The success or failure of operating a rainwater harvesting system (RWH) depends on both technological and non-technological factors. The importance of non-technological factors in attaining sustainable RWH operation is rarely emphasized. This study aims to assess the contribution of non-technological factors through determining decisive factors involved in the use of RWHs for agriculture irrigation in Beijing. The RWHs for agriculture irrigation in Beijing are not operating as well as expected. If the decisive factors are identified to be non-technological, the significance of non-technological factors will be highlighted. Firstly, 10 impact factors comprising non-technological and technological factors are selected according to both a literature review and interviews with RWH managers. Following this, through an artificial data mining method, rough set analysis, the decisive factors are identified. Results show that two non-technological factors, “doubts about rainwater quality” and “the availability of groundwater” determine whether these systems will continue or cease RWH operation in Beijing. It is, thus, considered necessary to improve public confidence in and motivation on using rainwater for agriculture irrigation, as this is the main obstacle in the sustainable and successful operation of RWHs. Through a case study of RWHs in Beijing, the study verifies the importance of acknowledging non-technological factors to achieve sustainable water management and considers that such factors should receive more attention by decision makers and researchers.
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