Rainwater Harvesting: Its our Water!

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Environment, Features, Human Rights

By Jamison Maeda

In the year 2030, the demand for water will exceed our supply by 40%. This is according to a white paper published by Truscost.  Drinkable water will become the world’s most valuable commodity, more valuable than gold or oil. This is not a secret. Corporations such as Nestlé, Coke, and Pepsico have been scrambling to gain control over the water market for years. In our society of gross inequality, the privatization of the world’s water supply will lead to control of our water by the wealthy, and limited access to it for the poor.

Green architecture, a movement which seeks to minimize the environmental impact of buildings by increasing efficiency and conserving natural resources including water by using methods such as rainwater harvesting, has achieved some success.

“Rainwater harvesting is the most preferable form of water recycling” says Chris Hocknell, a Sustainability Consultant at Eight Associates in London. Chris is referring to the capturing of rain for reuse instead of depending solely on local main water supply systems.

Already Cardiff Bus in Wales collected and used 447,000 litres of harvested rainwater since 2011 which they use to wash their fleet of vehicles. And Dolygaer Mountain Centre’s rainwater harvesting system is expected to conserve 176,000 litres each year.

Chesil Beach Visitor Center in England has installed a rainwater harvesting system expected to collect 121,000 litres each year.

Just utilizing rainwater for flushing WCs, can reduce daily water consumption by approximately 20%. Most of the United States encourages rainwater harvesting. Individuals and businesses can receive tax credits for installing rainwater collection systems.

Rainwater harvesting systems are currently available in Ireland and collect rainwater for clothes washing, WCs, washing cars, and watering gardens. And for Ireland, this seems like a solution to hosepipe bans and high Irish Water charges. However in Irish Water’s General Conditions for Water and Waste Water Agreement, section 1.9.7. “The Customer shall not allow the discharge of rainwater run-off from roofs, paved areas or other surfaces into any Sewer, except as may otherwise be agreed in advance with Irish Water in writing.”

This means all Irish Water customers who wish to harvest rainwater at their homes must first obtain written approval. Irish people, just like those in Bolivia, would be charged for attempting to conserve water. In Bolivia, Bechtel, the company which owned Bolivia’s water utility after it was privatized, sent inspectors house to house to catch people who were collecting rainwater.

Instead of privatization and government interference we need government support for water harvesting and green architecture.

 “The hurdle” says Chris Hocknell, “is that refurbishments and energy efficiency generally has long paybacks…it needs governmental support. Unfortunately, governments like the current UK administration often opt for tinkering around the edges rather than properly taking hold of the problem. Unsurprisingly the results are often much smaller than they should be.”

We need water to live. We cannot allow it to become a commodity that only the richest of us can afford. Nestlé’s chairman told us that “access to water is not a public right.” But to millions of us, water – particularly rainwater is a public right. And we will fight for it. We will continue to stand up to Nestlé, Coke, Pepsico, Bechtel, Irish Water, and those politicians who want our water to go to the highest bidder.