Rainwater harvesting (RWH) is principally based on collecting, storing, and using rainfall which would otherwise be lost as surface runoff. Runoff threatens in several ways: accelerating erosion, intensifying flooding, and reducing groundwater recharge. Therefore, purposely retaining rainfall in the urban water cycle rather than draining has several positive impacts on designing sustainable cities. This work presents a proposal on how to avoid flooding in cities by systematically harvesting, storing rainwater, and using it for multiple purposes. The concept of RWH presented here has the potential to be a radical innovation to solve the social, economic, and environmental challenges associated with flash flooding. Each residence is regarded as a water production unit. Depending on the climatic conditions, people can meet their water needs on a local household basis, or alternatively use piped water as a complement. By infiltrating rainwater, groundwater is locally recharged and downstream wells are more productive. The implementation of this idea involves entrepreneurial agency that challenges existing structures, rather than adapting to them. Clearly, social entrepreneurship and social innovation are expected to catalyse the realization of this social innovation, also in rural areas. It is about mobilizing ideas, capacities, and resources to create a sustainable social transformation.

  • Rainwater harvesting is a well-established tool to retain water within the city.

  • Harvested rainwater is conventionally used for non-potable used (clean and green city).

  • The potential of rainwater for safe drinking water provision has been largely overlooked.

  • A new concept for urban water management, encompassing flash flood mitigation is presented.

  • Harnessing active engagement of all citizens facilitates the efficiency of this concept.

This content is only available as a PDF.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY 4.0), which permits copying, adaptation and redistribution, provided the original work is properly cited (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).