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Rainwater Harvesting and Rural Development: The CIDECALLI Prototypes
by Femke Love Oldham

Below is an extract of a paper by Femke Love Oldham. This paper details efforts in Mexico to build prototype systems of various sizes that can supply fresh, clean potable water to households, farms and small communities.

The average annual rainfall across the entire national territory of Mexico is 1,500 cubic kilometers of water. With only 3% of this quantity, there is the ability to supply 13 million people and 50 million animals with clean water. Additionally, this small percentage of the total rainfall would irrigate 18 million hectares of crops.

The broad and somewhat surprising potential of rain motivated the creation of the International Center for Demonstration and Training in Rainwater Harvesting (CIDECALLI). Worldwide, there is a growing realization that water is an integral factor to the sustainable development of humanity. Policy-makers and activists are recognizing that a clean and constant water supply as a human right and demanding that adequate water be made available to every person on the planet. With this goal in mind, a team of professors and engineers at the College of Postgraduates (COLPOS) in Montecillo, Mexico State partnered with the Autonomous University of Chapingo (UACh) and the Autonomous University Antonio Narro (UAAN). This team discovered that rainwater represents a viable option for mitigating the grave reality faced by over 1 billion people on the planet currently living without access to an improved water supply. In 2004, The CIDECALLI team began working to create a set of rainwater harvesting prototypes with the intent of alleviating growing water concerns within Mexico and abroad.

In 2004, the team of professors and engineers that founded CIDECALLI specified its goals regarding water quality and quantity into a set of objectives. The first objective is to promote a variety of uses for rainwater. These uses include purified rainwater as a source of drinking water, and the use of filtered rainwater for forest, animal, and crop production in greenhouses, as well as distilled rainwater for industrial use. The center’s second objective is the optimization of water resources. More specifically, it seeks to reduce reliance on wells and groundwater aquifers as the primary source of water in order to offset current trends of overuse and destruction of groundwater resources. The final objective of the center is based on the recognition that rainwater lacks the minerals often found in groundwater aquifers. The center seeks to improve the rainwater by adding folic acid, fluoride, vitamins and minerals in order to ensure that the water has multiple health benefits for target communities.

To date, CIDECALLI has designed and constructed five different model systems for rainwater harvesting. All are located on the Montecillo campus of the College of Postgraduates, and are aptly named COLPOS 1 – COLPOS 5.

COLPOS 1 is a system for domestic use. It is attached to a single family home and features a cistern 73 cubic meters in size. This system is meant to supply potable and purified water to four people based on a per capita consumption of 100 liters (26.4 gallons) per day

COLPOS 2 is designed to supply enough water for a tank to harvest fish as well as for irrigating a family orchard.

COLPOS 3 is particularly noteworthy due to its target use and innovative design. This system is a purification plant and is intended to supply a community with potable and purified water. In addition to capturing, conducting and storing rainwater; the plant purifies, fortifies and bottles the water for consumption or sale.

COLPOS 4 is a model for a livestock trough capable of serving a family farm. This model provides high quality water for a herd or flock of animals in order to satisfy their basic needs for consumption – approximately 50 liters per animal per day.

COLPOS 5 is a system for irrigation in greenhouses. The model is designed to capture water on the roofs of greenhouses and to store it for the irrigation of plants cultivated inside the greenhouse.

Today many communities in Mexico have rudimentary systems in place to capture water, and the people in these communities demonstrate a positive attitude toward the use of rainwater for domestic purposes. However, as with rainwater harvesting systems in other parts of the world, those in place in Mexico fall short of obtaining water quality high enough to be acceptable for daily human consumption. For this reason, the CIDECALLI prototypes have the potential to be highly successful in solving water scarcity and quality issues throughout Mexico. They utilize the existing acceptance and understanding of rainwater harvesting among community members to improve and expand rainwater catch systems in rural areas.

The success of CIDECALLI’s projects has spurred a rapid growth in the center’s scope. The center has already received more than 3,000 visitors in the two and a half years that it has been open to the public. These visitors leave glowing commentaries about both their visit to the center and the CIDECALLI prototypes.

The CIDECALLI prototypes in the face of growing worldwide water problems offers hope for the future. The unique combination of ancient resource management techniques and technological innovation give these projects the potential for having a significant impact on the sustainable development of rural communities around the globe.

For more information or questions, please send Femke at note at femke.oldham at gmail.com.

Related Links

Download Full Study - Rainwater Harvesting and Rural Development: The CIDECALLI Prototypes (Word document)
International Center for Demonstration and Training in Rainwater Harvesting (in Spanish, but additional pictures on the site)
Picture of COLPOS 2
Picture of COLPOS 3

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