Rainwater harvesting for water security in the Caribbean

Drip. Image: Paul B
Climate Change

From The Conversation, an article about how the potential for rainwater harvesting, using a new ferrocement tank design and biosand filters, could enhance  water security and climate resilience in the Caribbean:

[V]ery few Caribbean countries have taken action to implement rainwater harvesting on any significant scale.

In Haiti’s Artibonite Valley, biosand filters are used to purify the water obtained from shallow ground wells. And the United Nations has helped develop rainwater harvesting infrastructure in southern Jamaica to facilitate some communities’ resiliency to climate change.

We believe rainwater harvesting can work for more of the Caribbean. The funding model and equipment just need to be designed to meet the islands’ special needs.

Most rainwater storage tanks in big international programs are made from fiberglass, other plastic or welded steel. Those materials can be expensive for families operating on a limited budget, as many rural Caribbean households do.

Our design is made of ferrocement – a kind of thin, reinforced concrete widely used to collect rainwater in India.

This construction style is affordable – especially if subsidized by small government loans – because it uses materials readily available in the Caribbean: cement, sand and water mixed together, reinforced with chicken wire and steel bars.

The cement acts as a super glue, binding the particles of sand, rebar and chicken wire together into one strong, compact mass.

This cheap, durable method is ideally suited for the Caribbean environment, too. The island region is susceptible to not just hurricanes but also earthquakes. The steel bars can withstand the shaking of an earthquake, while the cement is resistant to high winds.

We have now tested a model ferrocement rainwater harvesting system on the island of Grenada. With some tweaks to improve ease of construction – which are now underway – we believe it could serve island residents well.

The government there has expressed interest in introducing rainwater harvesting to increase the reliability and accessibility of its municipal water systems.

Our next stop for testing the ferrocement-and-biosand system is Dominica. And after that, we hope, the rest of the Caribbean will catch on.

Read more in the full article at The Conversation.

[Image: Paul B]

 

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