Bamboo Water Tanks Don’t Leak

One of the interesting pilot projects INBAR embarked upon in 2012 was to test if bamboo and rattan could be used to construct rainwater catchment tanks for local communities in Ethiopia and Nepal.  The hypothesis was that bamboo is readily available and it is relatively cheap.  Moreover, skills could be transferred to local entrepreneurs so that the tanks could be constructed without the need for external help, thus keeping the cost down.


When I lived and worked in Botswana in the seventies, we looked at rainwater catchment as the solution for providing cheap a supply of fresh water for domestic use in a country with very low rainfall and a dwindling underground water reservoir.  I was working with an advisor to the International Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (IRCSA) which is promoting and advancing rainwater catchment systems technology.  (  We facilitated the construction of a set of rainwater tanks at a medical facility in the village of Nata, and found that the few rainstorms that occur were sufficient to fill the tank and provide an additional source of water for washing, watering a vegetable garden and other uses.  It even functioned as an emergency back-up to the council water supply.

I therefore liked the concept of the Ethiopia/Nepal project, and was very interested to hear the outcome.   I had the opportunity to learn more, when I talked last week with one of the INBAR staff who was actively involved in the activity.  The project constructed a 5,000 litre tank from flattened, treated bamboo strips, which were then plastered with concrete.  A base was constructed to prevent leakage, and a domed roof was installed to keep the supply safe from pollution.  The result was a cheap reservoir with a cost of USD 4-8 per litre.  This compares very favourable with a plastic water tank which costs roughly USD 12 per litre while a concrete tank costs about USD20 per litre.  The main concerns that were expressed by the local community was the fear that bamboo would rot, and the tank would disintegrate.  However, INBAR was able to prove that treated bamboo can last 25 years or more, and the bamboo used for this water tank was therefore treated with a simple method using appropriate technology.

tank elevation shot with girl_3

INBAR has published a manual to help other communities build similar structures, which is available on line:

The pilot project could not have been possible without the support from the Canadian Government.  The results are very encouraging, and we hope to embark upon a second phase of testing and promotion in the coming year.


4 thoughts on “Bamboo Water Tanks Don’t Leak

  1. Interesting article. As the Head of Research, Center for China-Africa Agriculture and Forestry Research, a collaborative center between INBAR and Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University, I see INBAR as a unique inter-governmental technical bureau, which is comparable to OIV (International Organization of Vine and Wine). Both are technical standard setters for certain sectors. The former is kinda club of developing countries whereas the latter is sort of that of developed countries. When we put China in both clubs, I could probably give you an interesting story telling.

    As far as China is concerned, standardization is always in a mess and government is still learning. And this is applied to bamboo and relevant sector product standards like bamboo shoot. Dr. Lou from INBAR is leading his team (I am part of his team) to implement an EU funded project, part of whose aims is to examine how China can improve standardization as applied to bamboo shoot industry to improve safety and quality of shoot products around China. We found for instance, food additives to be put in the bamboo shoot are not well regulated. The thing is either there is a lack of relevant additive standards or related standards are outdated.

    Dr. Pinghui Xiao, Head of Research, Center for China-Africa Agriculture and Forestry Research

    • Thank you for your comments.
      INBAR will work with members and partners around the world to help take these important issues forward.
      Keep in touch!
      Best regards

  2. Dear Hans

    Congratulations on the success. My name is Ramchandra Kowligi and I work in the development sector in India, and am based in Mumbai. In 2010 I have constructed a 5000 liters water tank using Bamboo Cement Composite using whole Bamboo poles in a village 65 kilometers away from the city of Hyderabad, We are using this tank for gravity based drip irrigation. In another location near Pune we have used cement concrete tank and have been successful in helping a farmer in a drought area to grow a water intensive crop like sugarcane using 1/5th the water used by a normal drip irrigation system. I have designs for elevated bamboo water tank for gravity based drip irrigation which will be a game changer in drought management. Can INBAR help me to test a prototype of my design. I have also designed and built a college canteen using only Bamboo (including roof and wall with Bamboo mat board) and this design has been tested by Engineers from Cummins Engineering and Research Pune and it can withstand a wind speed of up to 110 km/hr both in the computer design and on field. I have designed a bamboo joinery method which can be used for modular design for any kind of light weight structures. I am specially working on rural infrastructure applications like cow sheds, poultry sheds, green house, grain storage godowns, work sheds, kiosks etc. To scale this model I developed a Bamboo Fabrications Workshop which requires a investment of INR. 100,000 only. I developed one such workshop and successfully operated it for 3 years. My vision it to have one such workshop in each small town of India. Such a workshop can produce all the above mentioned products using local bamboo. Can INBAR help me in any way to scale this model.

    Thanks and Regards

    Ramchandra Kowligi

    • Dear Ramchandra
      I will discuss your ideas with my colleagues in the New Delhi office of INBAR, and will get back to you through email.
      Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions
      Best regards

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