Water Portal / Rainwater Harvesting / 3R (Recharge, Retention & Reuse)

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The Water Use Master Plan (WUMP) document. Photo: Silvia Voser.

There are three important arguments in support of 3R:

1. Climate change adaptation
Changes in rainfall may influence the livelihood of people and their economy. Water storage plays a deciding factor in the ability to adapt to climate change. Water storage is a key component in bridging momentary gaps between demand and availability of water. Many advantages are to be found in making use of the buffer function of groundwater, surface water and storage systems. These systems have the ability to offer people sufficient access to drinking water and provide water for cattle, agricultural purposes and other productive purposes. Access to water also benefits the environment and the wider ecosystem. Storage of water allows for secure levels of reserves that can be used in times of need.

2. Recirculation in the water chain
Water management is often limited to the paradigm of water resource allocation, availability and efficiency. It often fails to take into consideration the buffer capacity, water circulation or the re-use of buffered water. 3R can substantially contribute to increasing the quantity and quality of water resources. The use and reuse of buffered water allows for the increased availability of water, as it circumvents water allocation conflicts through simply using and re-circulating the water.

3. Green water management
Buffering water in groundwater results in improved soil moisture and increases the availability of shallow groundwater. This way of buffering makes an important contribution to ‘green water management’. Green water management is the management of soil moisture based on improved tillage, mulching, physiochemical and biological processes. By infiltrating water into the soil, 3R contributes to green water management in a way that leaves a positive footprint on both ecosystems and agricultural production.

3R planning tool

In WASH programmes, there is a domestic water supply, sanitation and hygiene focus mainly on a household or community level and not on an area or catchment, as in Integrated Water Resource Management programmes. However, more and more linkages are made between WASH programmes and other sectors like food and energy. This requires a rethinking of WASH programmes and moving from a community approach towards a catchment approach.

Due to increasing water demands and the negative impacts of climate change, it is crucial to effectively and efficiently store water within a catchment. The 3R (Recharge, Retention and Re-use) approach does not only enhance buffer management in a catchment for both water and food security, but also supports communities to work together in facing water scarcity and managing the resources in their catchment. However, integrating the 3R approach in local planning and implementation is still a challenge.

Requirements & limitations
This planning tool focuses on projects carried out by the 3R consortium in Ethiopia and Nepal. Although the aim is to develop a planning tool, which can be applied in different contexts, it will not be possible to simply apply the tool for Ethiopia and Nepal to any other country without some adaptations. The planning tool will be mainly developed for non-governmental and governmental actors working in the field of water management and spatial planning.

Description & results
In Nepal of 2012, RAIN and Acacia Water started to develop the 3R methodology, which supports implementing organisations to integrate the 3R approach into their project planning. This method enables opportunities and challenges within an area to be included by looking at both the physical and social environment. MetaMeta and RAIN worked in 2012 on building capacity of local governments on 3R as part of the existing natural resource management framework in Ethiopia. Both projects showed that there is a strong need for 3R as a planning tool in water management projects. But knowledge, capacity and commitment are needed to actually change current planning processes of non-governmental and governmental organisations.

To respond to this need, RAIN and its partners within the 3R consortium will develop a 3R planning tool and practical training modules:

  • In Nepal, RAIN is working together with Helvetas Swiss Int. Nepal to develop a similar 3R module for their WUMP planning tool,
  • In Ethiopia, RAIN and MetaMeta are developing training modules for 3R planning and implementation.

Catchment Assessment Tool

RAIN, together with Practica Foundation and Wetlands International, will develop a catchment assessment tool that will support WASH projects to work with an area-driven (instead of a technology-driven) approach. Many catchment assessment tools exist, but these are often too complex for small-scale planning of RWH projects. The catchment assessment tool is based on RAINs RWH decision support tool (under development) and other existing catchment assessment tools.

Requirements & limitations
The tool can be used for small-scale catchment planning purposes focusing mainly on water scarce or water stressed areas. The tool will be mainly developed for implementers and decision makers in WASH programmes in developing countries.

Description & results
The catchment assessment tool supports planning of WASH interventions at the earliest stages and takes into account opportunities and risks of the project area or catchment. It will focus on environmentally sustainable approaches and will support informed decision-making in WASH programmes.

RWH Decision Support Tool

In 2010, RAIN developed an online RWH decision support tool in a Wiki environment. The goal of this project was to develop a planning and decision tool to guide implementation, upscaling and integration of RWH into water management programmes. It consists of 14 steps, which will guide the user through the different aspects concerning water harvesting.

The tool links to a library containing additional information about specific aspects of water harvesting, such as water quality issues, but also provides information on good practices in water harvesting. More information can be found in the final report.

Description & results
The tool has not been published online mainly due to the fact that it was seen as too complex (14 steps) and therefore not user-friendly. RAIN now aims to repackage the current tool into a more user-friendly tool. This tool is coming soon.

3R field experiences

The following projects utilize 3R using recharge, retention and reuse.

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RSR Project 394
Introducing 3R in impact area of DWA
RSR Project 427
Scale up of Sustainable Water Access
RSR Project 572
Introducing 3R in impact areas of DWA

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