Good Samaritan, but…
|Water tanker operators should not be allowed to ply their trade from a residential area, disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood and lowering the water-table, feels our water expert S. VISHWANATH
Play it safe: It is important to check quality of water
As summer approaches water shortages will become the order of the day. Water demand goes up and the city has only a limited supply, half of which leaks, to give to its citizens. When the water runs out in your tank who do you call? Usually the local private water tanker operator.
The private water tanker needs no permission under the current legal framework to drill a borewell and start supplying water. All he needs is a licence from the Transport Department for his operations and a registration with the local government body for trade licensing services to operate.
Guidelines and precautions
As a service the tanker provides water at a time of need for a competitive price. It is in the interest of society that a particular set of guidelines and laws be developed for correct operations of the service. For example, the service provider should not be allowed to ply his trade from a residential area disturbing the neighbourhood and lowering the water table.
As a standard precautionary measure people do not usually use the tanker water for drinking purpose except for the poor who have no access to alternative sources. It is important to know the source of the tanker water especially if you live in large apartments and buy it regularly.
While many people may think that if you do not drink the water it is enough, remember there are many other contact points such as the sink while brushing or the shower while bathing from where water ingestion can happen and cause problems if there is the presence of bacteria.
There should also be a standard protocol for testing the water quality. Many groundwater sources are contaminated with nitrates from domestic sewage as well as faecal coliform bacteria. Chlorination in the sump tank is one way of disinfecting the water from bacteria. Chlorination can be done either by using bleaching powder or a liquid chlorine solution as is available in Pune city. It is however a risky proposition and must be done by trained staff only.
A residual chlorine of 2 parts per million should be ensured after chlorination.
Using the solar water heater is another good way of eliminating bacteria in the water that is used and which comes in contact with the body.
Water passing through a solar water heater is sterilised and most bacteria are killed.
Dealing with excess nitrates
Chlorination and solar sterilisation will not, however, take care of excess nitrate in the water. Reverse osmosis is the only way that nitrate can be removed. Nitrates may not be a problem, however, in water used for bathing and in the sink.
Small testing kits are available for nitrate as well as residual chlorine. Asking the staff who manage water in apartments to use them regularly will be advantageous.
A best management practice for managing the borewell would include locating it in an area where it is not susceptible to pollution. Locating it in a valley where sewage flows is not advisable. Allowing stagnating wastewater around is also not good.
Frequent checks of the water quality would be good. On a fortnightly basis water quality checks in a laboratory would be advised. If the tanker operators are taught basic protocol of keeping the water clean, such as chlorination in the tanker itself, it would do good for especially the poorer customers.
Unless an institution takes responsibility for the management of groundwater and develops a framework for engaging the private sector in a positive manner, bad quality water would be the result.
Water wisdom lies in engaging all players in the sector in a manner that water is distributed equally, affordably and sustainably.