It would seem that ancient methods are best when it comes to saving water in a ‘Modern Age’.

*Recently, The Stockholm Water Prize was awarded to Rajendra Singh, who is known as the ‘Water Man of India’. Rajendra’s methods have brought water to over a thousand villages in the country.

The judges of the prize say his methods have also prevented floods, restored soil and rivers, and brought back wildlife. They also maintained that his technique is cheap, simple, and that his ideas should be followed worldwide.

Rajendra uses a modern version of the ancient Indian technique of rainwater harvesting.

It involves building low-level banks of earth to hold back the flow of water in the wet season and allow water to seep into the ground for future use.

Rajendra first trained as a medic, but when he took up a post in a rural village in arid Rajasthan he was told the greatest need was not health care but drinking water.

Groundwater had been sucked dry by farmers, and as water disappeared, crops failed, rivers, forests and wildlife disappeared and people left for the towns.

“When we started our work, we were only looking at the drinking water crisis and how to solve that,” Mr Singh said.

“Today our aim is higher.  This is the century of exploitation, pollution and encroachment. To stop all this, to convert the war on water into peace, that is my life’s goal.”

Similarly, on another continent, adaptations to an ancient manual water pump made using readily available and replaceable materials has ensured that the fondly named ‘Elephant Pump’ has been bringing safe potable water to villages and communities throughout Africa for more than 10 years.

Ian Thorpe, co-founder of The Africa Trust, was awarded the prestigious St Andrews Medal for the Environment in 2005 and The Elephant Pump received the World Bank Development Marketplace award for Water, Sanitation and Energy a year later.

As with Rajendra’s initial start as a medic, Ian started out teaching in Zimbabwe, but this soon changed when he witnessed the terrible conditions the villagers lived in and the hours spent every day retrieving water many miles away – water that was mostly unsafe to drink.

At the time of winning the St. Andrew’s Medal, around 250,000 people were already using the pump and today over two million people use the Elephant Pump every day. This figure is growing each month thanks to funding from AquAid and others.

There are lessons to be learnt here and what seems to be clear indicators that time honoured old methods are what are needed in supplying a large portion of the world’s population with the tools for a safe and sustainable water supply.

Gentlemen, I salute you both!

*excerpts from an article in the BBC Science and Environment section by Roger Harrabin.