Economy, Environment

How Rainwater Harvesting Can Secure Kenya’s Water Future

As we con­tin­ue to receive dis­tress­ing news about the hav­oc that the rains have caused in dif­fer­ent parts of our coun­try, my mind is also engrossed to the recent storm in UAE and Oman made head­lines world­wide. The news depict­ed scenes of dev­as­ta­tion with water flood­ing streets and roads. While such events are often viewed as cat­a­stroph­ic, they also shed light on a cru­cial yet under­uti­lized solu­tion to water scarci­ty — rain­wa­ter harvesting.

There are three major rea­sons why Zachari­ah Njeru, the Water Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary, needs our sup­port to pri­or­i­tize rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing as a means of tack­ling Kenya’s water scarcity.

First­ly, it is more sus­tain­able and afford­able. Imag­ine if Dubai had har­vest­ed most of the water in the streets dur­ing the recent storms! It would have secured portable fresh­wa­ter for months, pos­si­bly years. This would mean less reliance on cost­ly inter­ven­tions like ocean water desali­na­tion and cloud seed­ing, which Dubai thrives on. Time is ripe for us in Kenya to mobi­lize suf­fi­cient resources in estab­lish­ing rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing infra­struc­ture. We have talked about this for far too long and even cre­at­ed a water har­vest­ing author­i­ty but are we fund­ing such insti­tu­tions and process­es? How much fund­ing have coun­ties allo­cat­ed for rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing in their cur­rent bud­gets, if they are tru­ly com­mit­ted? Is this not a nation­al secu­ri­ty mat­ter? Let’s get seri­ous, rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing uti­lizes nat­ur­al resources with­out sig­nif­i­cant envi­ron­men­tal impact. More­over, the main­te­nance costs of rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing sys­tems are con­sid­er­ably low­er, esti­mat­ed to be about 50% less than those for tra­di­tion­al water sup­ply systems.

Sec­ond­ly, in Kenya, where water scarci­ty is a press­ing issue, rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing offers a reli­able and acces­si­ble water source. It reduces depen­dence on cen­tral­ized water sup­ply sys­tems, which are often unre­li­able or inac­ces­si­ble in remote areas. In our coun­ties, water access dis­par­i­ties exist between urban and rur­al regions and there­fore pro­mot­ing rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing can bridge this gap and ensure water secu­ri­ty for all. Imag­ine if pol­i­cy lit­er­ary com­mand­ed every com­mer­cial build­ing to har­vest rain­wa­ter for its ten­ants. Could this sim­ple change be the key to clos­ing our per­sis­tent water gap at a very impor­tant lev­el that pinch­es our cit­i­zen­ry? If for instance Gov Natem­beya of Kitale can man­date build­ing col­ors for all land­lords in Kitale, sure­ly imple­ment­ing rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing is just as straightforward?”

Third­ly, rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing is adapt­able to both rur­al and urban areas. In rur­al set­tings, tech­niques such as rooftop rain­wa­ter col­lec­tion, sur­face water har­vest­ing, and farm pond con­struc­tion can sig­nif­i­cant­ly enhance agri­cul­tur­al pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and house­hold water sup­ply. Sim­ple rooftop rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing sys­tems can be installed on cor­ru­gat­ed met­al roofs. Is it too chal­leng­ing to devel­op a Cor­po­rate Social Invest­ment con­cept, sup­port­ed by tax rebates, to ensure every rur­al home in Kenya has rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing infra­struc­ture? Imag­ine if all lead­ers har­vest­ed water at their homes, inspir­ing their cir­cles to do the same. If they advo­cat­ed for water har­vest­ing pas­sion­ate­ly, couldn’t our lead­er­ship trans­form our soci­ety dai­ly? Is this tru­ly hard to achieve?

Small-scale farm­ers in rur­al Kenya can use tech­niques like small dams and ponds to cap­ture rain­wa­ter runoff, enhanc­ing their water resources. I recent­ly show­cased my rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing lit­tle efforts in Kitui on Face­book, inspir­ing friends who’ve com­mit­ted to imple­ment­ing sim­i­lar projects albeit on a small­er scale.

In urban areas, manda­to­ry rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing on build­ings, along with per­me­able pave­ments and rain gar­dens, can reduce flood­ing and enhance water sup­ply. These strate­gies, essen­tial in places like Nairo­bi’s Pipeline Estate, also recharge ground­wa­ter and improve stormwa­ter management.

One thing I know for sure is that rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing can rev­o­lu­tion­ize Kenya’s approach to drought and flood cycles, turn­ing rain from a curse into a tremen­dous bless­ing. I sug­gest that we begin by appre­ci­at­ing that water doesn’t just fall from the sky, it starts from the ground up! Sam­ple this, accord­ing to the US Gov­ern­ment Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey, just one inch of rain­fall on one acre of land can yield near­ly 100,000 liters of water. Need I say more? Think green act green!

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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