Officially, Ghana should be in the dry season in January, but since the weather seems unable to make up its mind, we still have the occasional shower in parts of the country this year. We could take advantage of these showers and storms to harvest the rainwater for later domestic use. This will come in especially handy during the wet season when torrential rains are expected.
In an urban Ghanaian environment like Accra, most houses have roofing sheets. Metal troughs can be fashioned to run along the edges of the roof to trap rainwater washing off it, and direct the streaming water to a central location where the water goes into a pipe and then into a waiting reservoir waiting on the other end to contain the water for later use. A smaller scale method would be to place water-cans, buckets and drums at vantage points where water pours torrentially from the roof to collect the rainwater. But this second method will not collect enough water to serve for too long before the supply is depleted.
Why you should:
There are numerous benefits to harvesting rainwater.
Reduces water bills and strain on natural water bodies: Harvesting rainwater for personal or business use will clearly reduce the amount of water you use from the state-provided source. What this means is that you will consume less tap water and, therefore, lose less money paying water bills. Additionally, lakes and rivers from which, normally, some communities procure their water needs will have time to replenish from the same rainwater the people harvest to use, thereby, preserving them for other uses.
Provides irrigation water: If ever the dry season decides to get serious, you will be well supplied with water to irrigate your flowers and garden plants from the harvested rainwater. This is natural water that is free of chemicals and other substances that may be harmful to plant-life. And the best part is you don’t have to pay a pesewa for it.
Helps prevent flooding and erosion: During the heavy rainy season, harvesting rainwater in large quantities (in large water tanks), reduces the amount of water that hits the ground and swells rivers and gutters to cause flooding. It also reduces the amount of water that washes over the topsoil, thereby, reducing erosion of the land. If you live in a flood-prone area, by simply harvesting rainwater in large quantities, in addition to the personal benefits of the harvest, you will be actively working towards preventing the disastrous flooding. Ghanaians can benefit from this, especially in the city of Accra, which is becoming known for senseless loss of life to flooding.
Use for domestic purposes: With harvested rainwater, you have a stock of water reserved for your non-drinking but very essential everyday activities like washing clothes and dishes, flushing the toilet, washing cars, putting out bush-fires, and others. You don’t need to waste your drinking water on these when you have rainwater stored. You could even go a step further to actually treat stored rainwater (with purification systems) so it’s good for drinking.
Harvesting rainwater, in spite of its numerous advantages, is not without its own set of problems and obstacles. Here are a few problems you might encounter venturing into rainwater harvesting:
Initial medium-high cost: The cost of the pipes, troughs, and containers/reservoirs/tanks you will need to get started can be a little expensive, especially, if you plan on harvesting in large quantities. Some types of roofing also seeps chemicals into the water and replacing such roofing sheets requires money, too. Then there’s the cost of adding filters to keep animal droppings on the roof from joining the rainwater in the reservoirs.
Regular Maintenance Required: Cleaning and other forms of maintenance is required to keep rodents off your harvesting system; to prevent growth of algae and fungi; keeping reptiles and insects out, etc. Doing all this on a regular basis is time-consuming and tiring.
Limited Storage Capacity: There’s only so much a tank can contain. If your storage is not sufficient for the quantity of water pouring down, the excess water pouring out onto your compound could cause some of the problems like erosion and flooding the harvest was meant to prevent.
These downsides may cause some to not venture into rainwater harvesting, but if pushed through, the initial difficulty can become a huge asset in a few years when the reduction in water bills and the produce from gardens, among other benefits, pay for the system and return profits giving you reason to smile for working with Mother Nature.