Located on the top of Mt. Elgon in Uganda are three adjacent schools that had UN-supplied rainwater-harvesting tanks as their only source of water. One of the schools is the Leonard Cheshire School for Disabled Children. Another is the St. Joseph’s Vocational School, and the third is the Busumbu Primary School.
Although breathtakingly beautiful, the location of the schools is too high from the water table to make wells a viable option. Several other groups had tried to install wells, but the schools had to depend, instead, on the UN-supplied rainwater-harvesting tanks, which were not big enough to provide water for so many children. The result was that during the dry season each year, the children at these schools would run out of water.
To provide enough water for the children at three schools, three sets of teachers, all the people who work at the schools, and even some of the local community, we had to build a rainwater-harvesting system that would be the largest of any in Uganda. Regardless of size, the concept is essentially the same—that in areas where there is little pollution, the rain water is very pure. So we needed to collect it, store it and make it available to everyone when needed.
The engineering involved was both simple and challenging. The tin cover was made off site and had to be brought up the mountain, which was quite a challenge. Fortunately, the cover made it in one piece and was installed in a relatively painless manner. Once everything was in place, the next thing was to wait for the rain.
Busumbu Primary School didn’t have long to wait. The area was badly hit by torrential rain and had some catastrophic mudslides. The school and the rainwater-harvesting system managed to survive the rain, and this ended up being the first dry season in which all three schools had a supply of clean water the whole time.