Rainwater Harvesting Helps Ease Drought Impacts in Guatemala

The families of Magdalena, a community in Guatemala’s Western Highlands, used to spend up to three hours a day retrieving water from a distant spring, balancing heavy water jugs on their heads on the long trip home—a burden that fell mostly to women and children. But after working with the Rainforest Alliance to build simple, efficient rainwater harvesting systems in 2016 and 2017, these families now have access to water for cooking, drinking, and bathing right outside their homes.

Woman collecting rainwater in Guatemala
Photo credit: Sergio Izquierdo

This initiative of the Rainforest Alliance-led Climate, Nature and Communities in Guatemala (CNCG) and local partner ASOCUCH started by considering the communities’ most pressing needs (identified earlier for a Climate Change Adaptation Plan). Perhaps not surprisingly, access to water ranked high. Municipal water services are not offered in this isolated area, and in recent years, climate change has exacerbated water problems: Guatemala is one of the ten countries most vulnerable countries to climate change, and within Guatemala, the Western Highlands constitute the country’s most vulnerable and populated region.

A total of 212 families from eight communities received support to install and maintain the rainwater harvesting systems, which consist of a lean-to with a slanted corrugated metal roof that sends rainwater into pipes that then feed into a 2,800-liter tank. Now that they don’t have to spend so much time retrieving water, the women are better able to tend to their families, animals, and crops; children don’t miss school to help with water retrieval. Even better, “We now have a secure water supply, and it’s clean water—not from barrels,” said one man from Magdalena. (Before, in addition to sending women and children to the faraway spring, families caught runoff from their homes’ roofs, a method that provided only dirty water, and not enough of it.)

rainwater in jug
Photo credit: Sergio Izquierdo

The initiative, supported by USAID, was so successful that that six “champion families” in the community of Magdalena have been selected to share information with neighbors and visitors who have not yet installed rainwater harvesting systems. These six families have received training in the building and maintenance of the systems and have informational leaflets to give out to interested visitors.

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