How to keep water affordable: Natural water harvesting

How to keep water affordable: Natural water harvesting

Rainwater harvesting. (Representative Image:


Asst. Professor, St Joseph’s College Jakhama (Autonomous)

In Nagaland most villages and towns are located on hilltops. Thus natural spring water and rain fed streams are vital sources of water. This includes groundwater which is recharged by rainfall. These sources of water in Nagaland are created due to the presence of forest and vegetation cover.

The forest and vegetation allows soil to retain rainwater during rainy seasons and slowly release the water rest of the year in the form of springs, streams and also recharge ground water reservoirs. This is nature’s form of water harvesting and occurs in a massive scale.

Water in the soil collect and persist when there is vegetation in the area. Remove the vegetation/ forest cover and the spring water will eventually reduce overtime and disappear. The most reliable form of water harvesting which can be accomplished in large scale is to encourage vegetation and forest cover to develop in the catchment area and near water spring sources.

There are two immediate problems associated with the dependence on this source of water; Firstly, increasing population and thus, demand for a commodity which is limited in nature; Secondly, rapid deforestation and urbanization resulting in loss of natural water harvesting areas.

To take the example of Kohima town, it has water in the form of small spring fed rivulet and ground water reservoir due to the presence of forest and vegetation cover in the Pulie-badze ranges. If the water catchment areas were to be deforested, developed with roads and buildings or even cultivated with crops. The streams will overflow and erode the soil in rainy season while drying up completely during dry season.

While man- made water harvesting structures can alleviate some needs, there is limited space for storage and financial constrains that accompany these solutions. If one has to store water for an entire year with 20 litres per ca-pita per day as listed in WHO for a person basic critical needs, this would amount to about 7500 litres per person simply for basic personal hygiene and consumption.

Thus the most effective and economically feasible route is to grow and protect the available natural water harvesting forest and vegetation that we currently have.

Granted as we may not be all able to plant a tree but surly we can speak up when these assets are under threat due to ignorance or simply greed. We can discourage building structures, roads or other developmental activities in catchment areas and removal of vegetation and tree cover near spring water sources. Even help prevent forest fires by educating ourselves and others in open fire risk mitigation or simply employing common sense. Discuss these issues with friends, colleagues and neighbors when there is small talk about water as is usual every winter.

Much like nature’s water harvesting process where water that is collected moves very slowly taking even years to reach natural springs, the effects of ideas, education and dissemination of community values may take years to manifest but we must persist in sharing these issues and remember “All things worth doing takes time”.