The rainwater harvesting program of the Barefoot College is a sustainable solution to the extreme shortage of clean drinking water sources in rural Rajasthan, India. Rains are often undependable and ground water has unhealthy levels of arsenic or fluoride, and in many areas is too saline to drink. Rainwater - as a direct source of potable water when filtered - can be collected from the rooftops of schools and stored in underground storage tanks. Communities contribute to constructing the system.
Rooftop rainwater harvesting is a traditional approach used for hundreds of years in India to collect rainwater and store it to provide clean water for daily needs in these arid regions. Roofs of schools and community buildings are adapted to catch infrequent rainwater and channel it to underground tanks. Traditional knowledge, local materials and community skills are used in the construction of these tanks by the local community.
Schools communicate concepts and technologies about rainwater collection, and promote health and hygiene in the local community. Advocating for rainwater collection and provision of toilets in schools provides an entry point for discussions about wider social issues, including those related to health, education and energy.
Women may walk long distances to collect water for their families. Mothers send their children to school to collect clean drinking water. Attendance of children in school is increased and the dropout rate is reduced particularly for girls. Availability of fresh water for school toilets also reduces the incidence of water-born diseases. A safe source of clean drinking water improves maternal, childhood and community health and reduces illness.