SEI Publication

Author(s): Barron, J. (ed.)

Year: 2009

In: Nairobi: UNEP. Report prepared for UNEP by Stockholm Environment Institute.

ISBN: 9789280730197

Type: Report



Link to SEI author:

Rainwater harvesting: a lifeline for human well-being

This report explores the potential for rainwater harvesting to improve human well-being while protecting the environment.

Rainfall and soil water are fundamental parts of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The availability and quality of water determines ecosystem productivity, both for agricultural and natural systems. There is increasing demand on water resources for development whilst maintaining healthy ecosystems, which put water resources under pressure. Ecosystem services suffer when rain and soil water becomes scarce due to changes from wet to dry seasons, or during within-seasonal droughts. Climate change, demand for development and environmental degradation add to these pressures so that future challenges to sustain our ecosystems are escalating.

Rainwater harvesting provides opportunities to support development and human well-being without undermining ecosystem services. Rainwater harvesting can involve a wide variety of interventions to use rainfall through collection and storage, either in soil or in man-made dams, tanks or containers, to bridge dry spells and droughts. The effect is increased retention of water in the landscape, enabling management and use of water for multiple purposes.

This report explores the potential for greater use of rainwater harvesting, including the role of small-scale, decentralized rainfall harvesting and storage in integrated water resource management. It also examines in which specific contexts rainwater harvesting might create synergies between good ecosystems management and human well-being.

The report was prepared jointly for the World Water Forum by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and SEI.

Download the report (external link to UNEP, PDF, 2.69MB)

See a policy brief summarizing the findings »

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