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The Potential of Rainwater Harvesting in Urban Schools

This is the 3rd blog in SmartPaani’s lockdown series written by our team. This is written by Rojita Maharjan, SmartPaani’s Tripti and School Sustainability Manager about the potential for rainwater harvesting in urban schools.

Water scarcity is a significant problem facing urban areas that will only become worse. In Kathmandu valley water quality and quantity both are serious issues with not enough water supply from the government and the quality of all the options for drinking water questionable.

The 600 public schools of Kathmandu Valley face the same problems. Municipal water supply is not enough so most of the schools are reliant on underground water source or tanker water purchase. Daily water demand in Kathmandu valley is over 370 MLD but Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL) can meet 19% in dry season and 31% in wet season of the valley’s water demand.[1] There are several schools rely solely on water tankers and spend thousands of rupees every month.

Also, the quality of groundwater is not guaranteed and can vary significantly by season, include spikes in hard to filter contaminants such as nitrates during the monsoon. The major problems in public schools are acute water shortages, flood during rainy season, and groundwater quality fluctuation between Junes to September. Harvesting rainwater can help solve all three issues, helping the school become water independent. However, lack of proper knowledge, technology and financial support are barriers to schools fully utilizing rainwater.

RWH at MAV School in Satdobato to provide an alternate source to nitrate-contaminated groundwater in the monsoon. #coolkidsneedcleanwater

Rainwater harvesting is one of the best options and alternate solution for sustainable water management in public schools of Kathmandu valley where there is inadequate supply of ground water or surface water. It helps reducing overload of the wastewater treatment plants and prevents runoff water from going to the drainage system picking up pollutants from the surfaces. Similarly, it helps in recharging water into aquifers and improves the quality of ground water through dilution. Rainwater harvesting not only solves the water shortage issue, it contributes to improve the hygiene and sanitation conditions and saves significant money that school is spending on tanker water purchases.

SmartPaani works with public schools to implement long-lasting, financially and environmentally beneficial rainwater harvesting. Within Kathmandu Valley SmartPaani has installed rainwater harvesting systems in 20 public schools overall. Every day over 8000 students benefit from rainwater harvesting and the systems harvest 4 million liters for direct use and recharge another 3 million liters back into the ground.

With the #coolkidsneedcleanwater campaign supported by A/Bareness, Moxie Eyewear and others SmartPaani has done rainwater harvesting in 9 schools alone. They have all saved money and been provided with better water quality.

RWH at Dolagiri School installed in partnership with A/Bareness #coolkidsneedcleanwater

Rainwater harvesting has helped solve the water scarcity issue as well as improve hygiene and sanitation condition in schools. Mahalaxmi Secondary School is one of the partner sites located at Nakhipot-14, Lalitpur. There was not any water source there except an unreliable well and the school was completely reliant on tanker water. They used to purchase 7000 liters of water per week. But the quality of tanker water was not guaranteed so they used to buy sealed jar water for drinking. After installation of rainwater harvesting system in June 2019 the scenario has been changed school doesn’t have to buy a tanker water anymore. Furthermore because of ground water recharge there is enough water in the well, which allows schools to sell excess water in nearby community through their “water kiosk” program. The well, which used to dry up after monsoon, still provides water to the school helping them avoid water purchases in the dry season.

Ms. Meena K.C (principal) shares “We were wasting all the rainwater and spending a lot on tanker purchase. This monsoon our underground storage tank was always full. This is extra add on for us to address water scarcity issue during monsoon.”

Rainwater Harvesting at Mahalaxmi School #coolkidsneedcleanwater

“Now we are very happy that we don’t have to spent a lot of money on tanker water purchase and saving monthly NPR 8,000” shares Mr. Ram B. Gurung (SMC chairperson)

Mehda Secondary School located at Tekhapukhu, Bhaktapur used to completely reliant on tanker water to fulfill their daily water demand. They used to buy 1 tanker (7000 l) water every alternate day and spending NPR 1400 per tanker. After installation of rainwater harvesting system in September 2017 school got much relief to address water scarcity issue. 

Mr. Gangadhar Hada (principal) shares “RWHS helps a lot, we don’t have to buy a tanker water at least for three months during monsoon and saving NPR.21,000 in three months which is enough to buy water for next four months.”

Sharada Secondary School located at Yalachhen, Bhaktapur was also facing acute water scarcity in their school.  They used to buy 5 tankers (5000 L capacity) per month, costing NPR 1200 per tanker or 6000/month.

Roshan Raj Tui Tui (Principal) shares “This rainwater harvesting system is big relief for our school. Now we avoid water tanker purchases for at least 6 months and saving 36000 rupees annually.”

Summary Lessons:

Rainwater harvesting has a lot of potential in schools in urban areas, especially the rapidly growing Kathmandu Valley. RWH saves schools money who normally rely on purchased water. Schools with large areas generate a lot of rainwater, harvesting and recharging this prevents it from going to the sewer and reduces urban flooding. Schools that rely on groundwater can substitute rainwater in the monsoon, reducing groundwater extraction and providing them better quality of water which reduces their cost of filtration. Rainwater harvesting and recharge is schools can be a key part of a sustainable urban water management strategy.

[1] Implications of the Melamchi water supply project for the Kathmandu Valley groundwater system (2019)

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