Domestic Rainwater to Reduce Climate Change Vulnerability

March 22, 2023

No matter who you are, where you live, where you grew up, what you look like, or how old you are, you need water to survive. So what happens when you live in an area with hardly any water? A grassroots movement to scale up rainwater harvesting and other water solutions in hard-to-reach communities is gaining momentum in South America.

Women at the first meeting of cistern builders

On March 13th, 71 indigenous and non-indigenous people who work in constructing rainwater harvesting systems and cisterns convened for the first time in Oran, a small town near the Argentine-Bolivia border in the South American Gran Chaco region. There are more than 200 government-funded cisterns under construction in just the immediate surrounding area.

In the province of Salta, Argentina (part of the South American Gran Chaco), indigenous families live in highly vulnerable areas; Every year, especially in the summer, conditions worsen, and diseases related to the consumption of non-potable water or dehydration increase.

This is an extreme situation in an arid region where families do their best to survive despite living in remote and scattered areas. They hunt, fish, harvest wild fruits, raise cows and goats and work on neighboring ranches as farm laborers.

Each year two CWS partners, together with some local NGOs, build between 150 and 200 family rainwater harvesting systems. This effort is financed and supported by local and regional governments along with the Inter-American Development Bank IDB.

One of the cisterns built in the region.

Last week, these entities met in Oran and held the region’s First Meeting of Cistern Builders – Rainwater Harvesting and Storage Systems. They discussed the stages of the cistern construction process and the importance of access to safe water for families. The agenda also included related issues such as gender equality

This event, organized by the Water Table, provided a safe space for local construction teams, beneficiary families, civil society organizations and local authorities to meet, exchange views and prioritize opportunities for improvement.

Domestic Rainwater Harvesting (DRH) is one of the appropriate local solutions to meet the goal of universal access to safe water in dispersed rural areas, especially in Latin America’s semiarid regions. What is taking place in Oran is a good reflection of the increasing public and private investments in rainwater harvesting. It is a solution that is rapidly gaining momentum from Mexico to South America.

71 people participated, including builders, program participants and partner organizations

However, DRH entails much more than constructing a cistern and a rooftop catchment system.
CWS and regional and local partners like Plataforma Semiaridos and Mesa de Agua del Chaco Salteño support locally-led efforts to adopt DRH-focused investments and advocate for additional context-appropriate investments and approaches that promote: local ownership, sustainable behavior change, community consultation, inter-ethnic collaboration and gender equity.

Water, food and land security are central to the lives of rural peoples in semiarid regions and their ability to adapt to climate change. In April, two members of Plataforma Semiaridos (one from Central America’s dry corridor and the other from Brazil’s northeast region) will participate in the Latin America regional consultation on climate change and migration co-organized by FES-CMDP.