UNESCO G-WADI Workshop on Water Harvesting (cont.)
Workshop Report  |  Papers & Presentations |  Case & Regional Studies |  Participants

Conclusions and Recommendations

G-WADI Website

Case Study Briefing Reports

  1. It is recommended that different categories of topics should be suggested so that the vast range of topics that tackle Rainwater Harvesting, are found by means of quick reference.
  2. In the 4-page paper itself instead of ‘take home message’, it was suggested that this subheading should be changed.
  3. A template for case studies in G-WADI was discussed and agreed with IAH and the final suggested format is given as Appendix 3

Content of case studies

  1. The mode and techniques applied to RWH should be included in the briefing.
  2. Each downloadable paper should not be too big in terms of size and thus picture resolution, size and quantity should be reasonable so that files are not too difficult to download.
  3. Since the case study is summarised work it was agreed that the total report should not exceed 3-pages.
  4. Additional material deemed necessary to enhance the findings of the case study can be included only as appendix form or through the use of external html links.
  5. Links can be embedded in both PDF and html/xml form. Cross-links to other databases and websites are permitted provided that permission is always sought from the data provider.
  6. A description of both success stories as well as failures should be included as case studies since failures teach valid lessons.
  7. A format or template of what is expected from a case study will be provided by agreement between UNESCO and IAH.
  8. Exposure on the roles of key stakeholders in the case studies should be given together with the provision of links to enable potential readers to contact these, should they require any further information.

Additional requests regarding the website

  1. There was a general consensus for the need of a specialised glossary defining all technical terms used to describe the different RWH structures in the Middle East and Asia, together with any other RWH jargon that the lay person might not fully grasp. This would be completed by an additional round of correspondence, after checking that so far none exisited.
  2. A map of the different regions, together with the number of case studies presented for each should be included as the way in to the site.
  3. The Yazd Declaration is an important background to the Aleppo Workshop and is included as Appendix 4.
  4. A rainwater harvesting calculator that facilitates the user to quantify supply and demand and the subsequent size of storage required could be useful and as a tool it would attract users to the site.
  5. In relation to the above it was suggested that downloadable models that could be easily accessed by anyone should also be made available.
  6. It was suggested that commissioned policy briefs on topics that require coverage and updates could be summarised and made available so that these could be easily utilised by any policy maker.

Upkeep and user-friendliness of website

  1. The importance of updating the site was also stressed since this would encourage users to keep using it.
  2. To facilitate access and improve popularity the possibility of translation of some parts of the website were also discussed. It was concluded that only the parts of the site that are static and don’t change too often can be translated. Alternatively those that do require constant change will not be translated given the budget constraints and difficulties met in the upkeep of the site.

Conclusions and Achievements

An Integrated Systems Approach towards rainwater harvesting development and promotion was felt to be the key to several success stories in the region. In defining the key term integrated, it refers to the approach of developing rainwater harvesting (RWH) and managed aquifer recharge (MAR) in the light of both water and land management in a watershed. It implies a holistic analysis of land and water management by considering surface, subsurface and groundwater interactions.

RWH and MAR potential should be integrated within a community by means of assessing the physical, climatic and geological potential of these technologies in terms of past present and future changing scenarios; their economic viability in relation to the costs and benefits of developing RWH and MAR and in relation to other alternative water supply technologies; as well as through assessing the social acceptance and government will to promote these. The role of governance was seen to be significant in aiding the integration of RWH and MAR practices into society. The integration of the above would enhance sustainability since sustainable socio-economic development would be enabled.

RWH schemes are often criticised for taking too much of the water at the expense of downstream riparian users. This was challenged in discussion. Where this has been cited (eg in Karnataka India) there is often wholesale capture of surface flows by small dams to create” tanks”. The practices advocate by attendees at this meeting were small scale and often completed at the expense of evaporation losses by getting direct rainfall underground, not in surface holding structures where evaporation losses were high
There is a need to balance top down (science and technology-led usually) with bottom up approaches; traditional and community approaches with government approaches. This integrated approach needs to be facilitated by Governments.

