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9th International Rainwater Catchment Systems Conference
"Rainwater Catchment: An Answer to the Water Scarcity of the Next Millennium."
Petrolina, Brazil - July 1999

Section 1: Strategy for Rainwater Utilization in the Next Millennium

Paper 1.4

Sri Lanka: Problems and prospects of rainwater catchment for the 21st Century

Rajindra de Silva Ariyabandu
Irrigation Water Management and Agrarian Relations Division
Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute
P.O. Box 1522
Colombo, Sri Lanka
E-mail -


Though Sri Lanka receives an annual average rainfall of 1,400 mm, 70% of the rural population is without clean drinking water. With a projected deficit for growing future water demand due to population growth as well as industrial and agricultural use, Sri Lanka's intention of providing clean drinking water for all by the year 2010 appears to be bleak.

Rainwater harvesting as a rural water supply option is a recently introduced technology in rural Sri Lanka. It has been accepted and adapted by many households where other water supply option failed due to technical or financial reasons. The Rainwater Harvesting programme was implemented on a 80% grant and 20% equity. The equity contribution was mainly in terms of labour and house guttering and down pipes. The latter components could be as high as 30% depending on the roof area.

The high cost of a unit compelled the programme to be subsidy driven. This approach, though financially appealing, threatens its own sustainability. Besides this problem, the "project approach" adopted by implementers, limited the programme to a construction phase. While mastering the technological component, awareness and management of the systems were left to the beneficiaries. This resulted in poor maintenance of systems leading to contamination and inadequate water. As a consequence, average water security was only up to 43% even by those owning rainwater harvesting systems. Less than 10% of the households used rainwater for drinking, indicating a dislike or mistrust for the quality of rainwater.

In the next millennium the major efforts will be on promoting rainwater harvesting on a "need base system" with an open market orientation. The focus will be on awareness creation on maintaining quality of water, managing the system as a complete water supply unit and cost reduction of rainwater harvesting units.

PDF of full document (6pp, 25kb)

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