What we do

Rainwater harvesting

Combining technical innovation with local traditional wisdom, we focus on capturing, storing and managing rainwater in a variety of ways. Water can be captured where it is needed, and groundwater levels can be recharged. Simple, small-scale technologies, such as check dams, contour trenches, roof rainwater harvesting and underground storage tanks are highly effective. 

Our work can be divided into three programmatic areas:

Clean drinking water
Improved livelihoods
Environment

Clean drinking water

Our clean drinking water programmes focus on providing year round clean drinking water at home. There are three main ways we do this:

Taankas
Roof rainwater harvesting structures
Step wells

SDG 6.1 target: By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.

UN Development goals

Taanka

Taanka is a community and individual based traditional rainwater harvesting technique indigenous to the Thar Desert region of Rajasthan. The taanka is a covered, underground water tank, generally made of stone, brick or concrete. Once constructed, it collects and stores rainwater (primarily received during the monsoon season) from artificially prepared catchments that surround the tank.


Roof rainwater harvesting systems

Roof Rain Water Harvesting Structures collect and store the rainwater that falls on the roofs of people’s houses. When the rainfall falls onto the roof, it runs into a gutter and then into a down pipe and is collected in the storage tanks. There is a filter in the pipe to filter out some potential contaminants.


Stepwells

Stepwells were built to enable people to access water as the groundwater level recedes throughout the long dry season. Whilst many traditional step wells are now defunct or no longer in use, WaterHarvest works to restore them.

Improved livelihoods

Our livelihood programme has two programmes: drip and sprinkler.

Drip irrigation systems
Sprinkler irrigation systems

SDG 6.4:

Target: By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.

UN Development Goals

Drip irrigation

Drip irrigation systems is to maximise the value of water delivered to the fields by ensuring that it is targeted at the root zone of crop plants, without excessive loss. Water is delivered to the crop using a network of branching pipes, with emission points spaced along their lengths. Each point supplies a measured, precisely controlled uniform metered amount of water directly to the roots of the crop. This method is hugely efficient compared to the previous method of flooding the field naturally, resulting in the loss of valuable water and the growth of unwanted weeds.


Sprinkler irrigation

Sprinkler irrigation is a method of applying irrigation water in a similar way to natural rainfall. Water is distributed though a system of pipes and is then sprayed into the air through sprinklers, so that it breaks up into small water drops which fall to the ground. The sprinkler systems we construct irrigate whole fields, and can significantly improve the quality of fine-leaved crops such as coriander, as well as enhancing the uniformity of crops. A further advantage of these systems is that it becomes possible to irrigate a field during short periods when electricity supplies are available, reducing human resource inputs. Whilst traditional flood irrigation requires the efforts of a whole family for 6-8 hours, sprinklers mean one person alone can complete this task in a few hours.

Environment

Our environment programme focuses on land regeneration through chaukas. These low cost, simple solution bring life back into the land.

SDG 15 Life on Land: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

UN Development Goals

Chaukas

Chauka‘ literally means ‘rectangle’. Chauka systems comprise of rectangular enclosures surrounded on three sides by earthen bunds or embankments, with a further network of shallow, square depressions dug into the bed of the enclosures which retain and promote the percolation of rainwater.

Collectively, the low-height bunds work together like sponges, collecting the erratic, unpredictable rains and helping them meander down the natural, gentle slope of the land through cascades of connected chauka. Each individual chauka cell holds water do a depth of no more than 23 centimetres, as a deeper water would drown the roots of the grasses.

During rainfall, the water moves gradually from one chauka to another, allowing more time for the soil to become moist and the water to seep into the ground. In time, the land around the systems will be rejuvenated.