Progress: Construct and optimize rainwater harvesting system
In the first two years of operation, Rainwater for Humanity focused on optimizing the design of traditional system through various construction methods. This learning process ensures the system’s performance given the unique soil conditions and climate of our project site in Kuttanad.
We have built four prototype tanks in Achinakom Village before settling on a preliminary system design. The first sub-surface tank in the region was completed in December 2009 and supplies drinking and cooking water to nineteen households. As of August 2010, three above-ground family tanks were also completed. One of the tanks was built with rebar reinforced ring construction, one with brick-and-mortar construction, and one was cast out of a mold structure. After evaluating the construction processes and performances of various tanks in field, we decided to further develop the mold structure and built four more tanks using similar construction method in 2011. This brings the total number of operational tanks in Achinakom to 8. We are still working on the design; a new construction material made out of vegetable fibers has the potential to significantly lower the cost of the tanks, thus making clean water more affordable.
Moving Forward: Lower construction cost and Launch vending model
The key to our ongoing success is a sustainable economic model created by a partnership between the water user groups and Rainwater for Humanity. In cooperation with the village residents, Rainwater for Humanity has developed payback plans so that we can provide clean and affordable water to as many families as possible in Achinakom and other villages in Kuttanad.
We have begun to implement a payback model to ensure this sustainability. Users of the first four tanks pay a monthly fee toward their water user groups. This monthly fee is significantly less than what they would otherwise spend on vendor water during the same month. Using the accumulated fund, the water user groups are able to manage and maintain the tanks. In our second phase, the new water user groups adopt a vending model. In this vending model, users of the tanks pay on per-liter basis at a rate that is below the private vendor price. Each water user group elects a manager, usually a female member, who manages the tank and oversees water distribution. At the same time, Rainwater for Humanity provides the managers with administration support, compensation and tank maintenance service. We also track our impacts closely through regular water quality test and users survey. Going forward, Rainwater for Humanity will continue to refine the economic model as well as the tank design to bring clean and affordable water to as many Kuttanad households as possible.
Along with our partners at Mahatma Gandhi University School of Environmental Sciences, Rainwater for Humanity has been collaborating with the Asparawa Screwpine Society, an 8000-members strong women’s self-help group, local engineers, masons, the village residents and the water users groups established, ensuring community participation in and ownership of the project.
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