Archive for the ‘water’ Category

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Water dreams for 2013 – Bangalore and any city.

January 5, 2013

This is the time of the year when you do a round up of what went by but perhaps more importantly what can occur in the near future. Here then is a wish list for 2013 vis-à-vis water in all its forms.

2011-09-11 21.42.56

We will all become water warriors – Let us imagine an active citizenry engaged daily in wise water use, water conservation, solid waste management such that water is not wasted or the environment polluted by any one of their actions. It is not too difficult and as Gandhiji said ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.

A blue rainwater filter

A blue rainwater filter

The institution will achieve universal coverage – Each and every home in the city will have a water and sanitation connection, be it ‘pukka’ or ‘kutcha’ , be it legal or not , be it in a slum or in a posh neighbourhood . Difficult?  Not really if each ward of the city measures the connections achieved on a monthly basis.

The tanks in the city will ALL be revived – That every neighbourhood will have a clean expanse of water body to gaze at, to walk around, and to see the birds and that it will be a community property resource for all to enjoy.

Tanks need revitalization

Tanks need revitalization

The storm-water drains in the city will be cleaned – sewage treatment plants distributed all across the city will clean all the waste-water picked up by an efficient sewage line network. The treated waste water will be let into wetlands which abut tanks and thence will fill the water body to the brim. Only rainwater from roads will flow in the storm drains.

The rainwater in storm-water drains will be recharged into the aquifer through a series of recharge wells

Storm-water recharges an aquifer through a recharge well

Storm-water recharges an aquifer through a recharge well

Rainwater harvesting in every home – Rain barrels will dot every home and every apartment, collecting rainwater for supplementary use. Those buildings which cannot will collect rainwater in sumps or make recharge wells to allow it to go into the aquifer replenishing it.

DSC06048

Bore-wells– The mad drilling of individual bore-wells will stop, instead a sharing of ground-waters through community bore-wells will happen. People will instead contribute to keeping these bore-wells recharged through individual point recharge structures in storm water drains and within the plot.

Every bore-well will be recharged with clean, filtered rainwater

Recharging a defunct bore-well with rainwater

Recharging a defunct bore-well with rainwater

Septic tanks and pit toilets – those buildings not connected to the sewage lines will have well designed septic tanks and pit toilets emptied at regular intervals by the mechanical sludge removers called Honey-suckers. This removed sludge will be scientifically composted and reused as fertilizer to revitalize soils all across the city.

Schools, colleges, anganwadis and hospitals – Special attention will be paid to these institutions where the young and the vulnerable occupy. Water and sanitation will be available 24/7 thus ensuring health, hygiene and water literacy.

Parks and playgrounds – Most of the parks will become tree based instead of the water guzzling lawn based parks. Each park will harvest its own rainwater correctly by linking catchment, conveyance and recharge properly.

Here is wishing us to become a water sensitive city in this year alone.’ You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one’ as one of the Beatles has famously said.

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Rainwater harvesting in apartments

December 26, 2008

WATER WISE

Apartments can do with RWH

S. VISHWANATH

Huge blocks of flats in cities can provide supplementary water requirement, manage floods and reduce pollution of the environment



Simple techniques: Storing rain and rooftop water in apartments has now become easy

Apartments are mushrooming all over our cities with the boom in the housing sector. These apartments place a huge demand on the infrastructure of the city, be it water, sewerage, stormwater drains or roads. By designing systems carefully and investing in sustainable technologies, apartments can provide supplementary water requirement, manage floods and reduce pollution of the environment.

Consider this large set of apartments in Koramangala which has eight blocks. Six of them have a roof area of 1,000 square metres and two of them have a roof area of 2,000 square metres. The flats are to a large extent dependent on borewells for their water requirement. Car washing in the basement is a significant water consumer. The apartment block wanted to implement a rainwater harvesting scheme to get enough water for the car washing purpose.

Rooftops are ideal catchments for rainwater. If they are clean and allow rainwater to runoff to the down pipes, it is more than enough. In these apartments, the rooftops were ideal catchments.

Down pipes bring the rainwater to the stormwater drains. They should ideally be separated from the sewage and grey water lines. The National Building Code recommends that rainwater pipes be separate from other waste water pipes to prevent overflowing manholes and also to prevent overload of the sewage treatment plants. Many apartments, due to faulty design, tend to merge the two. Here the case was exactly this. The rainwater pipes therefore had to be de-linked from the sewage pipes.

