Urban rainwater harvesting in 'smart' south Asian cities

South asian laundry with buckets, harvesting rain water

Urban South Asia needs water—a lot of it, and while most of this water comes from over-extraction of groundwater and interbasin transfers, the future ability to rely on these resources is now in question.

To address this issue, we are currently examining the prospects, problems, and possibilities for upscaling rainwater harvesting projects. 

Urban rainwater harvesting is a method of catching rainwater where it falls in order to store it in tanks, catchment ponds, or in underground reservoirs. 

While this methodology is often presented as a ‘quick fix’ technology that can be harnessed to create a sustainable water supply, it is held up in practice by various socio-cultural, gendered, and political-economic complexities that are critical to understand.  

This research project is helping to identify the beneficiaries of urban rainwater harvesting, as well as providing an analysis of the potential for expanding its equitable use in urban South Asia. This has helped to establish a set of policy guidelines for tailoring urban rainwater harvesting to the socio-cultural and political-economic conditions in which it is implemented. 

The insights from this work have been already been presented to numerous municipal officials and in university workshops with staff and students across North and South India. 

However, according to lead researcher Dr Georgina Drew, these workshops and policies would be better positioned to address the issue of limited water supplies if there is also a renewed focus on urban planning in targeted areas. 

“While urban rainwater harvesting clearly improves the efficiency of urban water management, it is not adequately addressing the water equity equation in many parts of India and Nepal. This is of grave concern because urban South Asia already suffers extreme levels of water inequity.” 

“Efforts to focus on rainwater harvesting in areas with an inequitable water balance should be the focus of urban planning moving forward because water stress will be exacerbated by the repeated droughts and floods associated with climate change.”

Dr Drew anticipates that her research will lead to a project on water risk mitigation efforts in Australian agricultural sectors. 

“This will likely include study of collaborative water economies and the water sharing economy.” 

“I also anticipate that my past, current, and future work will help inform culturally and politically appropriate water policies within Australia and southern Asia.”


Tagged in Environment, sustainability and climate change, urban, rainwater, southern Asia