Caribbean water supply challenges are exacerbated by climate change and variability manifested as severe and protracted dry seasons and more intense rain events. High intensity rainfall events and more intense storms and hurricanes increase the potential of damage to water supply infrastructure through flooding and landslides (Bates et al. 2008, Cashman 2012). Damaged water infrastructure in turn can lead to impaired water quality with resultant human health effects.
Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) is currently being promoted across the Caribbean region as a key low cost and low technology water supply augmentation method. It is seen as a means to improve resilience to water related climate impacts at both, the national and community level. While prevalent in the past, there are only approximately 500,000 persons currently in the Caribbean who depend at least partially on RWH.
As threats from climate change and variability become more tangible, GWP-C, along with other national regional and international organisations, is working to reintroduce and mainstream RWH in the Caribbean. Agencies have focused on RWH knowledge sharing and capacity building along with the creation of an enabling environment for RWH, and the development and enhancement of suitable frameworks, policies, and legislation. A regional programme for promoting RWH in the Caribbean was developed in 2006 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute/the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CEHI/CARPHA) (The Caribbean Environmental Health Institute (CEHI) 2006).
Regional and international agencies have executed a number of demonstration projects to showcase and promote RWH for domestic, agricultural and industrial use. For example, a Food and Agriculture Organization-run project in South St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, for instance, facilitated the purchase of reduced cost RWH equipment and the creation of credit facilities via a revolving door fund.
Recent knowledge sharing activities include a regional RWH Forum held in Saint Lucia in October 2014. This forum was hosted by GWP-C and regional partners and consisted of presentations, field visits, and group activities. The forum was attended by country delegates, representatives from GWP-Mediterranean and GWP-Central America as well as staff from regional and international organizations.
- The development of a regional programme for RWH in 2006 by one of the regional agencies has helped guide, coordinate, and shape the regional RWH agenda and activities for a number of the agencies, including GWP-C. While funding for the entire programme has never been realised, regional agencies have been able to implement aspects incrementally as smaller pockets of funding become available. Thus, overarching reference frameworks are recommended.
- Knowledge sharing has been successfully advanced by the utilisation of multiple media and multiple approaches including videos, online tool boxes, demonstration models, manuals, lectures, and exhibits. Approaches have been tailored to the specific audience, for example, physical models have worked best with younger audiences.
- Capacity building for communities that have incorporated business training has furthered the replication of RWH as trainees have pursued RWH installation as a business initiative.
- Another area that requires more focus is the development of a market for specialised RWH equipment as supplies are often difficult to obtain and maintenance services are often unavailable. The business sector, as well as the region at large, will therefore greatly benefit from the development of RWH products and services, inclusive of equipment installation and maintenance.