The down pipes were now connected to large rain barrels of 10,000 litre capacity in the basement. The harvested rainwater is to be used for car washing, gardening and other non-potable use. A total of 1.75 million litres of water annually is expected to be harvested from one block alone. Similarly, the collection process has been expanded to another block and in a phased manner will cover all blocks.

When the entire rooftop rainwater collection is put in place, the apartment will harvest 8.75 million litres annually from the rooftops alone.

Stormwater


The stormwater drainage network was found full of garbage and dirt. Regular cleaning will ensure that a substantial amount of storm water too becomes harvestable either to be stored or to be recharged into the aquifer.

Another set of apartments on Bannerghatta Road had not only kept the rooftop clean but also had ensured that the rainwater pipes were kept separate from sewage lines, connected and brought to one place. With a filter, the collection of rooftop rainwater into a 20,000 litre tank became very easy. When the rainwater quality was tested, it was actually found to be of potable standards. This apartment therefore decided to connect the rainwater tank to the regular sump and use the combined water for all purposes. With a 20,000 litre rainwater collection sump and a recharge well for the overflow, the apartment now collects or recharges 550,000 litres of rainwater annually.

Apartments can supplement their water requirement and increase the life of their borewells through smart designs and rainwater harvesting. They can also prevent urban floods. A system of clear guidelines and implementation skill will increase the sustainability of Bangalore’s waters. In this path is water wisdom.

www.rainwaterclub.orge-mail:zenrainman@gmail.com

Ph: 080-23641690

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Climate change- The clearest words from Obama

December 14, 2008

and we look forward with hope to address this issue globally and unitedly

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Paint roofs white and cool the earth

September 14, 2008

WATER WISE

Your roof colour matters

S. VISHWANATH

California already mandates a white roof for its buildings but if it makes energy sense and economic sense, white insulating and reflective roofs should become a matter of choice rather than being imposed through legislation.

— Photo: M. Moorthy

Practical: Coating on ceiling reduces heat inside a building.

If you ask Hashem Akbari the one thing that he would do to save the planet from the ill-effects of global warming, he would say paint the roofs of the homes of 100 of the world’s largest cities white and change the road surface to a light colour. Who is Hashem Akbari? He is a physicist and part of the heat island group at Ernesto Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and was presenting a paper at the fifth annual climate change conference in Sacramento, California, on September 9, 2008. (His website is at http://heatisland.lbl.gov/ for those who need more info).

White reflective roofs

It is well known that roofs are the largest heat gainers in buildings and also that if the roofs are painted white they would reflect a large percentage of the incident solar radiation, especially the infra red radiation, away and keep the building cooler. A good reflective white paint brand like the Australian paint called Insultec, claims to reradiate 95 per cent of the infra red rays and 85 per cent of the ultra violet rays, thus reducing the heat load inside the building by 30 per cent. This can reduce air-conditioning costs considerably in buildings. These insulating paints also have the advantage of being water proof and prevent the conduction of heat also.

They can normally be applied on any surface including RCC roof surface, tiles, asbestos sheets and even on poly-coated sheets. Costs are supposed to range from Rs. 40 to Rs. 50 a square foot .

While at an individual building level there is a saving in electricity consumption and having a cooler building, Hashem Akbari adds it up by arguing that lower power consumption means lesser requirement from power plants and therefore lesser generation of CO2 and NOx by the power plants, therefore contributing to the lessening of global warming. Each building can therefore contribute in its own way to lesser emissions from power plants.

Cut in emissions

A 1000 sq. ft. of roof area, a typical roof on an average 30 x 40 site in Bengaluru, painted white can offset 10 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions as compared to a dark roof, say with tiles.

Consider this: 44 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide and other green house gases would be offset if the world’s 100 largest cities converted their roofs to white and made their roads lighter.

California already mandates a white roof for its buildings but if it makes energy sense and economic sense white insulating and reflective roofs should become a matter of choice rather than being imposed through legislation. Asphalted and tarred roads are dark in colour and absorb heat as any two-wheel driver will tell you during summer time. Roads which are dark and blacktopped can also be changed to lighter coloured and more reflective concrete roads.

Since roads make up 25 to 35 per cent of a layout or a city, changing their colour to lighter shades and increasing their reflectivity will cool the immediate surroundings by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius and also contribute to power savings. The importance of avenue plantations and tree shading on both roads and buildings cannot be re-emphasised.

