Rain Water Harvesting: The Rain Center, Chennai

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Think: All water comes from rain. Catch the water where it falls, harvest the rain!

I happened to visit the Rain Center, Chennai (Mandavelipakkam) where passionate individuals are creating awareness about Rain Water Harvesting & enabling people to implement the same in their premises.

What is Rain Water Harvesting?

Our cities are expanding quickly and the density of population per sq. KM is increasing drastically due to high-rise buildings/apartments coming up almost everywhere. This will put a lot of pressure on the water table in that region as people draw more and more water from the well/deep bore. Corporation water/tank lorries maybe available at some places but only a certain amount of water can be supplied by them, and the cost of water supply is often steep.

Rain Water Harvesting consists of various techniques that can be implemented by individual house owners and apartment complex owners to catch the rainwater falling in their premises and either use it (or) send it back to the ground, thereby replenishing the water table of that region. This will save rainwater from going to the sea (through stormwater drains) or evaporating.

Why harvest Rain Water?

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Basically, rainwater is harvested to -

  • To replenish the ground water table to make sure that you have enough water to draw from the wells, throughout the year.
  • To dilute iron salts in brackish water (if your ground water happens to be brackish) and provide clear water.
  • To avoid flooding of low-lying areas, as rain water in and around the house is diverted to the ground.

How to harvest Rain Water?

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The Rain Center, Chennai has many educational posters that convey the importance of RWH and how to conserve rain water. They have published a small booklet on the topic, ‘Rainwater harvesting in urban areas’. More than all that, people here are eager to consult/explain how people can implement rainwater harvesting in their homes/offices.

How are they harvesting rain water in their own premises?

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Look at the above photo. A pipe drains the rainwater from the terrace. But since the initial few minutes of rainwater maybe impure, water from initial rains is held in the left side pipe (Named ‘First Flush’) and can be drained out later on. When this pipe is filled with water, the rainwater enters the neighboring pipe (they are interconnected on the top) which is then allowed to pass through a filter (which contains some gravel/river sand).

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This water is then allowed to pass through a sump (the above photo shows just a model, not a real sump), where some water can be stored and drawn directly for usage. This is optional, and rainwater from the terrace can directly be allowed to fall into the well too.

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Rainwater can also be harvested from the area around the house, near the gate, and even outside the gate. Have a look at the rainwater drain they have constructed just inside the gate -

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So, rainwater, instead of running outside, rushes into the holes shown above from where they are directed into a recharge well (shown below). Rainwater from just outside the street is also diverted into this recharge well.

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You may not be able to see inside the recharge well (from this photo) – it is similar to a normal well (with cement rings around the edges), but the depth is lesser. In this case, it is 10 feet deep but the depth varies based on the region. It seems, this well should extend just beyond the clay soil in the ground (as clay soil can hold/prevent water from percolating down). You can also construct a recharge bore pit, to send the rainwater to greater depths. But recharge wells are preferable.

I would like to thank Dr. Sekhar Raghavan and Dr. Indukanth S. Ragade for spending a considerable amount of time educating me on this subject and showing me around their premises.

Contact/Address/Further Info: The Rain Center website.

Edited to add after receiving a mail from the Rain Center officials: Our advice comes free, and people can contact us through email: sekar1479[at]yahoo.co.in or mobile 96770 43869.

So, have you implemented rain water harvesting in your house/apartments?

Destination Infinity

17 thoughts on “Rain Water Harvesting: The Rain Center, Chennai

  1. When this system was made complulsory in every household by Amma, during her last tenure as CM, each and every house in our area built the rain water harvesting system and the Panchayat people went to each and every house to check if it was done properly! I remember people telling me that every new building had to adhere to the rule, otherwise power connection was not given to them! So, every building had this system without fail. We have got it here in our new flat. We need someone to dictate us, D.I. Otherwise, we just let things go. Now, she has to do something about plastic pollution. I hope she does soon.

    I like this post with the right pitures, thanks D.I. I have seen this office often while crossing that road and noticed the pictures on their wall!

    1. The rain center is one of the organizations that pioneered RWH in Chennai, and they played an important part in making that rule, a reality. I remember, how rain water harvesting increased the ground water levels within a year, back when it was enforced. From that time, until now, we have not experienced water shortages. Before that, we did.

      Good to know that you are familiar with the location – I am seeing that area for the first time! In fact, I knew Mandaveli and foreshore estate, but not Mandavelipakkam!

      Destination Infinity

  2. too good n informative..
    if only i had read this couple of days back coz just yesterday i took a test and this was one of the topics i had to write on!!

  3. A very good and comprehensive post on rain water harvesting. It is a very potent approach to compensate the shortage of water that is happening everywhere.

  4. Recently, I had an opportunity to visit Sanskar Valley School at Bhopal and I was impressed by their rain water harvesting systems. We have it in our apartment complex too!

    1. I think, rain water was harvested to a good extent in every village through ponds, etc. in earlier times. With the advent of cities and lack of space, we are not following it at some places.

      Destination Infinity

    1. A severe draught and a compulsory rule made many people adopt RWH, here. I hope people in other cities will also adopt this simple but effective technique to catch/save water. If left unchecked most rainwater will go to the sea through the stormwater drains and will get wasted.

      Destination Infinity

  5. It is a really good idea especially for places which have water scarcity but I am not sure how feasible it would be to implement. The way they have implemented (as shown through your pics) is really interesting.

    1. It is simple, at least the catching of rainwater from the terrace and sending it to the well, is. RWH could also be centralized to a locality. If the area as a pond, then rainwater could be diverted from multiple locations to it and the pond will recharge the water table of the region.

      Destination Infinity

    1. People need to be careful while implementing RWH in their premises. Some installers/builders just do it for namesake, which is not a good idea. The rain water needs to be led into the well or below the clayey soil.

      Destination Infinity

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