Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

Rain or Shine: Rainwater Harvesting Systems for Dependable, Safe Drinking Water in Rural Guatemala

EPA Grant Number: SU835508
Title: Rain or Shine: Rainwater Harvesting Systems for Dependable, Safe Drinking Water in Rural Guatemala
Investigators: Elgert, Laureen , Austin, Pat , Moutinho, Jennifer , Moutinho, Thomas , Sontag, Christopher , Vresilovic, Alexandra
Current Investigators: Elgert, Laureen , Austin, Pat , Mensing, Michele , Moutinho, Thomas , Picchione, Katie , Washburn, Tom
Institution: Worcester Polytechnic Institute
EPA Project Officer: Levinson, Barbara
Project Period: August 15, 2013 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $14,965
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2013) Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Water , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability



The overall goal of this project is to construct a rainwater catchment system, using appropriate technology, that will contribute to sustainability in social, economic and environmental terms. Towards this goal, we have 5 objectives:

  1. Sufficient rainwater to satisfy household needs is collected by the catchment system.
  2. The catchment system uses appropriate technology, so that it can be affordably and locally repaired and maintained.
  3. At least one person per household is trained in maintenance and repair of the catchment system.
  4. The catchment systems will be based on a flexible design that can be updated and adapted if household water requirements should change or rainfall should fluctuate.
  5. A catchment system design process that can be implemented in other contexts where a sustainable water source is problematic


The rainwater catchment system utilizes the rooftop, gutters, collection tanks and filtering mechanisms. The rain will fall onto the roof and flow into the gutters which direct the water via gravity to the collection tank. As the water flows toward the tank it will pass through a screen filter that will stop large debris such as leaves and branches from continuing. After the screen filter, the water will flow through a first flush system which disposes the initial rain that runs through the system in hopes that this water will wash away the majority of the contaminants that were present on the roof. After the first flush only the water that runs through the pre-cleaned system is collected. As individuals need water they will take it out using the spigot at the bottom of the tank. To supplement the rainwater catchment systems, and increase the probability that the systems will fulfill household needs, we will design and implement an educational program to promote proper rainwater consumption and maintenance to the systems. These goals will be achieved through providing each family with a pictorial poster and verbal communication.

Expected Results:

Implementation and evaluation of 2 rainwater catchment systems will be completed. This pilot project will provide students the opportunity to research the current system design and improve it based on field observations, interviews and surveys. This will result in a revised system design that will: have the capacity to satisfy year-round water requirements to households; use appropriate technology that can be maintained by local people using locally available materials; be disseminated to other rural areas within and beyond Guatemala. More generally, we expect the project will result in improved community health, by reducing the current incidence of dysentery and worms.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 5 publications for this project

Progress and Final Reports:
Final Report