Rainwater a beacon of hope for parched cities

  • Aakriti Vasudeva, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Apr 18, 2013 01:09 IST

Several cities, both in India and abroad, are taking up rainwater harvesting to meet the burgeoning demand of water. Their experiences have shown that rainwater can be tapped as a major source of water. Here are a few examples:  

Chennai: Rainwater harvesting (RWH) brought new hope for the chronic drinking water problem that Chennai had faced for decades owing to depleted groundwater level due to over exploitation and hardly any major fresh water body nearby.

After Tamil Nadu made RWH compulsory for all buildings — old and new — in 2002, Chennai benefited significantly. Strict implementation of the ordinance started showing results and by 2008, city’s groundwater level had risen by 50%.

However, Chennai drew flak recently what with several residents not maintaining RWH structures and the officials not carrying out regular inspections.

Singapore: Geographical disadvantages such as absence of natural aquifers and small land area are a major drawback for the island state of Singapore. It continues to import a significant portion of its water requirements from Malaysia.

Among the major innovative measures adopted to counter water shortage, it launched NEWater in 2003. It is essentially used or sewage water that is chemically treated by multiple processes such as micro filtration to make it safe enough to drink. NEWater alone meets 30% of Singapore’s water needs.

Singapore has converted two-thirds of its area into catchments. Rainwater is channeled through a network of drains, canals and storm water collection ponds to 17 reservoirs, including the Marina barrage, a popular tourist destination. Rainwater accounts for around 20% of Singapore’s water consumption.

Namibia: Over 80 per cent of Namibia is desert and hence, water scarcity is a huge problem. It provoked the administrators to think innovatively. As a result, Namibia became the first country in the world to start using reclaimed water for potable use in 1968.

Namibia’s capital city Windhoek carries out treatment of used water through various processes and blends it with treated water from dam or groundwater. Up to 50% of water blended in the distribution system is reclaimed water and is not known to have caused any side effects to citizen health.

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