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5th International Conference on Rain Water Cistern Systems
"Rainwater Catchment for Future Generations"
Keelung, Taiwan, R.O.C. - August 1991

Section 1: Keynote Papers

Page 23

The Contribution of Rainwater Catchment Systems to the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade : Lessons from Thailand

John E. Gould
University of Kent, U.K.


Compared to the lofty goals set for the IDWSS Decade in the late 1970's, the achievements in many developing countries seem disappointing. The Decade did, nevertheless, coincide with a period of renewed interest in Rainwater Catchment Systems (RWCS) technology and the implementation of many millions of tanks world-wide made a significant contribution to improving both access and quality of domestic water supplies for tens of millions of people. Although, during the last decade, thousands of individual community projects around the globe have recognized the potential for RWCS operating in tandem with other water supply technologies for meeting their water supply needs; only one national government, that of Thailand, has wholeheartedly taken the technology on board. Since the mid-1980's, Thailand has actively promoted and supported RWCS through the Thai Jar Programme and has incorporated it into its water supply provision plans at local, regional and national .levels. The result. of this was the construction of around 10 million 1-2m3 jars and hundreds of thousands of 6-12m3 rainwater tanks by the end of the Decade and Thailand becoming one of the few countries to even approach the IDWSS Decade targets for rural water supply provision.

Despite its unprecedented scale and success, the rapid implementation of the Thai jar programme encountered a variety of problems. These provide useful lessons for others and are examined. in this paper. They include:

  1. The importance of conducting health and hygiene education campaigns associated with the operation and maintenance of the RWCS before and during their implementation, not afterwards. 
  2. The need for awareness about the adverse affects caused by the rapid commercialization of tank/jar construction and implementation on their effective operation and maintenance. 
  3. The importance of research and of communicating the findings of such research widely and rapidly, particularly aspects relating to potential design problems or health hazards related to rainwater supplies.

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