People often ask us how do we figure out if a school, church or hospital is right for a rainwater harvesting system. A lot goes into how we assess our projects, more than most think about. First we determine if the area has sufficient rainfall and almost as important is the rainfall days and frequency per year. For instance, in India it can rain 80 inches per year, however all that rain comes during the monsoon season, so for 2 months they have more than enough rain then for 10 months, it is very dry. Masaka, Uganda gets on average 52.3 inches or 4.3 feet of rainfall every year and has 220 average rainfall days, which means 60% of the year there is rain. This will ensure that the holding tanks get refilled regularly and can always provide clean drinking water to the children.
Once we determine if the climate and conditions will support a sustainable source of water, we find the local leaders of the communities that help us get to the schools most in need. We look for schools with over a hundred students. Once we have this initial assessment, we make a trip to visit each potential project location.
This is the part that takes a lot of time. We travel constantly when we are assessing, rarely stopping on the road except when needed (or the always stopped at equator sign). Ten to twelve hours in the back of an SUV, we usually drive up to the location and get out with notebooks, calculators, iPhones (for GPS and elevation) pencil and measuring tapes. Scrambling to find reasonably sturdy items to stand on while measure, we measure and call out numbers, survey the building surroundings and quickly sketch a site map.
A visit to the headmaster or headmistress to verify the pupil count and to get their phone number and it is off again. As we drive to the next location, we are busy taking notes, discussing special needs and getting ready for the next stop. Sometimes we have to stop for a minor repair too!
In the end, this is vital information for us to get to our implementation partners – the more detailed we can be in the beginning, the more accurate costing we can get and the better reporting we can give to our donors. But, in the end, its all about getting these kids clean water!