There’s more to the rain than just romance as popular culture seems to interpret it. Sure, a light drizzle and a tight cuddle with your bae is what you would like to hold on to for eternity. The sound of heavy rain and the last few drops pitter pattering on the roof is just the lullaby we adulting folks need for the perfect sleep. Rain is a clamour for some, and a therapy to others. For nature and of it however, rainwater is no less than an elixir. There’s no missing the fresh lease of life that the world breathes in the aftermath of a nice cool shower. And yet for its aesthetics and vibes, in all its silver prettiness and romantic charms, rain isn’t only the dancing damsel.
Rainwater spells more wonders than what we credit it with. And given that the rain pours and unpours as much to her whims, we lesser mortals cannot hold on to her forever. Not until we tap into the potential of rainwater harvesting and understand its importance in sustaining our lives and that of the planet.
The need for rainwater harvesting
Even when the earth is a comfortable 70% water, we still need to be not exploiting the seemingly abundant water resources. This is because not all water is easily available, nor is all of the available water potable.
Given that more than 96% of the earth’s water is saline, there is actually very little at our suitable disposal. Fresh water being the essence of all life on the planet and fresh water being particularly scarce, life on earth might be seriously jeopardized if efforts are not made at the earliest to conserve water in all ways we can. In fact just three decades from now, the ongoing water scarcity will start becoming severe as per reports. The best we can do therefore is accredit water its due importance both in use and in conservation. And rainwater being the ultimate abundant and free source of fresh water, is just the panacea the planet needs to answer all her scarcity woes of the life sustaining liquid.
Importance of rainwater harvesting
Easy and economical, harvesting of rainwater perhaps can be man’s best and most effective step for water conservation. And even when it sounds too scientific a term, rainwater harvesting is in essence just the proper collection of rainwater for future use. As it turns out, rainwater harvesting isn’t merely an environmental pursuit. There are economic, agricultural and numerous other sustainable benefits of rainwater harvesting. Needless to say, with such encompassments in fore, rainwater harvesting is the need of the hour for us and for the planet.
The basic importance of rainwater harvesting lies in its economic essence. And because rainwater basically drains away as runoff and is not a scarce resource yet, it is rather convenient to harvest it for future. Especially during periods when drought like situations prevail or even otherwise in prolonged dry spells, this properly stored rain water can ideally serve all purposes.
Helps replenish water levels
The most effective reason why rainwater needs to be harvested is that it can be a solution to all woes of dwindling water levels. Rather than letting it flow as surface runoff, provisions must be in place for rainwater to reach the ground and seep in there. This will ensure replenishment of groundwater levels and lesser strain on the demand- supply mechanism.
Irrigation for agriculture
Rainwater harvesting also holds all the more significance for agrarian countries like India. Developing nations like our own depend on rainwater as the primary source of irrigation in agriculture. And in years when rainfall is less than adequate or the country faces a severe drought, agriculture suffers the worst. Not only farming and cultivation comes to a standstill impacting the entire country, the farmers also have to endure tough times. Rainwater harvested during monsoons when rainfall is high will ensure that the agriculture sector does not have to be so susceptible to the uncertainties of weather.
Beneficial for agriculture
While the use of rainwater in agriculture through irrigation is indeed one of its benefits, there is more to it. Rainwater is naturally more suitable for agriculture and plants because it contains some very essential elements. High on nitrates and rich in organic matter, rainwater is excellent for crops. Also, rainwater being free of chemicals and salts help overturn the effect of these accumulated toxins on the harvest.
Source of potable water
Rainwater harvesting also ensures the availability of clean water for basic human needs and not just agriculture. In a world where water borne diseases claims an alarming number of lives, access to safe drinking water is somewhat of a luxury. Especially because even the available freshwater sources are subject to the tremendous pressures of both pollution and population, potable water is always scarce. Rainwater can be an effective alternative in this context. Harvested rainwater can be adequately treated and filtered before it becomes suitable enough for human consumption. The collected water can also be put into use for other purposes like cleaning and washing et al.
Prevents soil erosion
Rainwater harvesting when done through the surface run off technique can also be a deterrent to soil erosion. Here the rain water flows into reservoirs on or under the ground through small inlets. This ensures not only the maintenance of the water table but also protects the soil. Because rain loosens the soil, it can easily erode away. If the water layer persists above, the soil remains protected both from erosion and from infertility.
Water conservation also reduces energy use and thereby saves you the bucks. While rainwater harvesting is itself a cost effective method of water conservation specially when the water is intended for uses outside of direct consumption, it works as well to minimise other expenses. When you use harvested rainwater, you are cutting down on not just water bills. There also is a significant reduction in your electricity charges because you don’t have to depend on electricity for drawing the water for everyday use.
Prevents flash floods
In urban areas in particular, rainwater harvesting has a completely unintended but crucial benefit. Faulty drainage systems in most congested cities and towns means everytime there is a downpour, flash floods are the norm. But since rainwater harvesting calls for proper channelisation of the water into such areas where it can be conveniently collected without slippage and seepage, it eliminates the dual problem of water paucity and artificial floods.
Free of pollutants
In areas that remain relatively out of the heavily industrialised zones, rainwater is generally bereft of impurities. Which makes the collected rainwater a superior quality of water supply than any other. In fact rainwater is considered the purest quality of water. And while surface runoff might carry some sediments and impurities, the roof top method of rain water harvesting eliminates that possibility to considerable extent. Though it definitely isn’t ideal enough for direct consumption as such, harvested rainwater can be used for multiple other purposes with little to no treatment.
Eases water constraints
Places where water paucity is not an extremity but the norm can benefit humongously from rainwater harvesting. Proper collection and preservation of rainwater can help ensure an independent water source specially in such areas. This not only ensures an easy and cost effective means of water supply but also limits dependence on other constraining features. Specially when the water quality in such places is really bad, harvested rainwater can be quite the saviour.
Helps preserve water quality
An excess strain on resources also surprisingly bodes doom for water quality. Excessive use of groundwater puts undue strain on septic and sewage systems. This contaminates groundwater as the untreated sewage water seeps into the ground. Hence, lesser exertion on groundwater by making the switch to harvested rainwater is an effective contamination staver.
Rainwater harvesting also stimulates the growth of green infrastructure. This ensures that the many benefits of collecting and storing rainwater aren’t just limited to the economic aspect. Rather it becomes an all encompassing effort at sustainability. On one hand there is a lesser exertion on resources. While on the other, alternative and sustainable resources emerge through innovations. From reducing your carbon footprint to enhancing efficient and judicious use of natural resources, rainwater harvesting spells holistic benefits in all importance.
Rainwater might not be as widely harvested and used as it needs to be. This, despite the immense benefits rainwater harvesting harbours. Because the prevailing notion is one that rainwater is not ‘purified’ water, we tend to overlook it. There perhaps is also the lack of awareness that does not allow us to concentrate consciously on rainwater harvesting. For us, rainwater is an alternative source of water but the interest needs to develop in making it the primary one. Because with a such a freely available resource that even makes its way into exquisite bottles as some of the most expensive water in the world, rainwater is the gift we all need to value and realise its importance before it is too late.