Rajul Parikh, President Water Quality India Association and Co-Founder, Director Alfaa UV In Discussion with DNA on Smart Water Management

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Rajul Parikh, President Water Quality India Association and Co-Founder, Director Alfaa UV In Discussion with DNA on Smart Water Management

Posted on April 11, 2016 Rajul Parikh, President Water Quality India Association and Co-Founder, Director Alfaa UV In Discussion with DNA on Smart Water Management

Dubai is reeling under floods. Most surprising at this time of the year, a phenomenon unheard of. Chennai had a huge deluge some months ago and there were unprecedented floods. Last monsoon, many parts of India saw a big deficit in rainfall. Rains were 30-40% below averages. The year before that, after an early start, monsoon retreated, only to surface at the fag end and carried on till November. Whether we want to believe it or not, climate change is here to stay.

Water shortage. Another fact of life which we must accept as reality. Let us take two examples. One example of a rural area in the Golden desert in Rajasthan which gets 1-2 inches of rainfall every year. And the second example is of Mumbai, which gets between 80-120 inches of rainfall every year.

Despite nature’s unfairness, the story of the Golden desert is a happy one, where with traditional rain water harvesting of every drop of rain, the area is able to meet its drinking water needs, by careful collection and evaporation free storage.

In the case of Mumbai, when rainfall is unable to fill lakes and reservoirs to the brim, water becomes scarce by April. Precious rainfall consisting of nature’s purest source of water, falling on city roofs is lost into the drainage and flows into the sea.

Attitudes matter

Besides rainwater harvesting in one case and the lack of the same in the other, the difference is also one of attitudes. Living in a desert, people had the ability to adapt and make the most of what they had. Living amidst plenty, people in Mumbai had forgotten that water is a finite resource. ‘Make hay while the sun shines’ was never practiced.

Scorching summer

As we step into summer, with the backdrop of poor rainfall in 2015, we are likely to face water shortages in most cities across India, and Mumbai is no exception with its teeming millions. Municipalities are gearing up to make supplies last till the onset of the next monsoon.

This means restricted supplies over what was being given earlier. This also means that citizens will have to depend on tankers for their shortfall. Tankers depend on ground water and ground water tables are falling to critically low levels in many overexploited areas. Prices of tanker water will therefore adapt to demand and supply.

Smart steps

Now is the time that we can practice some smart water management. We as awakened and empowered citizens, armed with some smart knowledge. What steps can we take individually and collectively to help ourselves and others?

Helping ourselves is easier than thinking of the common good. For starters, societies can explore if there is a possibility of rain water harvesting in their buildings. (Retrofitting is sometimes a challenge with piping and space constraints). An expert can be called in and opinion taken. This may help in dealing with water shortages in the future.

A second smart step would be to install meters with automated readings at water inlet/s to individual flats. This will help to check water usage, and cut back if required. When water bills are divided amongst users based on consumption rather than a simple division, it acts as a powerful motivation to reduce wastage.

Many of us have old leaky taps, where simply changing the washer can cut down on thousands of litres of water wastage over the year. Still others go in for renovation of their kitchens and bathrooms.

Perhaps the most water efficient hardware can be considered, even if they are a little more expensive, for example flush tanks, faucets and showers, some of them fitted with sensors for automatic control.

Global inspiration

Recently on a visit to Johannesburg, a city which has perpetual water shortages, I was impressed with the way residents washed their utensils. They would soak the dirty dishes in a tub full of soapy water, scrub them and then do a sweep clean rinse in another tub full of clean water.

No taps would be left on while the soaping, scrubbing or rinsing happened. This despite a 24×7 supply where water is priced on consumption. Smart way indeed!

 

Efficient gadgets

Buying water efficient gadgets like dishwashers and washing machines is another great way to save water. Contrary to what many believe, newer washing machines wash clothes with less water and detergent, and prove beneficial to the environment. Compare this with the traditional method of washing clothes and rinsing them under a tap which is running at full capacity!

Drinking water

Being in the business of water purification, I am appalled to see educated consumers buying water purifiers that waste huge amounts of water simply because of ads which say that they are the best, regardless of whether their own particular water quality demands that technology.

Timing matters

A simple thing like watering your indoor plants or gardens early morning or at night can help save a large amount of water, as compared to watering them in the middle of the day.

Mandatory steps

The provision of a sewage treatment plant in new buildings has become mandatory. Many progressive societies, hotels, hospitals and industries opt for tertiary treatment of waste water using UV disinfection technology and put back the recycled water to use in flushing, washing cars and landscaping. This can save thousands of litres of potable water, which can then be used for drinking.

Please recycle

Such measures are taken when the larger good is the main driver, or water is absolutely scarce. Since water of potable quality is still relatively cheap in India, the incentive to recycle is not yet powerful enough, but is slowly gaining acceptance and becoming popular.

What is also mandatory is the requirement of rain water harvesting in newer buildings and builders are not given completion certificates unless the provision of rain water harvesting has been incorporated. These are steps in the right direction.

Bottom line

We need to understand that water is limited. It is becoming a scarce resource with population explosion and urbanization. India has not only one of the lowest per capita availability of water in the world, but also ranks 120th of 122 nations in terms of quality of water offered to its citizens. (2010 report). There is also immense disparity in water availability in India. This is not fair, as water is needed by all and is a basic requirement.

As a passionate environmentalist, I participated in rain water harvesting projects in two villages just 2 hours away from Mumbai, in a remote rural Adivasi area. It was really sad to see how they got water only for 10 months of the year and had to walk 3-4 kilometres to the river to fetch it. When the project was complete it was delightful to see the expression on their faces, when a community water tap was provided in the centre of the village which would make water available all through the year!

Going forward

Water is catching the attention of policy makers and regulators and soon a time will come, when one will have to pay a lot more for water, based on consumption. Besides paying more, availability will be further curtailed, especially if climate change plays tricks with the natural rainfall cycle.

As educated and enlightened citizens, it is time to make the right choices. To make small but meaningful changes, especially in the way we treat this precious resource. To change our attitude towards water. It is time to wake up and become smart.

Did you know?

A simple thing like watering your indoor plants or gardens early morning or at night can help save a large amount of water, as compared to watering them in the middle of the day.

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