Global award for collecting water with roads

10 July 2015

MetaMeta of the Netherlands, together with its partners Mekelle University and Tigray Government, have been awarded the prestigious Global Road Achievement Award for Environmental Mitigation by the International Roads Federation on 30 June. The NWO research under the aegis of Utrecht University looks at the broader impact of feeder road development – including the use and access to the opportunities to harvest water.

Water is short in many places, but roads are everywhere! When it rains it is often along these roads that most water runs, as roads unknowingly either serve as dike or a drain. By ‘harvesting’ the water with these roads, water shortage can be overcome and climate change can be addressed.

This was the idea behind the research undertaken in Ethiopia first with a DFID UPGRO Catalyst Grant and then further elaborated as part of research on the Optimizing the Inclusive Growth of Feeder Roads supported by NWO-WOTRO Science for global development and the INCLUDE-platform. The research looks at ways and means of collecting water with the roads – from culverts, drains, borrow pits, road surface, river crossings, as these have massive impact on how rain run-off moves across a landscape. The idea has scaled up quickly – in 2014 the Tigray Government implemented road water harvesting activities in all its districts. The results have been spectacular in increased water tables, better soil moisture, reduced erosion from roads, less local flooding and moreover much better crop yields.

The potential to scale up the use of water with roads is enormous - with every area having its own solutions. There is also a compelling economic case: harvesting water with roads if done well greatly reduces water damage to roads. Programmes to collect the water from the roads are being undertaken in more areas now – such as in Amhara Regional State, where part of the massive programme to prepare for the expected El Nino more than two million people are mobilised for water harvesting activities, including from the roads.

The award

The International Road Federation's Global Road Achievement Awards (GRAA) is a one-of-a-kind competition to recognize innovative road projects and exemplary people that place the road industry at the forefront of worldwide social and economic development. The category ‘Environmental mitigation’ recognises public and private organisations that show outstanding progress in protecting and/or enhancing the natural environment in the planning, design and/or construction of road development projects.

Source: Utrecht University