Not only does it contribute to the micro-environment and biodiversity but there is increasing evidence that on a larger scale this can reduce global warming.

Good reflective and insulating paints on the roofs also have another advantage on roof and water. They can be cleaned easily. Their runoff coefficient — the amount of rain that runoff during rains — is higher; therefore, more rainwater can be harvested from such roofs. When the paints are made of inert material and are non-toxic the run-off water quality is also improved and this rainwater can be harvested and even used for drinking.

Thinking smart about roofs helps the building, the earth and water. The roof above your head not only protects the individuals inside but can contribute to solve problems related to water, energy and global warming.

In a city, smart roofs are the path to water wisdom.

www.rainwaterclub.org

www.arghyam.org

zenrainman@gmail.com

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Urban floods in Bengaluru

September 6, 2008

The problem is in the planning

Water, water everywhere…planners, institutions and individuals can take several steps to mitigate the physical and economic impact of urban flooding, says S. VISHWANATH

— Photo: K. Murali Kumar

The deluge: The state of affairs in an upmarket villa after a lake breached on the Whitefield-Hoskote Road.

A series of flooding events across Bengaluru has brought into sharp focus the need for better management of rain. Though nothing on the scale of the Kosi floods yet, it has caused severe economic and physical damage to the city and left many psychologically scarred. The coming of the rains is looked at with trepidation and newer areas of the city seem to be affected every time it rains.

Several interesting facts emerge around urban floods. In Bengaluru, it is clear that it is rain which causes the floods unlike, say, a city like Patna where rain could cause the Ganga to swell and flood the city. Surprisingly, recent evidence suggests that it rains more in the city and slightly downwind than in the regional rural periphery.

This is according to a study by NASA scientist Marshal Shepherd. The urban heat island effect, where cities are warmer than their surroundings and which causes the build-up of rain clouds on the city; pollution, which allows rain to coalesce around dust and oil particles; and the wind-break effect of cities, which causes the clouds to discharge on the cities, all seem to contribute to this phenomena. Bengaluru needs to prepare for more rain than average and higher intensity rains at the same time.

Cities also increase runoff as more and more soft agricultural and fallow areas get built upon or paved. From a small well-mulched site, hardly 10 per cent of the rain falling will runoff as storm water. However, build a house on the same site and pretty much 90 per cent of the rain falling will runoff as storm water. Buildings increase runoff tremendously in the Bengaluru context and the storm water drains have to cope with this increase.

Waste management

Solid waste management is crucial to flood management since most of the uncollected garbage will end up in the lowest area, usually the storm water drains, choking them and reducing their ability to carry storm water out.

Tanks and lakes which collected surplus water and recharged the groundwater or dissipated it slowly are on the decline. These are built up, like the ISRO headquarters built on an old tank bed. They then become prone to flooding or transfer the flood problem downstream.

The network of tanks and the valleys and drains connecting them are in a bad state of management with encroachments on several of them. With no institutional approach to manage the tanks and the valleys, little is done except during the flood event itself to ensure that the channels flow freely and that the tanks are not encroached upon. Traditional storm water management techniques simply collect the rain water and funnel it across the city downstream. Newer methods combine traditional approaches with new ones such as Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS). It employs a range of natural processes to purify urban runoff. Removal of sediment, bio-filtration, biodegradation and water uptake by plants all help to remove pollutants. Vulnerability maps of areas prone to flooding need to be prepared for citizens to become aware of the choice they make for where they live.

Rainwater harvesting

Even as the Government is working towards making RWH mandatory in the coming days for the city, the system has one of the best potentials to replenish ground water, improve its quality, provide supplementary water for domestic requirements and mitigate flooding. If every building in Bengaluru can store or recharge 60 mm of rain in a single day it should be possible to mitigate the effect of almost every flood except the rare. This means that a 100 square metre roof area will need to store or recharge 6,000 litres of water. Zones with the best possible recharge and zones with the best possible storage need to be identified in the city and steps taken to encourage people to go in for rainwater harvesting.

A recharge well of 3 feet diameter and about 20 feet depth can send in up to 12,000 litres of water into the ground in a single day, provided lithological conditions are favourable. The city needs many such recharge wells in the catchment area of critical flood zones to detain flood waters and top up the aquifers instead of surface flow flooding.

