Raindrops keep falling ... on my shed

Connie Duffy

Reporter:

Connie Duffy

Rainwater harvesting is now back in vogue after having been ignored for decades. For arid and semi-arid regions, domestic rainwater harvesting has a proven track-record of providing water next to the house. That water has both domestic and economic uses is obvious, that we have so much of it and do nothing with it is ...well downright daft.

Rainwater harvesting is now back in vogue after having been ignored for decades. For arid and semi-arid regions, domestic rainwater harvesting has a proven track-record of providing water next to the house. That water has both domestic and economic uses is obvious, that we have so much of it and do nothing with it is ...well downright daft.

Water is life. Yet millions of people throughout the world lack enough of this basic commodity for their hygiene and/or have no good quality water for drinking and preparing food. In many families both women and men also need water for animals, vegetables, crops and trees.

Rainwater collection is one of the oldest means of collecting water for domestic purposes. Collection and storage for agricultural use has equally been widely practised for thousands of years.

In the last two decades, interest in rainwater harvesting has grown. Its utilisation is now an option along with more ‘traditional’ water supply technologies, particularly in rural areas. The increased interest has been facilitated by a number of external factors, including the shift towards more community-based approaches and technologies which emphasise participation, ownership and sustainability; the increased use of small-scale water supply for productive and economic purposes (livelihoods approach); the decrease in the quality and quantity of ground- and surface water; the failure of many piped water supply systems due to poor maintenance over the years; the flexibility and adaptability of rainwater harvesting technology; the replacement of traditional roofing with impervious materials (e.g. tiles and corrugated iron); the increased availability of low-cost tanks (e.g. made of ferro-cement or plastics).

Now a Donegal Senator has called on the Environment Minister Phil Hogan to commit to introducing grants for domestic rainwater harvesting ahead of the introduction of water charges.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill said a scheme, similar to the retrofit grants introduced by the previous government, must be provided to support households in investing in water conservation systems.

“Ireland has a plentiful supply of rainwater and we are not doing enough to exploit this. At the moment people are using expensive drinking water to wash their cars, water their plants and flush their toilets. By harvesting rainwater instead, they would be conserving drinking water and radically reduce their household water bills into the future,” said Senator Ó Domhnaill.

“With Minister Hogan making plans to slap water charges on every household in the country from 2014, he must look at innovative ways of using our natural resources to help minimise the cost on households. This must include a grant scheme to help households, schools, business and farms here in Donegal and across the country to install rainwater harvesting systems. It would allow people to use rain water for much their daily needs, thereby radically reducing future water bills and helping to conserve expensive treated tap water nationally.

“The long-term economic benefits of this investment would far outweigh the initial cost. Not only would it create jobs in construction and installation in Donegal over the next number of years, it would also help to radically reduce the unnecessary usage of treated tap water in this region across the country.

“Fianna Fáil has asked Minister Hogan to prioritise this so that any grant scheme will be in place well in advance of the introduction of charges. Households and businesses in Donegal and across the country must be given the opportunity to budget for such an investment and to complete the necessary work before they are hit with water bills,” he said.