EDITORIAL: Rainwater harvesting the way to go
Rainwater harvesting is becoming a viable alternative for supplying households and businesses with water, in certain parts of the world.
Rainwater harvesting basically is the accumulation of rainwater for reuse on-site, rather than allowing it to run off. Catching rainwater and using it to assist in our daily lives, can also serve as a means of removing much of our dependency for water from the Barbados Water Authority and as such, more Barbadians need to engage in the practice, especially during the rainy season.
Given concerns about potentially high water bills, given the recent announcement by the new government of a Garbage and Sewage Contribution (GSC) to be levied through Barbados Water Authority (BWA) bills, Barbadians should explore rainwater harvesting as a viable option, as water that is harvested, whilst not necessarily used for drinking purposes, can be used for many household chores, thereby cutting back on the potable water used in general.
According to Global Water Partnership-Caribbean, it is currently estimated that approximately 500 000 people in the region at least partially depend on rainwater harvesting. The islands that still heavily use rainwater include Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, the US and British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, and the Grenadines, as these rainwater-dependent islands usually experience low annual rainfall, have limited land area and intermittent streams.
Around the world as well, there are many examples of rainwater harvesting in addition to the water utilisation process. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Singapore has limited land resources and a rising demand for water, and citizens there are always on the lookout for alternative sources and innovative methods of harvesting water. UNEP notes that almost 86% of Singapore’s population live in high-rise buildings and a light roofing is placed on the roofs to act as catchment. Collected roof water is kept in separate cisterns on the roofs, for non-potable uses. Other countries listed as engaging in the process of rainwater harvesting with some degree of success include China, Bermuda, St. Thomas, Brazil, Botswana, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand, amongst others.
For us here in Barbados, there are many advantages of engaging in rainwater harvesting.
As noted earlier, the collection of rainwater could possibly take a huge burden off the BWA and can also serve as an excellent backup source in times of drought or disaster, low water pressure and when there are problems with the public supply, as seen recently. If rainwater harvesting is put into practice, schools and businesses would not need to close when the BWA cannot supply water to some areas and life can continue without much interruption. The fact that you own your “water” gives you control over how you use it. Your rainwater harvesting system can also be designed according to what you can afford.
Rainwater can really be used anywhere you use tap water and even for cooking and drinking as long as it is treated. However, without any treatment thousands of gallons of water can be saved and used for flushing toilets, to do the laundry, for gardens and lawns, for irrigation systems and for agricultural purposes. Also to wash vehicles, to bathe pets, to refill fountains, fish ponds and aquariums, and to wash driveways and sidewalks. The possibilities are endless.