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Use that roof to tap rainwater

By Peter Theuri | June 3rd 2021

A rooftop at the Samburu County Assembly.[Mercy Kahenda]

In Gitegi, a village in Nyeri County that clings onto the Aberdares, when it rains it pours.

Yet, it takes just days after the rain for the majority of villagers to walk long distances in search of water, jerrycans strapped on their backs.

It is almost incomprehensible in a village where almost everyone has an iron sheet roof that can collect enough rainwater to last months.

Many people, not only here but around the country, do not collect rainwater, a free resource.

George Wachiuri, chief executive of real estate company Optiven, recently told The Standard that his company was insisting on collecting of rainwater for domestic use.  

“It is important to note that the people who buy to construct in our gated estates sign to several Go Green projects, including using biodigesters that can recycle water for greening, preserving the trees we have planted and using roofing material that can tap water for drinking,” he said.

Roofing material could be poisonous in the past, but markets are evolving and manufacturers are using less toxic material.

In October 2020, it was announced that a small Canadian town named Asbestos had rebranded, doing away with the name derived from its mining heritage.

The town was once the location of the world's largest asbestos mine.

“It was given the English name for the mineral in the late 19th Century. But the town's council said the connotation hindered its ability to attract foreign investment, and announced last November that the hunt was on for a new name,” reported the BBC.

Asbestos, which has for years been used in production of roofing material, is toxic. People who work at asbestos mines often get asbestosis, a serious, chronic respiratory disease.

Its use on roofing material has thus been stopped in many countries.

Safe solutions are now out here, roofing materials that do not expose people to harm.

And yet a lot of people take the roof only as a shield against adverse weather, not a way to benefit from the weather.

Collection of rainwater, including through tapping water off roofs, might just be the difference between water shortage and having sufficient supply.

Timothy Mburu, a farmer in semi-arid Naro Moru area of Nyeri County, collects run-off water the few times it rains and stores it in a reservoir that can hold over 30 million litres.

Due to this, he is a reputable farmer who even trains other farmers nationally.

“The water pan occupies half an acre and can store between 30 and 40 million litres of water. With this, I can irrigate up to 10 acres comfortably,” he says.

The same could be done to curb shortage of water supply for household uses.  

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics’ Economic Survey data shows that the proportion of households with iron sheets as the main roofing material increased from 73.2 per cent in 2009 to 80.3 per cent in 2019, while those with grass declined from 13.7 per cent in 2009 to 5.1 per cent in 2019.

These roofs could go a long way to help people out of perennial water shortage disaster. Coupled with adequate storage facilities, this could help villagers ease the load of jerrycans on their backs.

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