Why Rainwater Harvesting?

Our early visits to Uphill revealed the poor sanitation and lack of reliable clean water that are common across rural areas of Uganda. With a dentist as one of our trustees, improving health and hygiene arrangements for the school were high on our agenda.

Sustainable development goals of The Uphill Trust

Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Hand washing tanks were installed immediately after our first visit, but collecting water from the community well or other water sources to keep them filled was time consuming for the pupils and staff. With two rainy seasons a year in Uganda, investing in rainwater harvesting was the obvious solution.

Pupils collecting waterPupils collecting water for hand washing tanks

The benefits are clear:

  • Harvesting a natural resource that would otherwise be wasted
  • Reducing damaging water erosion during heavy rain storms
  • Removing the need for time intensive water collection
  • Reducing health issues related to lack of clean water in school

Every new building is equipped with guttering to collect rain into water storage tanks – large buildings have two 10,000L capacity tanks, whereas smaller buildings use 5,000L or 3,000L tanks. The tanks are often linked together via underground pipes to provide a reliable water supply at various standpipes around the school grounds, and to feed the hand wash station.

Rain water fed handwashing stationRainwater-fed hand wash station for staff and pupils

Rainwater harvesting is indeed an investment – over the past 8 years we have spent around £15,000 installing guttering and water storage tanks at Uphill Junior School – but it has been worth it. The stored water meets the washing, cooking and cleaning needs of 330 pupils and staff, and is also used by the school builders, allowing them to get on with the business of school life without having to despatch teams of water carriers with jerry cans several times a day.

rainwater harvesting at uphill junior school in ugandaSome of the rainwater storage tanks at Uphill

There was good news on our last trip to Uganda: A piped community water scheme is finally on the way, on a paid for basis. This will be a great improvement for those families that can afford it, and a metered community water standpipe will be installed in the school grounds. This will be especially helpful at the end of the dry season, when the water harvesting tanks run dry. We will be interested to see how reliable the supply is…

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2023: And here it is!

Alongside one of the standpipes fed by the water harvesting tanks, there is now a standpipe which dispenses filtered bore hole water.  This is safe to drink straight from the tap but is only available in day light hours as the solar pumping system has no battery to store energy overnight.

Piped drinking water tap

You can never have too much rainwater harvesting in off grid areas of rural Uganda!

For information on the value of rainwater harvesting in Africa, check out this video: https://www.unesco.org/archives/multimedia/document-5271

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