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Rainwater Harvesting

As per NCERT Geography textbook
Contemporary India II

Reduces water bills
Reduced water demand - water supply utility saves money on treatment and pumping
Reduces cost of infrastructure necessary for water supply

Energy saved no pumping of water to our homes
If water is hard, adding soft rainwater improves water quality
Improves groundwater situation
Reduces demand for water at city/village level
Simple, cost-effective, easy to construct and maintain
Viable in urban and rural areas, slums, low income housing, apartments
Can offset the need for multipurpose river projects
The concept is simple


Store and use


Not new to India
Rainwater storage reservoir at Dholavira (Rann of Kutch) Harappan
civilization (2500-1900 BC)
Traditional rainwater harvesting systems
Widely prevalent in all parts of India
Mountainous rain-shadow regions like Spiti valley
Flood plains to check floods during monsoons
The Deccan plateau which has only monsoon fed
(no perennial) rivers
Traditional rainwater harvesting systems
Widely prevalent in all parts of India
Desert and arid region , Rajasthan, Rann of Kutch etc.
Mountainous regions with heavy rainfall to check erosion and
to provide water in non-rainy months since water
distribution systems are not easy to install

Centuries old Kul irrigation in the Western Himalayan
mountainous rain-shadow regions like Spiti valley
Glacier melt is diverted into the head of a kul or a diversion channel
These kuls channel the water over
many kilometers
They lead into a tank in the village from which water flow is regulated
Source: Accessed November 2008
Inundation channel
Bengal Flood plains

Floodwater entered the fields through the inundation canals

The waters brought in rich silt and fish

The fish fed on mosquito larva and helped check malaria in this region.
Khadins of Jaisalmer
(harvesting structures for agricultural fields)

Designed by the Paliwal Brahmins of Jaisalmer, in 15th century

Similar system also practised in Ur (Iraq), the Negev desert, and in south west Colorado

An embankment prevents water from flowing away. Collected water seeps into the soil.
This water saturates land, which is then used for growing crops
Johads of Rajasthan
(provide water for domestic use)
Earthen or masonry rainwater harvesting structure,
for providing water for domestic use to the communities.
Photo by L R Burdak
Photo by Farhad Contractor, taken in Alwar district of Rajasthan
Johads of Rajasthan
(provide water for domestic use)
Read about revival of Johads in Reviving Indias water harvesting systems
Tankas of Bikaner, Barmer, Phalodi - Rajasthan
Note the slope provided for the rainwater
(palar pani) to flow into the tanka
Pipes from the rooftop lead
rainwater into the tanka
Tankas for storing drinking water
Thar desert region of Rajasthan (Barmer, Bikaner, Pallodi)
Unique underground structures of
various shapes and sizes to collect rain
water for drinking purposes

Sometimes used to store drinking water
brought from far off wells in case the
rainwater gets exhausted

Constructed in court yards or in front
of houses and temples,

Built both for individual households as
well as for village communities

Main source of drinking water in these areas

People protect and maintain them

Just before the on-set of the monsoon, the catchment area of the Tanka is cleaned up to
remove all possible pollutants

Human activity and grazing of cattle in the area is prohibited

First spell of rain not collected

Tankas of Bikaner, Barmer, Phalodi - Rajasthan
Tankas of Bikaner, Barmer, Phalodi - Rajasthan
Provide enough drinking water to tide over the water scarcity during the summer months
even though average annual rainfall is as less as 200 mm to 300 mm.

In many cases the stored water lasts for the whole year.