Traditional Methods Reflected Through Country/Region Summaries Established a Need for Holistic Approaches

  • Short term approaches do not work
  • Community involvement is essential such as through self help groups, farmers groups
  • Effective governance aids in enhancing community involvement/government will and the interaction with NGOs
  • Replication of best practices
  • Catchment scale assessment is needed (land and water interactions as well as surface and groundwater interactions)

The significance of traditional methods was revealed:
(see also the main points of the Yazd declaration)

  • Rich traditions can engage and renew public interest
  • Can restore RWH practices together with community involvement
  • Training and transfer of knowledge at the community level

The merging of traditional practices and know-how with modern approaches:

  • There is a need to consider socio-economic conditions now—these have changed and difficult to go back
  • Using traditional knowledge as a base we can enhance and improve simple technologies
  • Use the knowledge behind traditional practices as well as additional know-how
  • e.g. use of remote sensing for detection of suitable sites and monitoring
  • Modelling techniques and their appropriate adaptation
  • Modelling of structures and the modelling of physical characteristics of the watershed is necessary, requiring also good field data.

It is not enough to highlight the importance of traditional knowledge; there is a need to change public attitudes to bring this knowledge to the fore and for demonstration projects.

An Enabling Socio-economic Environment

After considering traditional techniques and their integration with modern technologies the socio-economic issues were addressed:

Conflicting nature of water as an economic and public good:

  • Water subsidies are an obstacle and disincentive towards water conservation and encourage excess water consumption; however incentives are needed to support RWH structures and RWH implementation at the community level.

Legal Issues:

  • Legislation has often been in place over a long time
    Reform and enforcement is necessary


  • The raising of awareness at all levels of society is needed. Education plays a role in this. Target groups should include children, adolescents and adults alike.
  • Information (often grey literature) is required to be disseminated.


  • Need for clear recommendations for policy from science and practitioners
  • Interweaving of cultural and religious traditions regarding water

Grass roots involvement—something more than mere consultation:

  • NGO stimulation of possibilities which eventually become independently run by the community
  • Women’s role is vital—shifting from water carrying to involvement in self help groups for livelihood improvement
  • Poverty alleviation—MDG’s (Millennium Development Goals) and equity as basis of sustainability
  • Strength of civil society and NGO’s vital part in facilitation
  • It was also pointed out that there is a need for more in-depth stakeholder interaction, a process which is more complex than mere NGO-Government support.

Technological and Scientific Help

  • Appropriate rainwater harvesting designs and structures are needed for uptake by modern societies. Design guidelines for RWH and MAR structures are necessary to bridge the gap between traditional know-how and modern technologies.
  • Capacity building needed at several levels
  • Alternative technologies such as desalination, sewage treated effluent, and grey water re-use should be considered in line with rainwater harvesting or managed aquifer recharge practices, as long as their full environmental and energy costs are considered.
  • RWH and MAR structures require monitoring and characterisation—so far lacking in many schemes
  • WTF (water table fluctuation) and CMB (chloride mass balance) approaches should be used for tracing and evaluation of recharge efficiencies
  • Instrumentation in remote arid regions—expensive and difficult to justify therefore need for remote sensing
  • Use of remote sensing for land cover assessments and to predict meteorological conditions
  • Long term records of climate change needed to predict and consider sustainability
  • Models—promoting what is available and accessible
  • Roles of NGO and links with science base
  • Demonstration of steady state
  • Training manuals available in many countries—accessing them is crucial and a role for G-WADI?
  • Water quality issues and baseline indicators

Case Study Outcomes

  • Need for good case studies—long term
  • Control of siltation and vegetation important
  • Each structure and site is unique therefore (hydro)geological characteristics are very important
  • Does upstream abstraction affect downstream riparians?
  • In general RWH offers a safer alternative for drinking water in areas affected by high F or salinity. Occasionally MAR may mobilise F during recharge process.
  • Similar structures in many countries—need to intercompare
  • RWH improves ecosystems overall, biodiversity, forest regeneration


    1. Need for a glossary.
    2. Defining a methodology to evaluate projects—need for list of indicators, monitoring and valuation of RWH projects
    3. RWH and MAR require Environmental Impact Assessments in order for them to be implemented efficiently and effectively in the right places. There is a need to link upstream abstraction with the improvement of ecosystems, biodiversity and forest regeneration for instance. Also there is a need to study the impacts of diffuse or focused recharge in different landscapes.
    4. The translation of case study experiences into successful RWH implementation is also needed: Identification of 4-5 project areas to see how the main conclusions can be placed within an RWH implementation framework. A road map towards the appropriate implementation of RWH and MAR is required. Of course this does not imply one size fits all.
    5. Issues considered essential which the workshop briefly addressed:
    • The importance of soil water
    • Water use change brought about by agricultural changes and different policies brought about by various governments.
    • The need to have a more general approach towards involving society so that a wider spectrum of potential players is involved.

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