At the broader scale, tanks and lakes need to be networked and managed as retention and detention structures. With rainfall prediction accuracy being developed, tanks have to be linked to catchments and kept ready to hold the maximum water to dampen peak storm events. A deslited tank in Bengaluru can recharge up to 11 mm of water every day while an undesilted one can recharge hardly 1 mm. Desilted tanks can recharge aquifers quickly, lower the surface water levels and be in a position to function as flood mitigators. Full tanks are not good at dampening floods.

Flood insurance

In Europe, urban flood research has been driven by insurance companies who want to understand risks associated with floods and plan premiums accordingly. This sector has yet to mature in India but taking flood insurance is a wise step especially if your car has been found floating in the basement after a rain. Good advice comes from ICICI-Lombard on its website on what to do after a flood. It starts by saying that you should not return home till the authorities declare it safe to go back. Then the steps recommended are: turn off electricity and gas, make sure the water and food you consume are safe, stay healthy, call your insurance agent, take photographs and videographs of the damage caused and finally take care of yourself and family. Wise words, indeed, and this is water wisdom when it relates to urban floods.

Send your responses to:

zenrainman@gmail.com

080-23641690

www.rainwaterclub.org

www.arghyam.org

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Water wise

August 30, 2008

WATER WISE

It’s the lifeline

S. VISWANATH

Think of any new development coming up in a city and the first consideration would be the source of water. Isn’t it difficult to imagine that till the 1960s the borewell as a technology did not exist in India?

— Photo: K. Pichumani

Play it safe: Continuously monitor the quality of borewell water.

It is difficult to imagine that till the 1960s, the borewell as a technology did not exist in India; that it required persuasion to get decision makers and farmers to appreciate the fact that lots of water could come up through a four-and-a-half-inch diameter pipe which went deep into the ground.

Now, India survives because of this pipe which became a six-inch pipe and now is also a eight-inch pipe. First, the pipe went 80 feet down; now it goes 1,500 feet in some places and provides for Karnataka survival water for upwards of 45,000 habitations. And almost all cities depend to varying degrees on groundwater.

Think of any building coming up in a city and the first consideration of the owner or the developer would be a source of water for the development of the site. Usually, the question is where should I dig a borewell and how do I go about it. A dowser is usually more popular than a hydro-geologist.

Ignorance

People’s faith in faith is more than in science, but if you get a ‘2-in-1’, a hydro-geologist who also wields a pendulum or a fork, the better. This is the abysmal state of the science of groundwater in our country and the complete ignorance that we display towards understanding it scientifically.

Large-scale utility providers of water such as the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board do not have a single hydro-geologist working for them. Universities and colleges do not have quality training programme and there is virtually no skill upgradation centre.

So, what is the advice to a borewell digger? Get hold of a good hydro-geologist and get him to do a detailed analysis of your site. He should be able to give you a good soil and lithological profile. Keep that map. He should also be able to suggest potential points of drilling and the depth at which water will likely become available. Approximate depths of casing required and how to go about selecting the right pump should also come from him.

Do not forget to get suggestions on recharge points and some tips on maintaining your borewell.

When you drill the borewell finally, keep the records carefully. Even failed borewells have tremendous information, so keep the knowledge on these points carefully mapped on a plan.

Monitor

Continuously monitor the quality of your borewell water and measure the summer and the rainy season discharge quantities. Develop a maintenance system for all the appurtenances such as the pump and the electrical systems. An annual cleaning of the borewells is also recommended. Fix a water meter and a separate electric meter for your borewell. This will give valuable information.

Understanding the role of groundwater, taking care of the aquifer quantity and quality and developing the science behind groundwater will be crucial to the sustainable availability of water. Each one of us has a role to play if we have a borewell. In this science lies water wisdom.

www.rainwaterclub.org

e-mail- zenrainman@gmail.com

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Fiscal incentives for urban water conservation- Bangalore

June 18, 2008

INCENTIVIZING WATER CONSERVATION AND RAINWATER HARVESTING

A thinking for Bangalore

Cities and city utilities all across India are looking for ways to save water as this critical resource becomes scarce or threatens to run out. Getting the consumers is seen as an important way to reduce consumption. While appealing to their good conscience is a nice way it hardly works. The best way is economic incentives since money talks. What then should be the approach to incentivize water conservation? Here is a strategy for Bangalore admittedly starting with certain advantages

Bangalore has every connection metered and an increasing block tariff due to historic reasons. The tariff however heavily subsidizes domestic water with perverse incentives. For example with a production cost of Rs. 24/- a kilo-litre (Rs 18 /- a kilolitre plus losses in the system of 37%) a household with a domestic connection which consumes 25,000 litres of water per month gets a subsidy of Rs. 400 /- approximately per month.

