Country Water ActionsThailand: Promoting Rainwater Harvesting, Preserving Rainwater Jar Culture
Web Writer An ancient solution to a modern problem? True, the 2,000-year-old Thai tradition of capturing rainfall into jars hasseen an interesting revival in the northeastern part of thecountry in recent years. Production of these rain jars haveincreased, bringing additional income to households, andsecuring water for entire communities for the years tocome. Will other countries pursuing similar endeavorsachieve the same success?
JUMBO JAR CULTURE
In rural Northeastern Thailand, ahouse is not a home if it does nothave at least one huge rainwater jar. Every household depends ontheir rain jar for their daily waterneeds. Some even depend on rain jars sales for their livelihood. “I make 4-6 jars a day,” says a jar factory worker inNongbuadeedneem town.Together with three otherworkers, they make rain jars thatcan hold an average of 2,000liters of water and cost only aboutUS$15 each (Baht 650).Production cost is about Baht 250-300.A 2,000 liter Thai jar provides water security for a 6-member household all-year round and can spare womenand children from having to collect and carry water fromburdensome distances. Though the practice of rainwaterharvesting using these jumbo jars is more than 2,000 yearsold, it was only recently that the Thai rain jar has gainedpopularity as an inexpensive and practical solution to thewater problems of Thailand’s northeastern provinces.Thanks to the government’s Rainwater Jar Program, theproduction of rain jars have increased tremendously in thepast decades. From 1985 to 1991 alone, over 10 million jarswere manufactured from a pool of funds, both fromgovernment and local and international donors, amountingto Baht 64 million.Today, rainwater jar manufacturing has also become animportant booster of the rural economy.
REVIVING A TRADITION
Rain jars have always been a staple of local Thai culture.With modern water problems, the rain jar tradition offers apractical solution to groundwater salinity and water scarcitycommon in Northeastern Thailand. Prior to the revival of rain jars for water storage, many communities have found itdifficult to protect their drinking water from contaminationand insect breeding.The resurgence of the rain jar tradition began in 1979, whenthe Royal Thai government called for decentralizedapproaches to rural water development, and zeroed in onthree low-cost technologies—rainwater jars and communitywater tanks for drinking water supply, shallow wells fordomestic water and water weirs for agriculture. Formonsoon-prone Thailand, rainwater harvesting provides analternative source of water supply, as annual averagerainfall in the country measures 1400 millimeter, and rain isexpected 6 months a year.Aside from addressing domestic water requirements at thecommunity level, the initiative spurred substantial rural jobcreation and local mobilization. Today, the rain jars makeimmediate and dramatic improvements in the quality of Thairural life.
In Khon Kaen province, jarmanufacturing businesses aremostly small-scale, privateenterprises. Surprisingly, for somemanufacturers, jar making is apart-time business and providesmuch needed added income. “I only make rain jars from 5amto 9am,” a jar manufacturer fromKhon Kaen said. He is actually afull time paddy farmer and worksin the field the rest of the day.