Dennie Quill, Columnist
I was visiting a friend in Kingston on Sunday evening when it started raining. Instinctively, I called out for buckets and placed them out back to be filled from the rooftop.
I would not have reacted that way 10 years ago, but having had to live with water restrictions annually, I have come to have a greater appreciation for the precious commodity. Who could predict that urban living would include water lock-offs?
With this run-off that is pure and unadulterated, my friend could later water her plants and I know that she will eventually see the benefit in healthy growth. Hopefully, she will be motivated to continue this practice.
Being an avid gardener, I am totally interested in any solution which will result in my plants looking healthy all year round, so the idea of rainwater harvesting appeals to me.
And I applaud the Ministry of Agriculture for promoting rainwater harvesting. In a way, we are returning to history to solve today's problems. Rainwater harvesting has been identified in China dating back 6,000 years ago, and in Israel, ruins of cisterns built in 2000 BC tell a story of how water was harvested for their crops. One wonders whether farmers in drought-stricken St Elizabeth could benefit from rainwater harvesting.
Today, there are more than 200,000 cisterns in the United States to facilitate the use of captured water for consumption and irrigation. A water-harvesting system can be as simple as a barrel for garden irrigation at the end of a downspout or very sophisticated storage tanks and cisterns constructed for large industrial complexes.
One of the great benefits is that the end use of the water is usually close to the source, eliminating the need for costly filtration and distribution systems.
The National Water Commission has consistently reminded us how costly it is to produce potable water, so by harvesting rainwater, consumers could reduce their demand for expensively treated water and their bills could be significantly slashed.
Where can the interested see demonstrations of the effectiveness of rainwater harvesting or grey-water recycling systems?
A letter writer to the editor ('Make productive use of wastewater', Gleaner, February 12, 2013) has described how his $10,000 investment to reconfigure his mother's plumbing in order to utilise wastewater has paid off in seven years. He suggested that the ministry establish a desk dedicated to answering inquiries on good cultural practices to promote this initiative.
Not only that, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority should be actively involved in setting up permanent demonstrations for farmers to learn more about this technology, which is making a modern-day comeback.
COMMON HOUSING FIXTURE
I go further and suggest that all housing developments should be so designed to harvest rainwater and to make better use of wastewater. Public parks, school compounds and other such spaces should also be setting the example by harvesting rainwater for their landscaping needs.
There is a huge role for our academic community to educate the public on rainwater harvesting and the best use of wastewater/grey water.
I envisage that rainwater-harvesting exhibitions will be set up at strategic locations so that those who are interested in having a sustainable water-supply system can observe the technology, design and application of rainwater harvesting.
The cost of water is never going down, and the effects of climate change have created many uncertainties in weather patterns these days, so much so that even the land of wood and water is feeling the impact of dry days.
There is renewed interest in rainwater harvesting around the world, so let's get on with it.
Dennie Quill is a veteran journalist. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.