RWH in a layout: engaging the people

In Part 1 of this series, we touched on the crucial first steps to implementing rainwater harvesting (RWH) in a layout – asking yourself why the layout should implement RWH, what implementation strategies make sense in your layout, and consulting with someone with RWH technical capacity to assist with conception, design and implementation.

This part focuses on the human dimension of implementing RWH at a collective level. As we saw in Part 1, the two RWH implementation strategies for a layout are household collection for domestic use, and collection from households and common areas for groundwater recharge.

To implement either of these strategies, it is necessary to engage residents in a sustained dialogue that informs, educates, and ultimately convinces them of the value these interventions can bring to their households and the layout.

Here are the critical elements to engaging the layout residents:

Rainwater harvesting
Illustration : Sujay

Step 1: The need for ‘anchors’ or ‘champions’ in initiating a campaign

  • Because it takes time to inform, educate and encourage some behaviour changes, the layout implementation effort calls for a mini-campaign that will require perseverance.
  • One or more committed residents will need to anchor this campaign.
  • It is important that the campaign anchors are completely convinced about the concept.
  • Anchors should make efforts to become knowledgeable about the subject, since by default the layout residents will direct their questions to them.
  • The anchors should be ready to lead by example.

Step 2: Engaging the Residents Welfare Association

  • Water management in most mature layouts is administered by a Resident Welfare Association (RWA) or an equivalent body representing layout residents.
  • When it comes to collective investments, this body is a critical decision maker, and thus will be central to any layout RWH campaign.
  • The anchors should familiarise themselves with the process by which the RWA makes decisions about shared resources.
  • The RWA has important information on the layout’s water management – the number of bore wells, the maintenance cost, recurring water problems, etc.
  • Additionally, the RWA provides a platform to reach out to the resident population about the RWH concept – through RWA meetings, layout newsletters or layout yahoo/google groups messages.
  • If the anchors themselves are not a part of the RWA’s Managing Committee, the anchors should identify committee members who could champion the concept.
  • Finally, once the RWA becomes a partner in the RWH campaign, resources like the Estate manager, or the water man/plumber can be used to help move this campaign towards implementation.
  • Note: In the case of a newer layout, the builder may manage its water and sanitation needs, in which case the anchors need to focus their efforts on gathering resident support to pressurise the builder to invest in collective RWH interventions. Only pressure from the residents will move the builder to act.

Step 3: Engaging the general layout resident population

  • This can be the most challenging and time-intensive aspect of the campaign, as it requires engagement with the residents at-large who may or may not recognise a need for alternative water management strategies.
  • Typically, every layout will have early-adopters and opinion leaders – identifying them and getting them on board helps build a critical mass of people for the concept. They can also help get a feel for what issues people will raise.
  • It is appropriate to conduct a gathering/meeting of people on this issue with the help of the RWA and answer questions in a set venue. It may be prudent to invite someone with prior RWH experience – perhaps an expert or resident from another layout that has implemented RWH – to help answer the questions to be raised.

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Step 4: Facilitating implementation and monitoring

  • With support of the layout residents and the RWA, the anchors should partner with an appropriate agency or service providers to design and build the systems.
  • A clearly defined implementation process is crucial, as significant coordination and logistical issues follow from implementing in multiple households and common areas. The Estate manager’s involvement may be necessary for the coordination.
  • It is also prudent if the anchors put effort into some monitoring after implementation to ensure that everybody have understood the use and integration of RWH systems into their ongoing water use behaviour. RWH monitoring methods are discussed in Part 4.

The next part of the series will cover specific technical and ‘how-to’ details of household rooftop RWH and groundwater recharge. This can help addressing people’s concerns and provide enough info to start talking to different people about RWH.

Coming next

Part 3: Understanding the technology of storage and recharge – a FAQ on household RWH
Part 4: Creating an environment that incentivises RWH.

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