is called the rainwater endowment of the area. Out of this, the amount that can be effectively harvested is called the water harvesting potential.

Water harvesting potential = Rainfall (mm) x Collection efficiency

The collection efficiency accounts for the fact that all the rainwater falling over an area cannot be effectively harvested, because of evaporation, spillage etc. Factors like runoff coefficient and the first-flush wastage are taken into account when estimated the collection efficiency.

The following is an illustrative theoretical calculation that highlights the enormous potential for water harvesting. The same procedure can be applied to get the potential for any plot of land or rooftop area, using rainfall data for that area..

Consider your own building with a flat terrace area of 100 sq m. Assume the average annual rainfall in your area is approximately 600 mm (24 inches). In simple terms, this means that if the terrace floor is assumed to be impermeable, and all the rain that falls on it is retained without evaporation, then, in one year, there will be rainwater on the terrace floor to a height of 600 mm.

  1. Area of plot = 100 sq. m. (120 square yards)
  2. Height of the rainfall = 0.6 m (600 mm or 24 inches)
  3. Volume of rainfall over the plot = Area of plot x height of rainfall
  4. Assuming that only 60 per cent of the total rainfall is effectively harvested
  5. Volume of water harvested = 36,000 litres (60,000 litres x 0.6)

This volume is about twice the annual drinking water requirement of a 5-member family. The average daily drinking water requirement per person is 10 litres.

Rural scenario

Community based rainwater harvesting in rural areas of India - the paradigm of the past - has in it as much strength today as it ever did before. It is, in fact, only with this rudimentary technology that people are able to survive in water scarce areas. Recognising this fact, our ancestors had learnt to harvest water in number of ways:

  • They harvested the rain drop directly. From rooftops, they collected water and stored it in tanks built in their courtyards. From open community lands, they collected the rain and stored it in artificial wells.
  • They harvested monsoon runoff by capturing water from swollen streams during the monsoon season and stored it various forms of water bodies.
  • They harvested water from flooded rivers

Assuming that the average Indian population of an Indian village in November 2000 is approximately 1200. India's average rainfall is about 1170 mm. If even only half this water can be captured, though with technology this can be greatly increased, an average Indian village needs 1.12 hectares of land to capture 6.57 million litres of water it will use in a year for cooking and drinking. If there is a drought and rainfall levels dip to half the normal, the land required would rise to a mere 2.24 hectares. The amount of land needed to meet the drinking water needs of an average village will vary from 0.10 hectares in Arunachal Pradesh (average population 236) where villages are small and rainfall high to 8.46 hectares in Delhi where villages are big (average population 4769) and rainfall is low. In Rajasthan, the land required will vary from 1.68-3.64 hectares in different meterological regions and, in Gujarat, it will vary from 1.72-3.30 hectares.  And of course any more water the villagers catch can go for irrigation.

Does this sound like an impossible task? Is there any village that does not have this land availability? India's total land area is over 300 million hectares. Let us assume that India's 587,000 villages can harvest the runoff from 200 million hectares of land, excluding inaccessible forest areas, high mountains and other uninhabited terrains, that still gives every village on average access to 340 hectares or a rainfall endowment of 3.75 billion litres of water. These calculations show the potential of rainwater harvesting is enormous and undeniable.

What is National Water Harvesters Network (NWHN)?

National Water Harvesters' Network (NWHN) is a far-reaching network that addresses water issues through people from diverse background in India and abroad. The members of NWHN are primarily professionals, bureaucrats, grassroots functionaries, interested citizens and all those committed in developing or undertaking water harvesting programme. The network addresses and highlights the local issues and the traditional systems relating to water harvesting to further the cause of community based water management.

Read more about the network...


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