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Rainwater harvesting in Switzerland?

Rainwater harvesting in Switzerland? You might think this would be mainly useful for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East? No! We do harvest rain water even in Switzerland. For humans and animals alike.

As you can see on the map below, mean annual precipitation in Switzerland varies from semi-arid conditions of 545 mm/year in Stalden-Ackersand in South-West Switzerland to very wet 2’837 mm/year on Säntis in Eastern Switzerland. So, there are dry regions in Switzerland! And in these regions, habits like harvesting rainwater or sophisticated distribution of water to different users are commonplace.  

But true, comparing Switzerland to the dry driest and poorer regions in the world makes you aware: Switzerland is very privileged regarding water availability and quality. 

However, there are some challenges which exist in Switzerland in a similar manner as they do in the dry regions of the world as well. In particular in the mountains, in Canton of Wallis, Jura, and Graubunden which exhibit the driest areas in Switzerland. In these areas, water scarcity exists not only because it is dry, but sometimes access to water is difficult because there is no natural storage or because it is frozen in winter. There is for instance a rather sophisticated tradition of irrigation canals in Canton of Wallis or very adventurous water supply systems in the mountains around Gotthard – and of course rain water harvesting taking place in several places across the country.

In the wake of travel limitations due to Covid-19 I had the opportunity to visit some interesting places in my home country – interesting from the viewpoint of “water.” So, while rain water is mainly harvested in the dry lands of Switzerland, the technique of rain water harvesting exists almost everywhere across the country. In some places, people collect and store rain water from the roofs for showering or flushing of toilets for environmental reasons. In other areas, climatic conditions are very dry and people have to be creative finding new ways to overcome water shortages. In these places, people are using rain water for all purposes. Collected water from the roofs or through plastic sheets span over ground. For cooking, washing, drinking, and feeding of animals.  That’s the case  for instance in Vallée de Joux in the west of Switzerland which I visited after a short trip to an Ice Cave in the region. In Vallée des Joux  I visited some houses and Alps where they collect rain water for humans but for animals as well.

Check out some of the impressions in the pictures below.

Rain water, groundwater, and village water supply coming from different taps.

Section of a rain water harvesting plan.

Rain water harvest for animal use.

Reservoirs and access for maintenance is often located inside the house. As here inside a small workshop belonging to an old farmhouse.

Corrugated iron roof for better rainwater harvesting in the mountains around Vallèe du Joux.