Newsletter and Technical Publications
Rainwater Harvesting And Utilisation
An Environmentally Sound Approach for Sustainable
Urban Water Management: An Introductory Guide for Decision-Makers
How Can Rainwater
Harvesting and Utilisation Contribute to a Sustainable Water Strategy?
in Water Supply, Without Being Dependent on Remote Water Sources
cities around the world obtain their water from great distances - often
over 100km away. But this practice of increasing dependence on the upper
streams of the water resource supply area is not sustainable. Building dams
in the upper watershed often means submerging houses, fields and wooded
areas. It can also cause significant socio-economic and cultural impacts
in the affected communities. In addition, some existing dams have been gradually
filling with silt. If not properly maintained by removing these sediments,
the quantity of water collected may be significantly reduced.
Life-Points, Versus the Conventional Life-Line Approach
When the city increases the degree of its dependence on a remote water resource,
and there is a long period without rainfall in the upstream dam sites, the ability
of the city to function effectively is seriously compromised. The same can be
said about a citys reliance on a pipeline for drawing water from a water
resource area to the city. A city which is totally reliant on a large, centralised
water supply pipeline (or life-line) is vulnerable in the face of
a large-scale natural disaster. A shift from life-line to decentralised
life-points should be encouraged. Numerous scattered water resource
life-points within a city are more resilient and can draw on rainwater
and groundwater, providing the city with greater flexibility in the face of
water shortages and earthquakes.
the Hydrological Cycle
Due to the rapid pace of urbanisation, many of the worlds large cities
are facing problems with urban floods. The natural hydrological cycle manifests
itself at different scales, depending upon climatic, geographic and biological
factors. As rain falls over time and seeps underground to become groundwater,
it feeds submerged springs and rivers. The concrete and asphalt structures of
cities have tended to disrupt the natural hydrological cycle, and reduce the
amount of rainwater permeating underground. A decrease in the area where water
can penetrate speeds up the surface flow of rainwater, causing water to accumulate
in drains and streams within a short time. Every time there is concentrated
heavy rain, there is an overflow of water from drains, and small and medium
sized rivers and streams repeatedly flood. These conditions can often lead to
an outpouring of sewage into rivers and streams from sewer outlets and sewer
pumping stations, thus contaminating the quality of urban streams and rivers.
|Diagram of the Hydrological Cycle (
|Concrete and asphalt have a profound impact on
the ecology of the city. These include:
||Drying of the city This happens as rivers and
watercourses are covered, natural springs dry up, and greenery is
||Heat pollution In some cities during the hot
summer, an asphalt road at midday can reach temperatures of over 60°C.
The heat expelled from air conditioners can further aggravate this.
This dramatically alters the citys natural hydrological cycle and ecological
Urban flood in Tokyo, Japan
In order to achieve a comprehensive solution to this problem, new approaches
to urban development are required emphasising sustainability and the restoration
of the urban hydrological cycle. Traditionally, storm sewer facilities have
been developed based on the assumption that the amount of rainwater drained
away will have to be increased. From the standpoint of preserving or restoring
the natural water cycle, it is important to retain rainwater and to facilitate
its permeation by preserving natural groundcover and greenery.
the Concept of Cycle Capacity
In thinking about sustainable development, one must view environmental capacity
from a dynamic perspective and consider the time required for the restoration
of the hydrological cycle. Cycle capacity refers to the time that
nature needs revive the hydrological cycle. The use of groundwater should be
considered from the point of view of cycle capacity. Rain seeps underground
and over time becomes shallow stratum groundwater. Then, over a very long period
of time, it becomes deep stratum groundwater. For sustainable use of groundwater,
it is necessary to consider the storage capacity for groundwater over time.
If this is neglected and groundwater is extracted too quickly, it will disappear
within a short time.
Side Management of Water Supply
In establishing their water supply plans, cities have usually assumed that the
future demand for water will continue to increase. Typically, city waterworks
departments have made excessive estimates of the demand for water and have built
waterworks infrastructure based on the assumption of continued development of
water resources and strategies to enlarge the area of water supply. The cost of
development is usually recovered through water rates, and when there is plenty
of water in the resource area, conservation of the resource is not promoted. This
tends to create a conflict when drought occurs, due to the lack of policies and
programmes to encourage water conservation. It has even been suggested that the
lack of promotion of water conservation and rainwater harvesting is due to the
need to recover infrastructure development costs through sales of piped water.
The exaggerated projection of water demand leads to the over-development of water
resources, which in turn encourages denser population and more consumption of
Sustainability of urban water supply requires a change from coping with water
supply without controlling demand, to coping with supply by controlling demand.
The introduction of demand side management encourages all citizens to adopt a
water conservation approaches, including the use of freely available, locally