Overwhelmed by new initiatives for tackling the effects of climate change nearly weekly, I got lost within this stream of ideas a long time ago. Each time I get confronted with technically complex product designs, my initial thought about creating new techniques and designs pops up. Why do we constantly have to come up with advanced and innovative ideas, when we can achieve so much with already existing ideas and products?
Take for instance Leiden. This Dutch city, also known as Sleutelstad (Key City), is a densely built-up city and municipality in the Netherlands. The inhabitants of Leiden are quite familiar with the abundance of water in the streets after high amounts of rainfall, which is getting worse year by year because of climate change. Especially the northern districts of the city have difficulty coping with high amounts of rainwater regularly, mainly because of the low-lying area the districts are located in and the further subsidence of the houses over the years. Adaptation is therefore highly essential to adjust to the short-term effects of climate change.
A wonderful and simple invention that can easily contribute to tackling this problem is the rain barrel, a product we already use for centuries to collect rainwater. As stated by WWF, not only is the usage of rain barrels a great way to conserve scarce freshwater, it is also a simple and cheap step to reduce flooding as a result of heavy rainfall. Different sizes and materials are available when purchasing a rain barrel, but the overall rule is that it should not take any effort to connect the barrel to the downspout. Taking into account that watering your garden can account for a high percentage of domestic water consumption and that you can easily use rainwater for flushing your toilet, installing a rain barrel could possibly save you quite some money and prevent you from using much more water than necessary.
The municipality of Leiden has tried to encourage the usage of rain barrels in 2009 by offering free rain barrels to the inhabitants of district Groenoord-Zuid. Despite the fact that 60 households were interested in participating in this project, the municipality has not actively continued encouraging the usage. Therefore it is time for action.
Major repairs and renovations within the city will not be enough to fully adapt Leiden to the rainy effects of climate change. Collaboration and participation of the inhabitants is also required to prevent everyone from having wet feet. In fact, to prevent flood damage, more and more municipalities obligate their inhabitants to collect rainwater from their downspouts with rain barrels. An active attempt like this would suit Leiden, especially because of their past experience with the abundance of water in the streets.
The solution for the water problem in Leiden does not necessarily have to be completely technically complex. Maybe by looking for straightforward measures as the key for adaptation, a climate proof Leiden is achievable sooner than we might think.