The current increasing block tariff slab for a domestic connection in Bangalore works in this fashion

Slab Production cost Tariff Subsidy Total subsidy at peak of slab consumption

Kilo Litre KL KL KL Rs.

0-8 24.00 6.00 18.00 8 x 18 = 144 /-

8-25 24.00 9.00 15.00 17 x 15 = 255 /-

Total subsidy for consumption of 25 kl 399/-

(Rs 18 x 8 + Rs 15 x 17 ).

This subsidization is simply unsustainable.

Incentives for water conservation: On the other hand if a household harvests rainwater and does not draw a drop of water from the BWSSB it still gets a bill of Rs. 48 /- covering the first slab. While the household has SAVED the BWSSB Rs. 400 /- it has been penalized with a minimum bill.

How then to devise a pricing strategy to include rainwater or recycled water as an incentive for households to consume instead of BWSSB water?

Let us assume an average standard demand of 135 litres per person per day and an average family size of 4. Monthly demand would therefore be 135 x 4 x 30 = 16,200 litres say 16 kilo-litres. This is a reasonable quantity of water a family is expected to consume in a month. Anything less than this shows frugality in water use, conservation and perhaps rainwater harvesting and water recycling, all deeds that the city needs to reward the family for.

Reward:

How should the reward go to the family?

Let us assume that the family has only used 5 kilolitre of water in a month. Consumption below expected normal demand of 16 kilolitre is 16 – 5 = 11 KL .

Subsidy that the family would have got from the BWSSB at 16 KL of consumption = 8 x 18 + 8 x 15 = Rs 264 /-

Let us define an incentive fund of Rs 18 /-(the gross production cost of water to the BWSSB) minus Rs 9 /- ( a reasonable tariff for the lowest slab in the coming days ) = Rs 9/- per kilolitre

So for every kilo-litre less than 16 kilolitres consumed by a family in a month it will get that saving of water in KL into Rs 9/- as an incentive amount to be set off against future bills.

In this family’s case the incentive amount will be 11 KL x Rs 9 /- = Rs. 99/-

The family saves Rs 99/- the BWSSB saves Rs 165/- a win- win situation for both and for the city too in terms of the waters released to be supplied to others which is 11 KL per month.

Now if this were to be applied all across the city to the nearly 6 lakh connections it would not require anything except an additional row in the water bill. No extra administrative costs would also be expected and most importantly the subsidy would be a reward for those who showed good behaviour.

Compare this to a rebate in property tax which is given in some cities for rainwater harvesting which rewards a house owner and not rentor and also does not send any signal for wise water use and one sees the need for such bold moves on the part of cities and city utilities.

A hard look at water tariffs and a revision is overdue as is the need to economically incentivize the wise water user. Will such water wisdom dawn on us?

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Ka- Sanskrit root meaning water

May 6, 2008

WATER WISE

Preserve the lifeline S. VISHWANATH

The Sanskrit ‘Ka’ meaning ‘water’ is the language root for both the Arkavathy and the Cauvery

— Photo: M. Moorthy

Save it: The Cauvery in all its splendour at sunset. The Jamuna for Delhi, the Manjira and Krishna for Hyderabad, the Cauvery and the Krishna for Chennai and the Arkavathy and the Cauvery for Bangalore — rivers are the lifeline for our cities.

The Sanskrit ‘Ka’ meaning water is the language root for both the Arkavathy and the Cauvery. It is important therefore for us to treat our rivers with respect. Each individual’s action counts…be it consuming less water, ensurin g wastewater treatment, managing garbage correctly and planting and taking care of trees and forests in the catchment of our rivers.

Primary source

It rains on the land and rain is the primary source of water. The forests hold the water and release it slowly, ensuring that the soil does not run off and erode and also choke up water bodies. The rivers run from the waters they receive from the surface of the land, but very importantly from the waters that they receive from the base flows below the ground and which appear as springs or feed the channels directly. We take the water from the rivers for our use but we need to return it in the same quality at which we took it.

How would it be if every city were to release its wastewater upstream and draw its fresh water requirement downstream of the release point of wastewater? Would we be more ecologically responsible?

