The Politics of Rainwater Harvesting

There is a more than two-decade-old law in the Philippines requiring the construction of rainwater catchments around the country, but it is seldom enforced. In Cebu City, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country currently dealing with extended dry weather caused by the El NiΓ±o effect, that is changing. Lawyers and University students filed petitions with the Supreme Court to enforce the 1989 Rainwater Collector and Springs Development Law. Nestor Archival, Cebu City Councilor, responded with an appeal to residents to use whatever container they have and begin constructing rainwater catchments or digging ponds in their yards.

downspout with water
dankeck / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Archival points to a city ordinance that requires any commercial building worth over half a million pesos to construct a rainwater catchment system, and he says that he is appealing to schools, malls, and any other large or commercial establishment to do its part.

Cebu City’s legal requirement echoes similar legal requirements in Bermuda, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Santa Fe, New Mexico, where all new construction is required to include rainwater harvesting adequate for the new residents. A similar law is being considered in Los Angeles. Even Colorado, where laws long forbid rainwater catchment because the legal owner of that water was downstream, changed their laws in 2009 to allow rainwater harvesting.

As the population grows and available water levels remain the same, legally requiring rainwater catchment may become the norm, not the exception.

Written by Scott James


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  1. If there is anything that must be done regarding RA No. 6716, (AN ACT PROVIDING FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF WATER WELLS, RAINWATER COLLECTORS, DEVELOPMENT OF SPRINGS AND REHABILITATION OF EXISTING WATER WELLS IN ALL BARANGAYS IN THE PHILIPPINES), it has to be amended first. Having been in limbo for two decades, it has become obsolete and insufficient to meet current realities.

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