A resource that we get plenty of, annually, and could be harvested and exported – RAIN WATER. Rainwater harvesting is a technique used for collecting, storing, and using rainwater for human consumption, landscape irrigation, farm irrigation and other uses. The rainwater is collected from various hard surfaces such as roof tops and/or other types of manmade above ground hard surfaces. This ancient practice is currently growing in popularity throughout the world due to interest in reducing the consumption of potable water and the inherent qualities of rainwater.
Rainwater harvesting advantages:
• Makes use of a natural resource and reduces flooding, storm water runoff, erosion, and contamination of surface water with pesticides, sediment, metals, and fertilizers.
• Reduces the need for imported water. In our case, we have plenty that we can export to those countries that are importing water.
• Excellent source of water for landscape irrigation, with no chemicals such as fluoride and chlorine, and no dissolved salts and minerals from the soil.
• Home systems can be relatively simple to install and operate and may reduce your water bill.
• Promotes both water and energy conservation.
• No filtration system required for landscape irrigation.
RATIONALE: Belize’s weather is characterized by two seasons: a rainy and a dry season. Most of the year’s rainfall occurs during the period June to November, that is, the rainy season. It is noted that the transition from dry to the rainy is very sharp. Annual rainfall ranges from 60 inches (1524mm) in the north to 160 inches (4064mm) in the south. Except for the southern regions, the rainfall is variable from year to year.
The onset of the rainy season begins in early May in Toledo (where the annual rainfall is highest), progressing north to the Stann Creek, Belize, Cayo and Orange Walk District in late May, followed by Corozal District in early June. In essence, Belize has been uniquely endowed with substantial surface and groundwater resources. A dependable tropical/subtropical rainfall pattern in the Northwest Caribbean region replenishes the freshwater resource after extended dry periods, which are often induced by recurrent atmospheric /oceanic phenomena such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and feedback mechanisms associated with climate change.
CHALLENGES: There seems to be several challenges with which Belize is faced with our water resources management. One of the primary challenges is the lack of coordinated and comprehensive policies and institutions. Demand on water resources is growing as the population increases, new economic opportunities are created, and the agriculture sector expands. This increased demand is placing new threats on the quality and quantity of freshwater resources. Other constant challenges for management entities are the constant threat of floods from tropical storms and hurricanes. The Belize National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) is charged with flood management as they occur and Belize Water Service Ltd. (BWSL) is the water and sewage utility for the country, but it is unclear what institution has responsibility for storm water infrastructures.
PRAGMATISM: The Government of Belize should explore the incentives of commercial water harvesting. A portion of the infrastructure already exists – people’s roofs. Setting up large commercial catchment centers coupled with private roofs, especially in the South, may be beneficial for the entire country, and may also assist homeowners with an annual financial return, which could stimulate local further investment in this and other areas. This initiative would also potentially invite foreign investment. As an exported natural resource, this will translate into another source of money flowing into Belize and potentially increasing our Terms of Trade (TOT).
Water harvesting initiatives are on the rise all over the world, Example: In Texas, incentives are offered to encourage the purchase of rainwater harvesting equipment, with up to $40,000 in rebates available to businesses that install collection systems. Meanwhile, in Santa Fe County, New Mexico and Tucson, Arizona, installation of catchment systems on some new buildings is a legal requirement.
In conclusion, a nation-wide water harvesting initiative may accomplish many positive socioeconomic benefits for our country and people.
Charles Leslie, Jr.