Assessing the potential of rainwater harvesting in Kumi Town Council
Kumi district has been known for its problem of water scarcity for a long time. This is partly due to the low water table and the presence of the basement rock which presents difficulty in abstracting and developing ground water sources. This problem is normally worsened in the dry season as most wells dry up and water in the boreholes plays hard to get. Many efforts have been made to provide water to the people but the situation is still not good enough. This study looks at rainwater harvesting as an option to this problem by assessing the effectiveness of the existing rainwater methods in Kumi town council. Other aspects of the study include assessing the benefits of these methods, the limitations and how they can be improved. Data was obtained using Household surveys, key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and assessment of secondary records as well as measurements of rainwater quality. The results of the study showed that every household (100%) practices rainwater harvesting in Kumi town council to supplement domestic water supplies. However the technology is not well developed as seen from the nature, type and volume of both outdoor and indoor collection and storage facilities. The outdoor facilities mainly for collecting water comprises the collection surface which is the roof, conveying system the gutters, and the storage facilities with a few having dispensing devices like taps. Water is collected in large tanks (5,000-25,000 liters) and drums of (120-240 liters). Indoor facilities are especially used for storing water and include pots, jerry cans, buckets and saucepans. The rainwater harvesting method practiced in Kumi town council is roof water harvesting where the roof is the catchment (100%). The process of harvesting water varies from roof to tank then used, to some it is from the roof to gutter, tank then to the indoor storage facilities and finally used. While to many it is from the roof to collection device then used. Many households have locally made gutters ranging from 50% in Bazaar, 71.7% in Kanyumu A and 49% in Tank ward. A few industrially made gutters were (32.7% in Bazaar, 20.8% in Kanyumu A and 42.9% in Tank ward), others collect directly from roofs. Storage facilities are mostly the small plastic drums/containers ranging from 51.9% in Bazaar, 62.3% in Kanyumu A and 55.1% in Tank ward, clay pots at 15.4% in Bazaar, 18.9% in Kanyumu A and 6.1% in Tank ward. Other facilities are jerry cans (17.3% in Bazaar, 7.5% in Kanyumu A and 14.3% in Tank ward), small buckets, saucepans and basins. The bigger tanks were found in a few households and institutions like schools and health centers which are promoted by NGOs, these are fully developed systems and these stood at 9.6% in Bazaar, 5.7% in Kanyumu A, 20.4% in Tank ward with a capacity of 5,000 liters to 25,000 liters as the largest recorded. The benefits of rainwater harvesting are reduction of time and energy spent fetching water, improved health and hygiene, increased time available for income generating activities and improved children’s school attendance. Water quality was generally good for example the physico-chemical quality in terms of pH, (6.86-7.81), total dissolved solids (0.026-32 mg/l), temperature (23.6-25oC), turbidity (3.6 NTU ), conductivity (11-64.5 µS/cm), and color meets the prescribed national standard for safe drinking water. The limitations to rainwater harvesting in Kumi town council include, the limited volume of storage facilities thus water collected is not enough to last through to the dry season, poor guttering system for water, financial constraints also limit the development of this technology. The seasonality (now unpredictable long draught) of rain has also made people believe this option is not feasible thus unsustainable. There is also limited sensitization and support from the relevant authorities into how low cost rainwater harvesting can be achieved. There are no model centers from which the people can learn techniques to make bigger storage facilities from locally available materials. Improving rainwater harvesting in Kumi needs developing this technology through sensitization to improve both collection and storage to avoid loss of water. Other methods of harvesting water should be adopted like runoff collection, use of hard surfaces like pavements to collect more water for such activities as agriculture. Include rainwater harvesting in water policy implementation at the town council. Lobbing NGOs involved in rainwater harvesting to invest in developing this technology in the district, these would encourage skill development thus empowering the people through training and cost sharing.