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Water and Development: Rain Water Harvesting

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Water and Development: Rain Water Harvesting

Pamela D. Anderson

Broward College


Water, the essential finite natural resource, can no longer be taken for granted. Climate change, population growth, storm water runoff, pollution, increased usage, waste and water scarcity all contribute to today's global water crisis. One out of eight people in the world today lack clean water and so much perfectly usable water is going to waste. We continue to consume more and more every day yet the supply of fresh water remains static. Measures must be taken to address this dilemma. Utilizing the rain from the clouds above will reduce the pressure that is placed on wells and municipal water systems, shrink energy costs, decrease flooding and erosion; lessen the impact on the watershed and lower monthly water bills. This free source of water can be used for groundwater recharging, toilet flushing, showering, cleaning uses and even drinking. Harvesting this precious resource can be done on a large or small scale through assorted methods requiring varied investment. We can no longer take for granted that we will have an endless supply of the essence of life. Increased awareness to this growing problem is vital.

Keywords: rain water harvesting, storm water, water shortage, conservation.

Water and Development: Rain Water Harvesting

Water is the essential ingredient for life. Without water we would cease to exist and even though water is renewable, it remains a finite resource. Some of the many alarming facts about water today include:

* 884 million people lack access to clean water, that's almost three times the population of United States

* One in eight lack access to clean water

* Global tensions are exasperated when supplies are threatened

* Globally, 1.2 billion people live in areas with inadequate water supply.

* 1.6 billion people live in areas where there is water, but they can't afford to drink it.

* Water use is increasing much faster than population.

* Global water demands will increase by 40% in the next ten years.

* By 2025, two-thirds of the world will live under conditions of water scarcity (Lubin, 2010)

We can no longer take for granted that we will always have easy access to plentiful, high quality water. Storm runoff contamination, depletion of aquifers, saltwater intrusion, upstream pollution and municipal water failing to pass the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency are common here in the United States and are multiplied around the world. The world population growth and climate change is expected to compound our drinking water issues. According to Maude Barlow, "global freshwater crisis is the ground level equivalent to greenhouse gas emissions from the top." (Shah, 2007) Water, the essence of life, must be managed with awareness and rainwater harvesting is a viable way of conserving this vital resource. Collecting, storing and using water where it falls is the way of the future. This wise management of water is safe, easy to maintain, provides chlorine and pollutant free water, reduces pressure from municipal sources and it's free.

Approximately two thirds of the world is covered with water, unfortunately most contains too much salt to be used without proper processing. Less than three percent is non-salty and the majority of that is inaccessible as it can be found in ice caps and glaciers. Of the water that is usable, almost seventy percent is used in agriculture and we will need seventeen percent more than what is available just to feed the world. An excess of one third of the world has insufficient supply of water and the situation is getting worse, see Table I.

Table I

Where the Water is Scarce

(Map details global water stress , 2011)


Rain water is one of Mother Nature's most precious gifts. Once thought of as a God-given right now needs to be treated cautiously and respectfully. Unfortunately so much of this natural resource is simply wasted. Twenty five percent of drinking water that is delivered to commercial buildings is literally flushed down the toilet. Rain water that falls on parking lots and roof tops typically runs into catch basins and is then pumped into our lakes, rivers and oceans. This storm water runoff carries pollution and is a leading cause of flooding. This precious commodity can be captured thru rain water harvesting and stored for later use. Throughout the world rain water is being utilized for irrigation, air conditioning, car washing, janitorial uses, groundwater recharging, firefighting, toilet flushing, showering and even drinking water.


Tapping into rain clouds instead of city pipes diminishes pressure from municipal and well water supplies, lowering energy costs and the monthly water bills while reducing the impact on the local watershed,. Harvesting rainwater has many advantages, it is gravity fed, it can reduce flooding and erosion and it's free. This gift from above is it is low in salts, is free of chlorides has zero hardness and is great for plants. Rain water harvesting is not only the right thing to do environmentally; it can earn homeowners and business owners LEED points and can add value to one's property. Utilizing the naturally produced rain water protects the investment homeowner have made in their landscaping. Gardeners will no longer be at the mercy of drought related water restrictions, and are free to water when they choose. Rainwater systems can be used as primary, supplementary or an alternative source of water. Utilizing this abundant source isn't just for homeowners; commercial buildings and whole communities can benefit from this collection also.

The numbers of rainwater systems are on the rise.

Thousands of RWH systems are in the continental U.S. A 1979 study found that 67,000 cisterns existed in the state of Ohio alone. Islands, including Hawaii, Guam, the Caroline Islands, Marshall Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Florida Keys, all support rainwater activities. Mainland states using rainwater domestically include Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky,



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