WASA aims to store 21m gallons of rainwater

Recurring flooding amid scarcity impels conservation

APP January 29, 2024


After establishing three rainwater harvesting sites at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Sheranwala Gate and Kashmir Road, the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) plans to build more underground tanks in the city to store 21 million gallons of water.

WASA Managing Director Ghufran Ahmad said the rainwater is stored to meet the needs of the population. The three rainwater harvesting sites have the capacity to store 4.4 million gallons of water.

"This water is used for watering greenbelt plantations across the city," he added.

The country is fast approaching water scarcity because of unchecked population growth and rising demand for agricultural and human use. A long history of neglecting the sector has resulted in a drastic decline of per capita water availability, ringing alarm bells for experts and the policymakers.

As almost 80 per cent of the rainfall in the country occurs during the monsoon season, the storage of rainwater and use of modern and efficient usage techniques can be vital to addressing water and food security issues.

"We are at the climate crossroads. On one side we face water sacristy and on the other droughts and floods," remarked Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) Chairman Muhammad Ashraf.

"These phenomena of water scarcity and severe flooding urgently require nature-based solutions for water storage and conservation, especially through rainwater harvesting, to meet our future water needs," he added.

“Then there is also need for controlling water wastage and ensuring its proper storage for agriculture and human use," the PCRWR chairman said. Talking of global rainwater harvesting techniques, he said they might consist of simple rain barrels or more elaborate structures with pumps, tanks and purification systems.

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"Keeping within our available resources, we need to do research on easier and inexpensive modes of water conservation," he said.

Besides water table recharge, the non-potable rainwater can also be used to irrigate agricultural land, flush toilets, wash vehicles, launder clothes and even for drinking if properly purified.

Moreover, the Punjab Agriculture Department has built 44 ponds for harvesting rainwater in Rawalpindi division to improve the underground water table and use it for irrigation and other purposes in arid areas.

The International Water Management Institute and Punjab Irrigation Department have also jointly launched a pilot project in Okara district to promote water-efficient farming and check the level and quality of subsoil water. "This project will hopefully benefit the local farmers by enhancing water efficiency and maintaining soil fertility," stated the On Farm Water Management Research Project Director Dr Habibullah Habib.

"The farmers need to benefit from laser land levelers, adopt furrow cultivation as well as drip irrigation to get maximum produce by using limited water," he added.

The Pir Mehar Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University’s former vice chancellor Dr Rai Niaz Ahmad commented, “We need artificial recharge wells at suitable sites across the country."

He also strongly recommended amending the by-laws for housing societies for making rainwater harvesting mandatory for them.

He said the International Water Management Institute was ready to extend technical support to organisations working in the sector.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2024.


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