The indigenous methods of rainwater harvesting were primarily designed to meet drinking water requirement in coastal areas where ‘there is water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.’
Simple method to maximise rainwater efficiency
Exploitation and use of underground water using hand pumps and borewells always led to more salinisation as classically happened in Lakshadeep Islands when forage cultivation was encouraged using underground water.
Sea water intrusion
There was sea water intrusion and consequent salinisation. The rain water harvested during monsoon was collected in existing wells around the homestead and used to irrigate crops during summer.
Rain water conservation in sandy soils of coastal areas for irrigation was done in an indigenous way. Earthen pots with a hole at the bottom filled with water were placed near the roots of crops.
Many farmers in coastal zones of West Coast are still following this method with modifications like replacement of earthen pots with plastic pots. Pitcher system of irrigation is an innovative method to maximise rainwater efficiency.
It is an age-old practice to keep crops alive during periods of water shortage, according to Dr. K.V. Peter, Professor of Horticulture and Former Vice-Chancellor, Kerala Agricultural University. Earthen pots with one hole at the bottom are used. A cotton wig plugged into the bottom hole will release the water slowly based on the moisture in the soil.
In fact pitcher irrigation is as popular, or rather more popular than any other method of irrigation during summer or when water is scarce.
Leaf mulching along with pitcher irrigation further enhances water use efficiency, according to Dr. K.S. Purushan, Dean (fisheries), College of Fisheries, Panangad, Kochi. One of the advantages of using pitchers is their water saving capacity. But it has its limitations, as pitchers can be used only on a small-scale, while flood and sprinkler systems are for more extensive irrigation.
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