Making old ways new: Why rainwater harvesting should be a norm in households


Rainwater harvesting can be done by installing pipes that run from rain gutters into a tank. — 123rf

WHEN it comes to environmental issues, Gen Z is taking the lead in implementing personal changes to influence habits and consumption.

Thanks to accessible information and the physical manifestation of climate crisis brought about by the actions of generations before them, young people are taking a stronger stand when it comes to protecting the planet.

Reha Lakshmi Haritharan, 16, a student of SM Sri Aman, Petaling Jaya, says she and her friends are all on the same page when it comes the planet; that planetary health is important and they need to do their best to "heal the world".

Reha says young people want to take immediate action to help the Earth recover. — REHA LAKSHMI HARITHARANReha says young people want to take immediate action to help the Earth recover. — REHA LAKSHMI HARITHARAN

"Maybe generations before us don't have as much exposure as we do, but as young people who will inherit the Earth, we need to take immediate action – big and small – to help the Earth recover," she says.

As one of the committee members for the 13th Sri Aman Environmental and English Youth Leadership Summit (SAEYLS) , an annual event organised by the school, Reha says the summit, held last month, was about showing students ways in which they can do something positive for the planet.

"One of the examples is water conservation. For the longest time, I didn't know why we need to save water beyond saving water bills. It was only after watching a National Geographic documentary a few years ago that I fully understood what water crisis means and why resources have to be saved, not wasted," she says.

Tay says rainwater harvesting is a traditional water-saving method that should be revived.Tay says rainwater harvesting is a traditional water-saving method that should be revived.

Harvesting rainwater

One of the activities during the summit was setting up the school's rainwater harvesting system, which the students carried out with staff from Ascott Malaysia. The water will be used for general cleaning and watering of plants.

According to the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) on its website, this method maximises the use of water while conserving it, limiting the needs for new water supply schemes.

"An approach of rainwater harvesting collected from the roof of a building provides the practical and effective utilisation of rainwater; this is appropriate as more than 30% of domestic water use does not require treated water quality."

Ascott Kuala Lumpur senior engineering manager Anselm Tay says it's important to educate young people about rainwater harvesting since many don't know what it is and how simple it is to do it.

"It's a traditional method that should be revived. When I grew up in Kuching, we always had a container outside the house that stores rainwater; to wash our feet before we come in and to water the plants," he says.

"Malaysia has heavy rainfall, it makes no sense to not use this precious resource. Our tap water needs to first be treated before it gets to our homes and that uses energy; but rainwater is free and you can use it for washing cars, watering plants or cleaning the drains around the house,"

Tay says however, it is important to keep the rainwater container covered so it doesn't become a mosquito breeding ground and doesn't pose a safety hazard.

Reha says for a few years, she has been very conscious about her water consumption. "It might not seem like much, but I think if everyone has the same mindset and habit, the change will be substantial."

Asha says young people are passionate about the environment because they see firsthand the ways the planet has been mistreated. — ASHA ELIZABETH BERGINAsha says young people are passionate about the environment because they see firsthand the ways the planet has been mistreated. — ASHA ELIZABETH BERGIN

For Asha Elizabeth Bergin, 17, who is SAEYLS 2024 organising chairperson, young people are passionate about the environment because they see firsthand the ways the planet has been mistreated.

Asha says she avoids plastic, takes her own cutlery when she eats out and carries her water bottle so she doesn't have to buy bottled water. "I don't litter at all; I keep my rubbish until I find a bin," she says.

"And rainwater harvesting is also something most households can do. With some effort, we can repurpose rainwater and reduce the use of treated water. It's a good way to teach ourselves the importance of conserving a natural resource," she concludes.

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