These simple traditional water harvesting structures are useful even during years of below-
normal rainfall.
Rainwater harvesting in Rajasthan today
Rajasthan Canal (Indira Gandhi Nahar Project) brings water (for agriculture and domestic
use) from the Sutlej and Beas rivers

Rainwater harvesting was on decline

Being revived in many parts of Rajasthan: traditional methods with some improvisations
For more information, check out
Deccan Plateau
Water harvested in a system of tanks that were fed
by seasonal streams

Tanks recharged groundwater

Tanks neglected

Many regions facing water scarcity

Importance of rainwater harvesting being realized

Rooftop rainwater harvesting getting a boost
No perennial rivers
Rainwater harvesting in the
North Eastern states

Uneven distribution of population

Abundant water resources but not tapped due to rugged terrain

Face water scarcity in areas of high population density
Mountainous regions with heavy rainfall
Bamboo drip irrigation
in Meghalaya
Bamboo drip irrigation in Meghalaya
200-year-old system

Used by tribal farmers of Khasi and Jaintia hills

Bamboos divert water from perennial springs on
hilltops to the lower reaches by gravity

Used to irrigate the betel leaf or black pepper crops

18-20 litres of water entering the bamboo pipe
system per minute gets transported over several
hundred meters and finally gets reduced to 20-80
drops per minute at the site of the plant.

Attempts made to introduce modern pipe systems
but farmers prefer to use their indigenous form of
For more information on
Rain Water Harvesting Systems
in different regions
Check out

Read the book Dying wisdom published by the Centre for Science and
Environment (CSE)

Brief notes on some traditional water harvesting structures are available at
Traditional Water Harvesting Structures information sheet on

Rainwater harvesting today
Flat / sloping roofs
Leaf and grit
filter, First
flush device
Transportation: Downtake
Storage in
Recharge into open wells /
borewells / percolation pits /
Case studies of interest - Legislation
Tamil Nadu

Rainwater harvesting made mandatory for all the buildings in the

If the rain water harvesting structure is not provided as required, an
authorized person can implement a rain water harvesting structure
and the cost is recovered along with property tax".

Citizens are also warned about disconnection of water supply
connection if rainwater harvesting structures are not provided.

To learn more about policies and legislation (India and abroad),
check out
Gendathur (Karnataka) - a remote village in Mysore district

The first village to have installed a maximum number of rainwater harvesting systems.

Each of the 200 houses have a rooftop rainwater harvesting system

The Mysore Zilla Panchayat, an NGO (MYRADA) and the villagers worked together

The villagers contributed 20% of the project cost.

The villagers of Gendathur use rainwater for all their everyday needs; they even use it for
drinking and cooking.
Case studies of interest - Implementation
Some people
Chewang Norphel, 62, of Leh, Ladakh.

In Ladakh, the annual average rainfall is 50 mm.
The only source of water are glaciers, which melt in late

Water shortage felt at the start of the cropping season in early summer
(May to June)

Taps left open in winter, so that water does not freeze in the pipelines
(Water wasted in winter)

Norphel builds artificial glaciers by channelising glacier water into
depressions lying in the shadow area of a mountain, hidden from

He places half-inch-wide iron pipes at the edge of the depression. As
the water keeps collecting in the pipes, it freezes. As more water seeps
in, it pushes out the frozen blocks, and in turn, itself gets frozen. This
keeps happening in a continuous cycle, and these frozen blocks create
a clean, artificial glacier.

Norphel has made four such glaciers.
To learn more about people who are making a difference,
check out
Want to play
Divide the class into 5 teams
Team A selects 2 persons who will pick the clue and draw it out on the
board for the other team members to guess.

If the guessers get the right answer in 30 secs, they get 5 points
If the guessers get the right answer in 60 secs, they get 3 points
The chance then goes to Team B and so on.

No mouthing of words
No names or numbers to be written
No actions

Turn off the projector now, so that
the whole class cannot see the clues.
The 2 representatives of Team A
can come up to the computer and
see the clue.
Round 1
Team A Khadin
Team B Johad
Team C Tanka
Team D Kul
Team E Inundation channel
Round 2
Team A Dholavira
Team B Spiti valley
Team C Rann of Kutch
Team D Deccan Plateau
Team E Jaisalmer
Round 3
Team A Thar
Team B North East India
Team C Bamboo drip irrigation
Team D Indira Gandhi Canal
Team E Gendathur

Round 4
Team A collection
Team B storage
Team C recharge
Team D filter
Team E pipelines