Sustainability of rainwater harvesting systems used for gardening in the context of climate change and IWRM : an example from the Cuvelai-Etosha Basin in Namibia
- In situ rainwater harvesting has a long history in arid and semi-arid regions of the world buffering water shortages for human consumption and agriculture. In the context of an Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) in the Cuvelai Basin in northern Namibia, roof top rainwater harvesting is being introduced to a rural community for the irrigation of household scale gardens for the cultivation of horticulture products. This study elaborates how harvested rainwater can be used for garden irrigation in a sustainable manner evaluating ecologic, economic and social implications. Considering local conditions eight cropping scenarios were designed, including different criteria as well as one and two annual planting seasons. These schemes were tested under present climate conditions and under three future climate change scenarios for 2050 with the help of a tank model designed to model monthly tank inflows and outflows. Special attention was laid on risk and uncertainty aspects of varying inter-annual and interseasonal precipitation and future climate change. A framework for the assessment of sustainability was adapted to the purposes of this study and indicators have been developed in order to assess the cropping and irrigation schemes for sustainability.
The study found that with the given tank size of 30 m³, depending on crop scenario, under optimized conditions a garden area of 60 to 90 m³ can be irrigated. The choice of crops highly impacts water use efficiency and economic profitability, compared to the considerably lower impact of amount of annual planting seasons and future climate change. In the case of worsening future climate conditions, adaptation measures need to be taken as especially the economic as well as the environmental situation are expected to exacerbate due to expected decreases in yields and revenues. Already under present conditions however, the economic dimension represents the most limiting factor to sustainability, particularly due to the excessive investment costs of the rainwater harvesting and gardening facility. Nonetheless, rainwater harvesting in combination with gardening can be regarded as successful in securing household nutrition, providing sufficient horticulture products for household consumption or market sale. At the same time with the optimal choice of crops the investment costs can be recovered within the end of the lifespan of the facility.