RWH in a layout: Residents are water managers

In the earlier parts of this series we have seen as to how in a layout context, the Resident Welfare Association (RWA) is the body that is aware of the issues that the residents face, can engage with the residents to identify appropriate solutions, can build consensus on issues/resolutions and enable the implementation of measures to ensure issue resolution. We have also discussed the relevance of Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) in the layout context, and dealt with FAQ’s on the same.

In this article we will see how the RWA can play the role of a ‘Resource Manager’ for water, assuming responsibility for the entirety of the water cycle within a layout – starting from production, supply, treatment/usage and discharge of sullied water, sale, billing and ensuring long term sustainability of the resource.

We shall now look at the regular functions that the RWA currently plays in managing the water supply and demand in its layout, and the visionary role it can play to ensure its long term sustainability.

1. Ensuring that the water demand of the layout is met.

In the absence of Cauvery water, the RWA has to look at a multiple sourcing strategy for water including bore wells and tankers. As Resource Managers, the RWA should consider the interrelationships between supply and demand for water so as to provide long term solutions that cater to both aspects of the issue. Some of the steps could be to:

  • Ensure that the water demand of each household is within acceptable limits – promote conscious water usage and steps to optimise/minimise water usage
  • Use recycled water where possible, thereby reducing the call on freshwater
  • Explore and initiate possibilities of storage of rooftop rainwater at a household level
  • Ensure that the water supply source (assuming that most water is got from bore wells within the layout) is secured by investing in ground water recharge

2. Ensuring that the sewage generated by the layout is handled appropriately since the layout is not connected to the city sewerage network.

This involves the optimal running of a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) as well as ensuring that the treated water from the STP is either used within the campus for lower grade uses (like landscaping and flushing of toilets) or is discharged safely outside the layout.

3. Utilising rainfall runoff from layouts which often end up flooding the basements or other lower level areas in the campus.

This flooding is either due to blocked storm water drains or due to the contours of the layout itself which does not provide for the runoff to make its way to the city’s common storm water drain network. Though these flood prone areas do pose a problem in the short term they also present an excellent opportunity for recharge since large volumes of water can naturally be got at one source. Recharge wells in these low lying areas will ensure that most of the water that runs off the campus is used for ground water recharge.

4. Deciding on an appropriate tariff for water.

In order to do justice to the task of arriving at the water tariffs, the RWA needs to ensure that systems (presence of correctly installed water meters, staff to read and record the meter readings at regular intervals) are in place so that the water consumption of individual dwellings in the layout is known. The RWA needs to know the production/supply/treatment costs of water which include energy and maintenance costs for operating the bore well, costs for tanker water, operating/maintenance and energy costs for running a STP, cost of pumping water out from basements and low lying areas within the campus after a flood event, costs of maintaining a water man to read the water meters/ ensure that valves are appropriately opened/closed so that water is supplied to all homes and maintenance costs for common overhead tanks, sumps and distribution plumbing.

 

Here we have assumed that all capital costs including installations of the borewells/pump, plumbing lines for water supply, storage units including underground sumps and overheads tanks as well as the STP have already been built and setup by the builder and hence do not need to be taken into account for calculating the water tariff for every month. The ecological impact of extracting water from a common property resource such as ground water (eg: through borewells) and discharging back to nature water of a inferior quality should also be considered.

Once there is a clear picture of the costs involved, the RWA can evolve a pricing policy for the water it distributes to the people with some rational basis – an ideal policy acknowledges everybody’s right to safe water for basic purposes (drinking, cooking and hygiene) and penalises those who waste or use water irresponsibly. This can best be achieved through an increasing ‘block tariff’ policy as an example below shows.

Refer to an earlier article in Citizen Matters ‘Water supply from the bottom up’ for more information.

Rainbow Drive water tariff slabs (Per month)
First 10,000 litres, Rs.10 per Kiloliter (Rs.100)
Next 10,000 Rs.15 per KL (Rs.150)
Next 10,000, Rs.25 per KL (Rs.250)
Next 10,000, Rs.40 per KL (Rs.400)
Above this, Rs.60 per KL

The RWA can then include appropriate discounting mechanisms for those who invest in water conservation, rainwater harvesting and reuse of waste water at the household level.

So, RWAs can undertake true ‘Water Management’ to ensure that the water sources are sustainable in the future, to ensure that people use water wisely, to ensure that water is in adequate supply – at least in rainy season and to prevent floods.

The importance of RWH in Bangalore

In Bangalore the reasons to undertake RWH are more compelling, given that the city currently sources its water from a spot along the Cauvery (Torekadinahalli) that is almost 100 km away and 500 metres below Bangalore City in altitude. This translates to enormous energy as well as maintenance costs to ensure that water is transported along the entire distance.

RWH gives us the option to store and use water that comes to our doorsteps (or rooftops) directly from the heavens, and given that Bangalore has rain for almost 6 months of the year, RWH seems to be the most logical thing to do.

While the RWA can only ensure implementation of RWH at a collective level (recharge structures as detailed in Part 1 of this series it can also look at innovative ways of incentivising rainwater harvesting at an individual household level like a discount on the water bill.

Google map showing location of Bangalore city and Torekadinahalli
Pic: Google map showing location of Bangalore city and Torekadinahalli

RWH however is only one of the investments that an RWA can make as a resource manager; other important investments (in terms of capital as well as effort) would include mechanisms to be put in place to assess the actual production and supply cost of water.

In brief, the RWA has to look upon Water as a resource that it has to manage. It should be well informed about the ecological and management costs of it. Given that many layouts are already not connected to the water supply grid, layouts may also achieve complete water security (where all the water is sourced from the campus itself and all the sewage is also treated and used up within the layout) in the short as well as the long term, in the near future. This means that the RWAs begin to realise that they are critical and empowered players of water governance at the local level.

Hoping to enable the RWAs to achieve this, we conclude this four part series on Rainwater harvesting.