Reports from the World Future Society indicate that by the year 2020, water may be valued as much, if not more, than oil is today. This is largely because of the ever increasing human population and its effects on the natural environment and other species. Overpopulation has resulted in a decline in natural forests, the pollution of natural water reservoirs and the unsustainable use of water in many countries. Today, as climate change and its attendant unpredictable weather patterns are becoming more common, many communities are suffering from the effects of water shortage. This has made rainwater harvesting very important, especially for those who would like to be independent from council or town water.

Water shortages are often caused by people. For example people living in areas where there has been a constant lack of rainfall may try to develop reservoirs in their local area. They can then relocate water from other parts of the country. This process on its own is a costly one, and then the environmental cost may be larger. The burden that will be on the ‘providing area’, coupled with climate change, may lead to water scarcity.

Rainwater harvesting is one way of increasing available water supply and has been around for centuries. Ancient civilizations like the Egyptian, Mayan and Roman Empires used this technique and built drainage and catchment systems, some of which are still in place in today. Rainwater harvesting can be very simple, or more complex. Here is a small, modern case study. Indonesia is home to over 225 million people. It is larger than Europe in in terms of total land size, but it is a nation which is made up of 17,000 islands. A good number of these islands are undeveloped and rely on agriculture and fishing for a living. It is also not currently feasible to provide running water to all homes.

One of the islands in the region suffered from prolonged dry weather, which was followed by a short four-month rainy season. Once the rainwater from the wet season was fully harvested by a system of tanks and catchment areas, the whole community had enough water to last through the dry period. Rainwater harvesting allows the community to be independent and to stop importing water from nearby communities, which is both a short term and costly solution.

The harvesting method used by the people in Indonesia was simple. Houses were fitted with a simple bamboo piece which collected the rainfall from the roof and channelled it into storage units around each home. Once the rainwater was stored, pipes were connected from the storage tanks to tap inside the house. This enabled the community to have a clean, ready supply of water without the need to build complex infrastructure before water supply could be restored. Imagine what would be achieved if this idea was implemented all over the world! To set up your own rainwater harvesting system, you can start by calling a plumber for a quote.