In order to evaluate the potential of rainwater harvesting (RWH) for mitigating water scarcity in a semi-arid zone of the country (Mashhad-Iran), three typical RWH systems were installed and monitored. The first system consists of 5,000 m2 natural ground catchment which was leveled and covered with plastic sheets allowing for maximum possible runoff generation. Surface runoff was conducted into a 500 m3 ground reservoir via a series of draining ditches and an end collection channel. The water collected from a plastic covered catchment was used for irrigation of dryland wheat cultivation. According to the result of two years measurements, grain yield was almost doubled in irrigated plots when compared to conventional rainfed cultivation. In the second RWH system, runoff generated from about 2 ha asphaltic road and parking was diverted into a 1,200 m3 ground reservoir. The results of 2 years measurement for reservoir inflow and outflow indicated that runoff generated during rainy season was sufficient to produce necessary water for irrigating 900 planted fruit trees during successive dry seasons. The last experiment reported here is about a 40 m2 roof area which was connected to a plastic tank for runoff measurement. The conclusion was that the proposed RWH system can produce enough water for building's toilets' flashes and other sanitary purposes so that the potable water could be saved considerably. In general, the results of three rainwater harvesting experiments showed the importance of using rainwater for compensating the effect of water shortages which is repeatedly occurring due to the effect of current climate change and ever increasing water utilization for drinking and food production.
Keywords: arid and semi arid land, dryland cultivation, rainwater harvesting, roofwater