Incentivize and implement Rain Water Harvesting
While rainwater harvesting can result in numerous benefits for consumers and the water sector overall (read our previous blog here), it’s not always clear how to effectively promote and increase the prevalence of this practice.
RWH systems can be built relatively easily with local skills and resources, using simple and easy-to-maintain technologies that are inexpensive once installed. RWH systems can be modular in nature by allowing expansion, reconfiguration or relocation, and can easily be retrofitted to an existing structure or built during new construction.
However, despite the many benefits, households often find it difficult to implement rainwater harvesting. The initial installation cost of RWH systems on residential housing is relatively high and a common barrier to adoption. Moreover, while there are legal, social and environmental barriers as well, recent experiences have documented means of overcoming those barriers and reinforcing water management practices.
There are many ways to encourage rainwater harvesting and improve its implementation, within which governments can play a strong role. The use of government subsidies as incentives can encourage the installation of RWH systems and increase the number of users, particularly among poorer households.
The Government of India, for example, provides financial assistance for the installation of RWH systems. The Surat Municipal Corporation has made RWH mandatory for new buildings with a plot size of >4,000 m² and provides up to a 50% (up to Rs. 2,000) subsidy to citizens to encourage rainwater recharging. In Gwalior and Jabalpur, a 6% rebate in property tax in the year of completion of RWH construction is provided to the building owner as an incentive (CSE, 2019).
Promoting rainwater use through housing regulations that stipulate that all newly built buildings and structures must include rainwater roof catchments is common in Taiwan, Texas and Brazil. Although laws and other governmental policies are the key driver for the implementation of RWH, overall, robust policies to systematically promote the installation of RHW are often lacking or scattered. In Brazil for example, RWH is barely covered in legislation at the federal level, but more common at the local level. In absence of a national policy regulating RWH, some state laws and mainly municipal regulations have taken the task of covering this legislative gap, as local authorities may be more aware of specific problems for the region and thus implement specific legislation for the municipality. Large numbers of different laws and regulations at different scales complicate the process of implementation. Besides, the scattered legislation does not cover all aspects of RWH: the main goal of regulations is usually encouraging the installation of RWH systems, but incentives for the implementation are rare, and no legislation exists that addresses treatment to improve the quality of rainwater (da Costa Pacheco et al., 2017). Besides, coordination between state and non-state stakeholders in RWH, and residents lacking awareness or knowledge of policies, are common challenges (Bui Thi Thuy et al., 2019; Matto & Jainer, 2019).
A Prospective Vision for RWH
The strategic management of rainwater can reduce disaster risk for communities faced with water scarcity, droughts or flood risks. Access to clean water is essential during the pandemic for handwashing, hygiene and preventing the spread of COVID-19. The scalability of RWH must ensure that water is provided and available when needed free of contamination, and as a resilience option in remote rural areas that are hit hard by climate change and rainfall variability. All the efforts to bring these solutions to increase water availability must carefully consider cost-effectiveness and co-benefits for small-scale irrigation and other productive uses of water. Integrated research that involves geospatial analysis and remote sensing can provide the evidence to demonstrate a stronger case to expand RWH globally, and improve their operational, financial and environmental sustainability.
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