Rain Water Harvesting – a possible solution to our water woes

The hurricane season is in full swing and so most people have stopped saving water as they believe that there will be enough rain for the next few months to fill the reservoirs and take care of their daily needs. Nothing can be further from the truth. With climate change wreaking havoc globally, drought in certain areas makes the storage and preservation of water even more critical going forward.

Mona Reservoir in Kingston, Jamaica

One wonders why in an island surrounded by water, every year there is renewed debate over how we can prevent the ever-increasing water lock-offs and restrictions by the National Water Commission (NWC).

Aerial view of Jamaica on Google Earth

One possible solution offered up initially was the de-salinization of our water. That is, using seawater and removing its salt and mineral content making it palatable and safe for everyday use.

Saltwater is generally unsuitable for not just drinking but also washing and construction as the salt content is corrosive and can weaken the structure of anything that it is built with.  De-salinization, however, was not deemed to be a feasible solution as it is said to be a very costly undertaking, therefore, government technocrats shelved it after its initial assessment. In the last few years, however, another possibility has been examined and pilot projects implemented: rainwater harvesting.

One of the simplest and oldest methods of self-supply of water, rainwater harvesting, is the accumulation and storage of rainwater for reuse instead of allowing it to run off. Rainwater can be collected from roofs and redirected to a deep well, borehole or reservoir. It can also be collected from dew or fog with nets or other tools and used for gardening, livestock, irrigation and domestic use for drinking with proper treatment.

Today, rainwater harvesting has several advantages especially for an island such as ours because it provides an independent water supply during water restrictions. In areas where clean water is costly to transport or difficult to come by, rainwater harvesting can be a necessity.

In developed countries, rainwater is often harvested to be used as a supplemental source of water rather than the main source. Additionally, the harvesting of rainwater can also decrease a household’s water costs or overall usage levels, especially since it tastes good and is safe to drink.

Jamaican agronomists are especially enthusiastic about incorporating this practice into our agricultural initiatives and mainstream farming. Studies have shown that the capture and storage of rainwater runoff for later use is able to significantly reduce the risk of losing some or all of an annual year’s harvest because of water scarcity.

Also, the risks associated with flooding and soil erosion during hurricanes, tropical storms or high rainfall seasons would decrease. Small farmers who cultivate hillside areas would find it especially beneficial since they could capture runoff and decrease the effects of soil erosion. Collections from roofs, dams and ponds can be constructed to hold large quantities of rainwater so that even during weeks or months where there is little to no rainfall, enough is available to irrigate crops.

Tell us BUZZ fam, will you be trying out rainwater harvesting?