With the growing urgency of addressing climate change, the role of water conservation in fostering a sustainable environment is significant. Groundwater, the primary source of freshwater, caters to the burgeoning needs of households, agriculture, and industries. However, exploiting this vital resource for various daily necessities and evolving modern lifestyles is causing significant water wastage.
Unlike other resources, we cannot create water artificially, making us reliant on the planet’s limited water sources. The rapid population growth and the surging demand for water to accommodate our expanding modern way of life have triggered a global water scarcity crisis, necessitating a heightened focus on water conservation.
In this context, embracing rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge emerges as a straightforward yet highly effective measure for global water preservation that can efficiently supplement traditional water sources that are nearing depletion.
Let’s dive into understanding the concept in depth.
Rainwater harvesting is a straightforward method for capturing and stockpiling rainfall for future needs that involves the systematic collection and storage of rainwater through specially designed systems. These systems are strategically placed to harness rain from natural or human-made surfaces, such as rooftops, compounds, rocky terrains, hillsides, or artificially treated impermeable/semi-permeable land surfaces. The collected rainwater, uncontaminated by impurities, can be easily stored and utilized directly for various purposes, with minimal storage and no maintenance costs other than occasional cleaning.
Given the escalating decline of groundwater levels and unpredictable climate patterns, rainwater harvesting is a practical solution to counteract the consequences of mounting water scarcity. This practice contributes to recharging local aquifers, curbing urban flooding, and, most crucially, ensuring water access in regions afflicted by water shortages.
Advantages Of Employing Rain-Water Harvesting Systems
Economical Water Management
Rainwater harvesting systems offer cost-effective water solutions, delivering high-quality water for various nonsensitive purposes. They significantly reduce reliance on wells and are easy to maintain, as they are not intended for drinking or cooking. The initial setup costs of harvesting systems are notably lower than other water purification or pumping methods. Furthermore, recharging subsurface reservoirs is more economical than creating surface reservoirs.
Underground water storage is eco-friendly, yielding substantial environmental benefits. Rainwater harvesting minimizes flood impacts by channeling excess water into large tanks for recycling, thereby alleviating the strain on drainage systems. This approach eliminates the need for dedicated land for water storage, prevents population displacement, minimizes direct groundwater exposure to pollution and evaporation, and reduces the risk of rivers drying up.
Erosion and Flooding Mitigation
Collecting rainwater reduces soil erosion and flood risks, effectively managing stormwater flow and averting urban flooding. Most buildings with rainwater harvesting systems feature built-in catchment areas on their roofs, capable of collecting substantial water volumes during heavy rainfalls.
Effective Irrigation Resource
Rainwater harvesting empowers communities to collect significant water volumes, which can help alleviate drought conditions. Most rooftops serve as ideal platforms for water collection. Rainwater is typically free from harmful chemicals, making it well-suited for irrigation.
Relief for Groundwater
Rainwater harvesting enhances aquifer productivity, increasing groundwater levels and reducing reliance on potable water. This aspect is particularly crucial in areas with dwindling water levels, significantly contributing to sustainable water management.
Two major techniques of rainwater harvesting
Surface runoff harvesting
In this method, rainwater flows away as surface runoff and can be stored for future use. Surface water can be stored by diverting the flow of small creeks and streams into reservoirs on the surface or underground, providing water for farming, cattle, and general domestic use. Surface runoff harvesting is most suitable in urban areas.
Rooftop rainwater/storm runoff can be harvested in urban areas with:
- Recharge pits
- Recharge trenches
- Recharge wells
Groundwater recharge is a hydrologic process where water moves downward from surface water to groundwater. Recharge is the primary method through which water enters an aquifer. The aquifer also serves as a distribution system. The surplus rainwater can then be used to recharge groundwater aquifers, using artificial recharge techniques.
Rainwater in rural areas can be harvested with:
- Gully plugs
- Contour bunds
- Dug wells recharge
- Percolation tanks
- Check dams/cement plugs/nala bunds
- Recharge shafts
Although rainwater harvesting has been deemed a desirable concept in recent years, it has yet to be implemented in rural India. Different regions of the country practice a variety of rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge methods.
Who is responsible for promoting this technique for water conservation?
Rural development NGOs dedicated to water conservation and water management prioritize community engagement and awareness-raising. Through various initiatives, they deliver educational programs, host workshops, and launch campaigns to inform individuals about the critical significance of water conservation and promote sustainable water management techniques.
Which Is The Best Rural Development NGO In India?
S M Sehgal Foundation
The Water Management program collaborates with local communities to implement strategies such as rainwater harvesting and infrastructure development. It actively participates in revitalizing traditional water sources, constructing storage facilities, and ensuring proper wastewater disposal. Additionally, the program is pivotal in educating communities about water conservation and enhancing their ability to manage water resources sustainably. Seeking partnership opportunities, it fosters continuous enhancement and the widespread adoption of cost-effective water management solutions.
TACKLING WATER SALINITY
Lakshiwas village is in Anantpura gram panchayat, Behror block, in district Alwar, Rajasthan. 140 families live here, and almost all are farmers. This village is close to two small hills, from where rainwater flowed into the village during the monsoon season. Not only was this water wasted, it flooded the nearby agricultural fields, spoiled the crops, and stagnated further on in the village streets, causing much inconvenience. In February 2019, the project team met with the gram panchayat and community members of Lakshiwas with a proposal to build a pond across the route of the water flowing from the hills, in order to arrest it so that it would recharge the groundwater and prevent the other inconveniences.
The construction of the pond with earthen embankments began in March 2019 and was completed in April 2019. It has a water-holding capacity of 14 million liters. Due to its establishment, all the rainwater from the hills is now collected in the pond, and the damage caused to the nearby crops has stopped. This water has stopped being wasted as it is being percolated into the ground, contributing to the groundwater table. The two dry wells near the pond now have some water. Livestock, wild animals, and birds are also using the pond.