How to… design roads for water harvesting and groundwater recharge

Farmers diverting water from a culvert into a percolation pond for supplementary irrigation and groundwater recharge in Tigray, Ethiopia
Road construction affects the hydrology of an area; causes erosion, flooding, water logging (photo: Meta Meta Research)
Road construction affects the hydrology of an area; causes erosion, flooding, water logging (photo: Meta Meta Research)

Roads can devastate a landscape – scarring it, creating barriers for wildlife and accelerating stormwater so that valuable farmland, habitats and homes get washed away or polluted. What if didn’t have to be that way? What if roads would work with the grain of nature rather than against it?

One of the UPGro teams, lead by Frank van Steenbergen, at Meta Meta Research, has being doing just that. Over the last year, their UPGro Catalyst project has been researching how roads can be used for rainwater harvesting on a landscape scale to recharge aquifers and ponds for later use in the dry seasons.

Working closely with the Mekelle University and the Government of Ethiopia, Frank and his team (including the Institute for Development Studies) has not only been testing the theory but they have been putting into practice. In the region of Tigray, the methods of road design have captured imaginations as well as water and now the government is keen to roll these ideas out further around the country.

The Catalyst project is now complete and a number of resources are now available online:

The principles have also been explained in a recent RWSN-UPGro webinar on groundwater recharge

Roads for Water: Effecting Change in Tigray, Ethiopia

from the WaterChannel:

Question: How can dusty roads provide water?
Answer: By harvesting and storing rainwater when it falls on them. 

A 30 mm rainfall over a 1-kilometre stretch of road can produce up to 100,000 litres of water. This number points to a huge potential. And not one that has not been adequately tapped (around 7 billion USD are spent on road construction in sub-Saharan Africa alone).

Continue reading Roads for Water: Effecting Change in Tigray, Ethiopia