Water security: a helpful RWH learning session

When Sajin walked into Redwood Apartments off Sarjapur Road on 6th December to attend a workshop on "Water Reality and Solutions" including groundwater recharge, rainwater harvesting (RWH) and grey water reuse, he was "pretty sure that the topic would be dull" and might even be boring.

Rainwater Harvesting worksho at Redwood Apts

The workshop in progress. AppartmentAdda.com organised it in partnernship with Rainwater Club/Biome Environmental Solutions and Citizen Matters. ( Pic: Venkat Kandaswamy )

But his feedback on ‘Perpetual Moment‘ and many others’ posted on ‘Praja‘ drive home an important message – we are living in a globalised city impounded by innumerable water woes and the only way out is to tackle them locally through discussion and community participation. (Praja is an online community of citizens) 

Organised by ApartmentAdda.com, The Rainwater Club, and Citizen Matters, the workshop brought together apartment owners’ associations, experts, and experienced citizens, and threw open a platform to discuss water issues affecting almost every Bangalorean – every day. Subramaniam Vincent, Editor, Citizen Matters moderated the proceedings. 

HARD FACTS

Some disturbing facts laid bare by the experts at the workshop:

1. According to S Narahari, Assistant Executive Engineer, BWSSB, the main source of water for Bangalore today is the Cauvery and 54 MLD pumped out from Tippagondana Halli reservoir. Total drinking water supplied by BWSSB is 959 MLD. The Cauvery water is pumped from a distance of 100 km over a head of 500 meters. This supply comes at a cost of Rs 28 crores per month for BWSSB’s electric bills. 

2. The demand for water as of now is estimated to be 1125 MLD. There are plans to increase the supply from the current levels to 1125 MLD by 2012 when the Cauvery water will reach the maximum available limit. After this, there is no possibility of increasing Bangalore’s water supply. This is partly the reason for the current BWSSB policy of mandatory RWH. (All new 40×30 size dwellings/buildings and larger, as well all old 40×60 size properties and larger, have to implement RWH). 

3. Ranganathan (formerly MD of Ion Exchange Services India Ltd.) says sewage contamination is increasing alarmingly. As builders appear to have no commitment to deliver quality sewage treatment plant facilities for communities, he advocates creating awareness among consumers through such workshops.

The venue couldn’t have been more apt. Redwood Apartments, which was facing severe water scarcity till recently, has found a solution. Thanks to its residents who refused to wish away lakhs of rupees for water tankers every month but got down to brass tacks, installed an RWH system on their clubhouse roof, and saved Rs 20,000 after the recent rainfall.

One issue; many facets

Although water scarcity is the main issue, interestingly, each participant seemed to be grappling with different facets of it and looking for solutions.

After the workshop, the online community Praja had a post on the proceedings, and discussion proceeded under that article.

While Ananthram Palangala, a Praja member, says he got "a better perspective of RWH (from the workshop), especially the rooftop method", Sajin is encouraged by the positive message it sent out. "The way I look at this, it is not a doomsday message. It is a very positive message on how pretty simple things and reasonable investments can ensure us water safety…."

Also, a trip around Redwood seems to have given many of them", a fair idea of rooftop RWH and its economics".

Sewage treatment plant (STP)

When it comes to STPs, it can be fairly assumed that the participants were in for an unpleasant surprise when they realised that even reputed builders were flouting the norms and placing the STPs in the basement instead of in an open corner of the apartment to facilitate proper oxygenation. It is this aspect that left Sajin reassured that certain apartments and layouts have indeed put in place RWH and STP systems effectively and witnessed marked improvement in their water security. "This was something that inspired the rest of us to implement/enhance our RWH/STP systems." The event was not only "informative" and "exceeded expectations", but was "fun too".

Citizens offer solutions

R K Chari does not seem to be happy that only the clubhouse roof of Redwood Apartments is being used for collecting rainwater. He questions why not harvest the water falling on the sloping roofs of the penthouses in the building.

Reacting to this query, Sanjay V, another Praja member, cites possible practical constraints and says this workshop did prompt him to talk with the office-bearers of his apartment to thrash out solutions although the expenses involved were staring in their face.

More in the offing?

On Twitter, Sangeeta Banerjee and Ashika Sripathi of AppartmentAdda, organiser of the workshop, say that the event was a "best utilised four hours in recent times…". However, Chetana Shekhar of Woodcreek Apartments is a bit disappointed that not enough case studies were presented "since I was there to gather info for setting up something in our own apartment".

A Ramachandran of Celestial Greens had his doubts cleared about how to install the RWH system "within the constraints we have in our apartment complex". However, that’s not the end of it all. He wants "another sitting" with experts to understand the intricacies of the technical features better.

Post the workshop, there has been engaging discussions in the Praja forum on the quantity of water that can be harvested in Bangalore in a year, the mandatory requirements for a citizen to install an RWH system at home, and the dual piping system BWSSB is planning to implement to separate drinking and impotable water. Citizens are digging out data on every aspect that can make such initiatives tangible.

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1 Comment

  1. Along with awareness generation about the advantages of RWH and the other alarming water concerns we should also push for a policy on restricting the bore well digging. If efficiently planned and executed the RWH will take care of a lion portion of our regular water needs. Day by day the number of bore wells dug in Bangalore is increasing in large numbers. This has also affected the water table. On an average people are digging about 1000 ft depth in many parts of Bangalore.

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