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Rain Rain, Come Along

It’s said that a single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. But seeing the water scarcity becoming a critical problem worldwide, it can be added that rain makes the human life many shades safer. The survival and development of human race depend on water – its quality and quantity. For ages, many people have been under an illusion that water is abundant, taking for granted that it is a gift from nature and is an inexhaustible resource. Certainly, the earth appears to encompass an amazing wealth of water. More than 97 percent of the earth’s water is seawater, 2 percent is locked in icecaps and glaciers, and a large proportion of the remaining 1 percent lies too far underground to be exploited. And yet, there are millions of people who are experiencing some degree of water scarcity, potable water, in particular. Humans can survive around 40 days without food, but much less than that without water to drink. To ensure Asia’s growing population has enough water to drink, more rain needs to be collected.

Rain is the first form of water that we know in the hydrological cycle, hence is a primary source of water for us. Rivers, lakes and groundwater are all secondary sources of water. In present times, we depend entirely on such secondary sources of water. In the process, it is forgotten that rain is the ultimate source that feeds all these secondary sources and remain ignorant of its value. Rainwater is acknowledged as a sustainable source of water that has less impact on the environment. For risk substitution and for reasons of scarcity, salinity, quality of service households and communities have augmented or substituted their household supplies with rainwater.

Rain is stored in jars in Thailand and on roofs in Singapore. Activities focusing on rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems are being organized in Myanmar as well. While rainwater may not always provide a full-year round of supply, it enhances water security in the house and generally provides a good quality water. The world’s next major crisis will be a lack of water for home use, including drinking water many scientists predict. Changes in rainfall patterns in most parts of the world have seen both drought conditions and flooding but rainwater harvesting can provide around 50 per cent of a family’s water needs. Its use is nowadays promoted by Governments and NGOs alike for numerous domestic applications like drinking, cooking, bathing, laundry, toilet flushing and for gardening purposes. Infiltration to sustain local aquifers is suggested as well.

Myanmar has faced severe shortages of water both for consumption and agriculture in the past. There has been a decrease in rainy days and rainfall which has huge implications for the agricultural sector, which involves 70 percent of people this country. More than 2,000 villages faced water shortages across the country in 2016 as El Nino hit Myanmar starting from late 2015 until June 2016. Villagers in the Irrawaddy Delta traditionally source drinking water from rainwater harvesting, communal water ponds and wells as most villages have no access to piped water.

Water harvesting means to understand the value of rain as it falls from the sky, and to make optimum use of the rainwater at the place where it falls. It seems immensely sensible in areas struggling to cope with potable water needs as well as contamination issues. Rainwater is one of the purest sources of water available as it contains very low impurities.

Rainwater harvesting is perceived as being effective in narrowing the gap in drinking water availability between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. Rainwater collection could also play an important role in managing the severe public health problems, such as arsenic and fluoride contamination in wells or groundwater in several East Asian countries. Harvested water from rain for domestic use and as drinking water source is becoming increasingly popular and necessary as the availability of good quality water declines. Collecting natural rain water is an outstanding way to be kind to Mother Earth and be environmentally responsible. You also get to experience a decreased water bill and lessen your carbon footprint.

In 2009, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) highlighted the growing popularity of rainwater collection techniques, and recognised its potential to reduce the number of people who do not have access to water for human consumption. Known as Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting (RTRWH), or simply rainwater harvesting, this water optimisation process has been widely implemented in rural areas in countries like Brazil, China, and New Zealand. Rainwater harvesting is widely practiced in Maldives, India, Myanmar (more so, after the cyclone Nargis), Bhutan, Bangladesh (as an alternate drinking water source for arsenic affected areas) and Thailand even in developed countries the RWH has proved to be immensely beneficial. Australia’s management of her millennium drought has proved the effectiveness of RWH systems.