Successful rainwater harvesting systems should combine new technology with old social habits

Aug 31, 2011

As a crippling drought grips much of the Southern and Southwestern United States, the population continues to grow and water resources become scarcer. One way to address the problem is by a combination of modern engineering and ancient social principles, outlined in a new paper on rainwater harvesting that will be presented at the 2011 ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition.

Author John Whear, biomedical engineer at the & Research Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, examines how to manage rainwater as a common pool resource. Whear studied management techniques for other common pool resources like fisheries and forests, as well as organizations developed for sharing scarce water, such as the Edwards Aquifer Authority and social systems in pre-colonial India.

Drawing from game theory, Whear argues that a successful common pool resource (CPR) depends on participant behavior, which requires monitoring and management. Effective monitoring can be made simple with the technology available today, he said.

Along with reducing pressure on ground and surface water supplies, Whear proposes that large-scale rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems can also lesson the threat of deadly flash flooding common to urban areas in Central and South Texas.

By catching large amounts of the fast-falling rainwater and draining it slowly over several days, the RWH systems can decrease runoff and increase the amount that is absorbed into the ground and recharge zones.

"Once recharge can be determined with an adequate degree of certainty, the acquired data could be used for the economic benefit of participants," Whear said. "Possibilities include a flood control tax abatement and aquifer recharge credit."

Whear first presented a rainwater harvesting paper last year at the 2010 ASME conference. In that paper he examined the options for distributing harvested rainwater and began contacting water management organizations.

"That's when I learned that rainwater harvesting is as much a social issue as it is an engineering one," he said.

Explore further: US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Provided by University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rainwater tanks pose risk for toddlers

Aug 20, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- An increase in household rainwater tanks due to the severe drought and accompanying water restrictions across Australia is creating a new hazard for parents of young children.

Drinking recycled water?

Jan 06, 2011

The Australian Government National Water Commission funded a study to establish an approach to assess the quality of water treated using managed aquifer recharge. Researchers at Australia's CSIRO Land and Water set out to ...

Recommended for you

New research on Earth's carbon budget

10 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...