Proposal: Collection of rainwater as an alternative for efficient use of water resources in the Semi-Arid areas of Lara State in Venezuela.
In 2007 along with the Centroccidental Development Foundation of Venezuela, I had the opportunity to work on a project based on the collection of rainwater. The purpose of this project was to create a fresh supply of drinking water for the rural communities and poor Lara State of Venezuela.
Year: since 2007 to present
Maria Eugenia Rinaudo
Venezuela, rainwater, rural areas, drought
Due to environmental awareness workshops in the communities of El Caño and El Copey of Urdaneta city, in Lara State, Venezuela, as well as a review of documentary material previously developed by national and international institutions, it became evident that serious social and environmental problems such as the storage and distribution of drinking water were at hand.
These issues lead to a decreased quality of life for the residents who lived there as not all of their basic needs were being met. Not only was water an issue but so was sanitation and poverty.
It’s important to add that these were rural communities that did not have a high economic capacity. Because of the geographical location of the town, it was very hard to get to, thus hindering the work of people who wished to help. The geographic location also made it more difficult to get enough clean drinking water to the people of the town.
Despite these attempts, the people of the town are still struggling to get clean water into their village. Because of the fact that they do not have proper sanitation methods, they are more at risk for tropical diseases such as dengue and malaria.
Rainwater is intercepted, collected, and stored in tanks for later use. In the process of recruitment for domestic purposes, it is customary to use the roof as a collecting area for rainwater. This is based off of the model called the SCAPT (system of rainwater harvesting roofs). Collecting water in this way has proven to have an additional bonus, namely that it minimizes water pollution. Additionally, surplus water can be used for food production. The collection of water for agriculture needs will require larger areas of recruitment. In some cases this will require extensive and impervious surfaces to collect the maximum amount of the resource.
This project has been made in Venezuela (Latin America country). Specially, in the Urdaneta municipality (“El Caño” and “El Copey” areas)
The main actors in this project are the FUDECO’s Institution (Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Región Centroccidental Lisandro Alvarado) – Development Foundation in the Centroccidental Region in Venezuela. The website is FUDECO (only in spanish).
The practice collecting rainwater on the roof is currently growing in popularity. This is not surprising and the rainwater has allowed many ancient people to harvest their crops and survive. This technique has been in practice for at least 8,000 years in parts of South Asia, the Middle East, and Ancient Rome.
The harvesting of rainwater is a simple process. All you have to do is collect and capture the rainwater when it falls and store it in containers or tanks to use when the need arises. Rainfall can also be collected in pits that allow it to directly recharge groundwater aquifers. Essentially the process is low in maintenance and low in cost.
97% of Earth’s water comes from oceans, which means that it is salty and not suitable for drinking. 3% of all fresh water comes in the form of deep aquifers, permanent snow and ice, lakes, and sandy rivers, and less than 1% of all fresh water in the atmosphere is available through rainwater. Since water is a detrimental source of life, lack of it can lead to life threatening issues and, in most cases, death. The fact that our water source is quickly decreasing has led to a global awareness that we must do something to save our water source in order to guarantee the sustainability of future generations.
In this sense, Venezuela is a true land of grace. The rivers of Venezuela that cut through the entire country make it a unique land. The river basins are home to an incredible wealth of different creatures and plant life and have been the center of many ancient cultures whose rituals and customs revolved around these basins as they showed their respect and appreciation for water. At the same time, the rational use of the rivers is linked to the development and improvement of the quality of life of the populations that surround them.
However, in Venezuela the strong pulls of climate change are being felt. The most recent case verifying this truth has been the terrible floods that occurred last year in 2010 in the north east of the country. Hundreds of people were without homes and dozens were killed. These floods are not common however, and many were taken by surprise. Normally in Venezuela, extensive droughts and high temperatures are recorded. Many places in the country suffer from these problems and the supply of drinking water is getting lower. In addition, there are many economic problems in the country, and to buy drinking water is becoming more of a mission impossible.
According to the 1984 research project, “Development of Arid and Semiarid zones” (PIDZAR), “the west central region of Venezuela accounts for at least 60% of the country’s land considered to be “arid zones” and “semiarid zones”. Of this percentage, 2-5% accounts for Venezuela and the other 50% for the Lara and Falcon States. Of these regions, 20% is considered to be an arid zone and 80% a semiarid zone”.
From the standpoint of climate change, these areas present high solar radiation, erratic and torrential rainfall below 700 mm of variable character, and monthly average temperatures between 24 °C and 28 °C.
In dry areas, inadequate land management could significantly reduce crop productivity, including more than one ton per hectare. One possible reason is because their degradation affects the soil surface, resulting in incrusting and other phenomena that prevent infiltration of rainwater. Most of the water, therefore, trickles over the surface of the land. The trickling water is usually full of silt and tends to cause severe erosion. These little rivers of water also end up creating gullies in the land, thus negatively affecting the growth of the crops.
Rainwater is considered to be a viable means for obtaining drinking water as well as for use in agricultural management. In many parts of the world with medium to high levels of rainfall, and where fresh water is not readily available, methods such as these are used as a second source of water supply.
a) Production or “supply” of water: is directly related to rainfall during the different times of the year. Therefore it is highly recommended that the design of the rainwater catcher be based on the data provided by various meteorological experts within the area where you intend to run your project.
b) Demand for water: At the same time demand is associated with the needs of the target group and may include drinking water in different applications and extend to those of a productive nature on small scales.
To form a direct relationship between the supply and demand of water, which fall within the collection area and storage volume, it is only logical that both considerations are related to an economic aspect, which typically is a constraint for most stakeholders and can prevent their ability to create such a tool.
In an economic evaluation it is necessary to consider the amount of water that can be allocated to each family. This amount should not exceed 20 liters of water per household per day. When dealing with this amount, basic needs such as laundry and hygiene should be taken into consideration.
Also, the costs of the proposed system should be compared with other alternatives for the improvement of water supply.
When evaluating this type of work at a community level it is important to take into consideration certain factors that may alter the amount of water used within a community. Such factors could include rituals, ceremonies, and the amount of people within on village.
With this in mind, it is important to evaluate the pros and cons of a traditional water system versus the one that uses rainwater. Once you have done so, you should be able to make an educated decision as to what type of water supply would be the most beneficial for that specific town.
This analysis should consider the desirability of individual and collective solutions, the type of material used in the manufacturing of roofs, the existence of alternative materials in or near the site, and the degree of participation of the villagers in the implementation of the project.