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Rural communities measure rainfall for long-term water security

Story

By Chandrika Patnaik

16 April 2022

Rural communities in remote Odisha learn to use the manual rain gauge to predict rainfall and optimise water use for long-term water security affecting lives and livelihoods.

Santi Jani is demonstrating the measurement of the rainfall.

Photograph by Prasanta Kumar Naik

“Being a localised forecast, the rainfall data collected with the help of this rain gauge will be helpful for us in future to decide which crop we can cultivate in which season,” says Uttam Jani, 42, a farmer from Gramadebati village in Jagannathprasad block in Ganjam district.

A rain gauge is an instrument used to measure the amount of rainfall in a certain area over a period of time. The manual rain gauge is a simple device with a funnel that is used for collecting and channelling rain into a small container within the device. The rainwater is then poured into a measuring tube to take the reading.

Usually, rainfall is measured by a trained volunteer from the community once in 24 hours and the data is recorded. Each measurement is recorded by writing the reading in a register and then uploading it on a smartphone application called mWater. To get accurate precipitation data, the rain gauge device is set up in an open area away from buildings, trees, electric wires or edges of roofs.

The monitoring of data over a few years will provide a month-wise accurate forecast in advance. This will help farmers to choose the crops they want to cultivate or the amount of watershed activities that should be done for increasing the moisture of the soil.

Santi Jani, 45, President of Gramadebati Village Development Committee feels that no one understands water woes during summer better than her. ”Water woes due to water scarcity takes us two steps back. The taps in our homes running dry during summers can be frustrating. In fact, the rainfall data we monitor will help us in understanding groundwater availability on a monthly basis.”

The community uses a borewell for supplying water to every household. Santi says that the compiled rainfall data will help them in the future to decide the duration of water supplied to households in a day during different seasons helping us save water. “This way borewells won’t completely dry up if extraction of water is done judiciously. Which would mean that households will get water supplied to them for a shorter duration because we will extract less water from the borewell. But at least this will prevent women from walking long distances every time in the summer to fetch water from outside sources.”

Availability of water is an issue that communities face at varying levels of intensity, across rural areas of Odisha and Jharkhand. Addressing the water issue needs a holistic approach that addresses the social, economic, institutional and technical aspects.

The Manual rain gauge device allows a community to efficiently monitor the rainfall in their area. The data collected over a period of time allows village committees flexibility in creating water-focused development plans for their village. This small technological adoption provides regular, usable data to users at the micro-level to optimise for water use.

Gram Vikas aims to make 1000 Gram Panchayats in Odisha and Jharkhand water secure by the year 2030. The Water Secure Gram Panchayat Programme (WSGP), a Gram Vikas initiative, aims to enable community-led water resource management and resilient, sustainable and gender-equitable institutions. It brings together work in the areas of Village Institutions, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Livelihoods and Habitat and Technologies. The Gram Panchayat, as a federation of its constituent habitations, is the unit of implementation.

With the support from Gram Vikas, Village Development Committees from 27 villages have installed manual rain gauges. Currently, 27 Gram Panchayats across four districts in Ganjam, Gajapati, Kandhamal and Kalahandi have installed these devices.

Uttam rightly points out that data will help build farmer resilience against climate change, “Monitoring of this data regularly over a period of time will help us in getting precision forecasts in coming years. Climate change is now a reality and such localised accurate forecasts will help us increase our produce.”

Mangaraj Jani, a trained volunteer in the community is setting up the rain gauge.

Photograph by Prasanta Kumar Naik

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Anas K.P, Junior Manager in the Water Resource Technology Group, and Prasant Kumar Naik, Thematic Coordinator, Documentation and Communication helped in collecting data for the story. Ganesh Chakravarthi edited the story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chandrika Patnaik leads content production within the Communications team in Gram Vikas.

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