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Collecting Rainwater for a Healthier Community: Sri Lanka

By Kirsten Hongisto, communications manager-Asia for Christian Children's Fund

Manmade Help

Collecting rainwater is an age-old tradition, making access to safe drinking water a reality for families living in arid regions worldwide.

A CCF-Sri Lanka initiative is increasing further accessibility to water for some of Hambantota, Sri Lanka's poorest families and providing each one with a rainwater-collection tank. 

CCF-Sri Lanka is working in 15 villages to make rainwater a useful, accessible resource. This includes 265 families, at least 30 of whom suffered loss of life, property or livelihoods during the tsunami. Funded by ChildFund New Zealand donors, the project is slated for June 2006 completion and should ultimately assist more than 300 families.

 

 Image of a mother and child standing in front of a water storage tank
CCF-Sri Lanka is working in 15 villages to provide water storage tanks, one per family.

Most of the area served by the project is unsuitable for digging wells. The water has a high salt content and causes liver and dental problems. The government makes weekly water deliveries and while distribution is free, the amount is sometimes insufficient.

"Before the tsunami, we could use the village wells," said P. Abeysinghe, a villager whose tank is nearly completed. "We can't clean the salt left by tsunami flooding out of the wells now. We've tried three times."

With this initiative, each family is supplied with a rainwater-collection tank, which can hold 8,000 liters of water. 

So far, 15 rainwater-collection tanks have been constructed and 50 more are in the process.

Training Masons

CCF-Sri Lanka is also training masons to build the water storage tanks. It takes four masons approximately three and a half days to construct one tank. So far, CCF has trained 34 masons who will be able to build the tanks.

The water storage tank, the most expensive contraption used in the design of rainwater harvesting systems, must be carefully crafted to meet each family's needs in an affordable way.

Water is generally funneled from each family's rooftoop and then passes through a filtration system before flowing into the storage tank.

Located on a drought-prone rural plain, the District of Hambantota suffered its last severe drought in 2003. The communities of Tissamaharama, Kirinda and Kauwana average as little as 34 inches of rain per year, nearly two-thirds of which comes during the monsoon season, which falls between October and December.

Although rainfall is seasonal, families that use a rainwater harvesting system can help sustain a water supply sufficient to meet families’ needs during the dry season when children and women often walk over a mile each day to fetch water from natural sources.

“The ultimate goal of the program is a healthy society … A happy one, too,” said CCF-Sri Lanka’s Rain Harvesting Program Coordinator Anil Kumarathna.