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  • Writer's pictureThirst Relief International

Rainwater harvesting tanks:

Rainwater Harvesting Helps Ease Drought Impact in East Africa

Access to Clean Water Provides A Safer Life:

Water is essential for life. Our bodies can’t function without it. Dehydration can happen

from losing just four percent of total body water, and a person can die from losing 15

percent of their body water!

Water also promotes life in numerous other ways. Without it, we couldn’t grow crops or

support livestock. Water has advanced civilization, providing a means for travel for

entire parts of the world and a power source for factories.


It can exist as vapor so that it can be stored in the atmosphere and delivered as rain across the planet.


Earth’s oceans also help regulate the planet’s climate, absorbing heat in the summer and releasing it.


And the oceans serve as a home for countless plants and animals. Life cannot be sustained on Earth without water, which is why the lack of water is our most significant global crisis.

The people living in East Africa have a firsthand account of what life is like when there’s

a water shortage. Life in drought-ridden East Africa is like a real-life horror movie. The

skeletal remains of livestock litter the parched landscape. Vegetation is almost

non-existent. People who have lost everything to the drought endure long walks that can

last for days and include violent encounters. When they arrive at a makeshift settlement

for displaced people, they are thrust into a world filled with disease and more violence.

It’s a drastic departure for those who once lived off the land in a society where wealth is

determined by the size of a person’s herd and how much they had to share. Now they

depend on the government and humanitarian aid organizations for food. It’s a desperate

scenario, but not one without hope.


Rainwater Harvesting Tanks Offer Hope:

Using interlocking stabilized soil blocks (ISSB) — brick-like earthen blocks used in place

of bricks in most construction applications — to construct rainwater tanks offers a

sustainable solution to build water infrastructure. This method directly supports

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6), which aims for clean water and sanitation for

all, by providing an innovative and sustainable way to collect and store rainwater. A

rainwater harvest tank made using the ISSB method is stabilized by compression,

cementation, and interlocks.

The blocks have a high soil-to-cement ratio and are

capable of bearing significant loads. Each tank is almost 10 inches thick, has steel wire mesh providing structural strength, and is seated on a reinforced concrete base, approximately a foot deep.



Although simple, this fundamental technology has far-reaching impacts that extend

beyond providing a water supply.


Economic Advantages:

ISSB technology is a more affordable way to construct rainwater tanks. Additionally, the

use of ISSB is a green technology, significantly reducing carbon emissions associated

with traditional brick-making processes and aligning with the global push towards

sustainable construction methods. A rainwater harvesting tank made with an ISSB hand

press is 17 percent less expensive than oven-fired brick water tanks and less expensive

than plastic water tanks. The bricks cure at ambient temperatures and are

weatherproof, so there is no need to plaster the building exterior. Due to its interlocking

mechanism, very little cement is needed between block joints and wall construction.

Reducing the amount of cement used lowers project costs. Each tank takes around 18

days to build, including brick making and cement curing time, keeping construction

labor costs low. The tanks are easy to maintain, and if a crack happens, it can be

repaired inexpensively.


Environmental Advantages:

ISSB technology provides an alternative to the commonly used fired brick, which

currently is the cause of severe environmental degradation due to deforestation, and the

destruction of wetlands. By promoting the use of ISSB, we contribute to environmental

conservation efforts, a crucial aspect of sustainable living. Reducing the number of

bricks consumed conserves acres of trees from being cut down and used for the firing

process, generating more than 20 percent waste.

Employment/Educational Advantages

The construction method can increase local skills, creating a skilled labor force that’s

an income-generating opportunity for local populations. It is easy to learn and can

stimulate educational dialogue regarding environmental issues due to its nature.

Incorporating ISSB training programs could further enhance local capacities and foster

a deeper understanding of sustainable practices among communities. With the

purchase of additional tools, laborers can start building square or round homes, small

buildings, ecosan toilet buildings, and other small structures. The addition of basic

welding skills enables a laborer to do an entire project, including welded window

frames.


Safety Advantages:

In many African villages, the simple act of obtaining water is a perilous journey fraught with danger. Women and children, often the primary water fetchers in these communities, embark on long and arduous walks to distant rivers, their path laden with threats ranging from human trafficking to assault, robbery, and even murder. Each step they take is a testament to their resilience and determination, as they brave these hazards in pursuit of the most basic human need: water.

Imagine the pain of the journey, the heavy containers balanced precariously on their heads, the blistering heat beating down on their backs, and the constant fear of the unknown lurking around every corner. Yet, despite these hardships, these women press on, driven by a deep-seated necessity that knows no bounds.


But there is hope. Rainwater harvesting tanks, along with proper filtration methods such as BioSand filters, can transform these perilous journeys into paths of safety and security. By capturing rainwater, communities can alleviate the burden placed on women and children, ensuring that they no longer have to risk their lives for a basic necessity.

Moreover, these life-saving measures go beyond just providing safe drinking water. They empower communities, particularly women, by freeing up time and energy that can be redirected towards education, economic activities, and community development. They reduce the prevalence of waterborne diseases, improving overall health and well-being. They offer a sense of security and dignity, allowing individuals to thrive rather than merely survive.


The journey for water should not be one of danger and despair. It should be a journey towards hope, health, and prosperity. By investing in rainwater harvesting and filtration systems, we can not only save lives but also transform them for the better, one drop at a time.

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