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Water harvesting slakes thirst at an innovative Kenyan inn

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Likhavila didn’t see the point in applying for a water connection for his business, as it was expensive and unreliable.

“I saw that I needed a lot of water. I thought very hard and came up with an idea of harvesting my own water,” he says.

He paid some men to dig a hole 10 feet deep and 10 feet wide. He used the soil to bake bricks for the construction of an underground tank, and bought iron bars, wire mesh, and water-proof cement.

He then got a plumber to fit a network of pipes around the edges of his sheet-iron roof, channeling rainwater runoff into the tank.

Today there is a dining area for visitors on top of the underground tank, and all that can be seen of it is a lid and an electric pump in the corner that draws up water.

Likhavila has also installed plastic water-storage tanks on his roofs. He pumps water from the underground tank up to these roof tanks to supply the guest rooms, toilets, bathrooms, kitchen, bars, and restaurant.

“I get a lot of water when it rains,” he says. “I first fill the overhead tanks, which can take several weeks to empty.”

Once all the tanks are full, an outlet directs water to the vegetable garden. He also has a car-washing bay that uses water from the tanks.

Likhavila says his system stores enough water to get him through most of the year. He only suffers from water shortages, usually lasting two to three weeks, at times when droughts are particularly severe. And his system allows him to capture more of the region’s increasingly intense rains.

The total cost of constructing the tank system was around 60,000 Kenyan shillings ($700), with the main expenses being labor and materials.

“For these past few years, I would have been spending more than 5,000 Ksh (about $60) every month paying for piped water from the government,” he says. Since 2007, he would have spent as much as $4,000 on water bills, he calculates.

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