Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) for Climate Resilience and Disaster Preparedness

Environmental awareness and concerns resulting from climate change and climate variability, as well as increasing demands for potable water underline rainwater harvesting as a means of boosting water supplies.

“Ensuring that populations have access to safe and affordable potable water is a basic human right” said Dr C James Hospedales, Executive Director, CARPHA. He also noted that the Agency strongly support the responsible harvesting and use of rainwater in the region.

Rainwater is a valuable resource that is underutilized. Its harvest and use can not only alleviate challenges related to domestic water usage, but there is also great potential for application of RWH in industry, tourism, and agriculture. Rainwater can be applied industrially to non-potable activities such as shop floor maintenance, sanitation and cooling processes. In hotels and similar commercial operations, rainwater can be used for landscaping and washing of vehicles. There is also great potential for RWH application in agriculture – both for irrigation and for animal husbandry.

Dr C James Hospedales said that “Rainwater harvesting contributes to water security and to meeting some of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals on environmental sustainability. Sensible, sustainable and responsible use of rainwater harvesting technology is a promising measure for coping with the effects of climate change and can act as a buffer against drought”

RWH has a role to play in building climate resilience, as the Caribbean Region continues to experience increased periods of below average rainfall, which have been ascribed to climate change. Shortfalls in water availability has implications for health in addition to other livelihood activities and business continuity. While RWH may not be feasible for long term, high volume consumption, it can provide a buffer during periods of interruption, limited access and short term quality issues stemming from the municipal supply or other traditional sources.

RWH is also important for disaster risk reduction. Following extreme, destructive weather events such as hurricanes and tropical storms, damage to water infrastructure and contamination of water supplies may occur. While there may also be some damage to RWH systems, because these are decentralized, there is the probability that some would remain operational and allow access to water for sanitation and, if properly treated, for consumption.

The main concern around RWH would be the need to monitor the storage of water to ensure that it is properly screened so as to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes. Of significant concern would be the Aedes aegypti mosquito associated with dengue fever and chikungunya. Attempts to mainstream RWH would have to, among other things, ensure a system for monitoring and maintaining water storage tanks.

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