It is time for all of us to ensure that the precious resource called water is well understood, distributed equally to all and taken care of as a precious gift of nature. For that we need to become water literate. And water literacy — knowing where the water we use comes from and taking responsibility for its wise use and release back to nature after use — is the first step towards water wisdom.

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Water management-Lessons from Singapore

April 11, 2008

WATER WISE

Lessons from Singapore

S. VISWANATH

How Singapore manages its water requirement is a lesson for all urban areas in India

Good show: A bottle of recycled water

Being an island nation, Singapore’s water resources, like many other resources, tend to be limited. With a population of 3.80 million and a land area of 699 square kilometres, it is officially a ‘water stressed’ nation as it has less than 1,000 cubic metres per person per year as water availability.

Its average rainfall of 2400 mm per year gives its only internal fresh water resource and it imports 40 per cent of its water needs from neighbouring Malaysia. How Singapore manages its water requirement is a lesson for all urban areas in India.
The 4 taps strategy

The key to its water management is what it calls the “4 taps water strategy.” The taps include its own catchment management and water harvesting in reservoirs; buying water from Johore, Malaysia; desalination plants to supply water; and recycling wastewater through its ambitious and innovative NEWater plants.

The first tap is to harvest rainwater which falls on its land and to store it in reservoirs. Approximately 60 per cent of Singapore is now a catchment for its own water reservoirs.

Whereas previously most rainwater would flow into the sea, now it is channelised to be collected in 14 reservoirs kept away from sea waters, treated and supplied back to the city. While previously stormwater channels were simply concrete drains designed to flush out the heavy downpour, they are now being treated ecologically to encourage softer landscapes, flora and fauna and to increase the biological propensity which natural rivers have as compared to concrete drains.

The entire 32 rivers, 7000 kilometres of canals and drains will slowly be restored ecologically, starting with the Singapore and Kallang rivers. The goal is to make it possible for fish to be back in these rivers. By the end of 2009, 17 reservoirs will be in place and nearly 70 per cent of the city will become the catchment for these reservoirs.

The second tap is water brought from Malaysia which contributes currently to 40 per cent of its requirements.

Two agreements for water purchase signed in the 1960s have tended to become contentious at times but also have withheld all stresses and strains and never has Malaysia stopped water supply to Singapore. One of the agreements will come up for renewal in 2011 and the other in 2061. With deft diplomacy and as a commitment to good neighbourly relations Singapore will continue to source water from Malaysia.

In the meantime it has also signed an agreement with its other neighbour, Indonesia, to purchase water from it in the future.

The third tap is recycled sewage water called NEWwater. Three wastewater recycling plants recycle close to 90 million litres per day. This recycled water is put back in the fresh water reservoirs, treated further and supplied back to the city for all its requirements.

Treated wastewater is put through a further three-step process of membrane-based ultra filtration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet treatment before being sent to reservoirs. Around 20,000 tests were conducted before the water was found fit for consumption.

It is gradually being integrated into the city’s water requirements through first for non-potable purpose use and also through its blending with reservoirs for potable water use. Bottled NEWater is also available in supermarkets for consumption to assure consumers of safety and taste.

The fourth tap is desalination. The first desalination plant was commissioned in 2005 with a capacity to produce 136 million litres of desalinated water per day which is about 10 per cent of water requirements. By 2011 desalination will provide 400 million litres of water per day or roughly 30 per cent of Singapore’s water requirement.
Towards self-sufficiency

With a water demand of around 1,400 million litres per day and limited natural resource, Singapore has focused on multiple sourcing of water including rainwater harvesting, purchasing water, recycling treated sewage water and desalination. Through appropriate water tariff, water demand per capita has been held at 163 litres per person per day.

Every household is connected to the sewage network and wastewater is treated to potable standards. It is moving more and more towards self-sufficiency with an ecological and technological approach towards water management.

In future times, urban areas in India will also need political skills of managing water, a professional managerial approach to make technological choice, an ecological approach to rivers, streams, lakes and ground water to maintain water quality and a vision of self sufficiency. Only then will water wisdom prevail and water for all become a reality.

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Water- Getting the prices right

April 5, 2008

WATER WISE

WATER-GETTING THE PRICE RIGHT

S.Vishwanath

www.rainwaterclub.org

www.arghyam.org

For long, economists have held the view that if getting the prices right is crucial to the sustainable delivery of piped water to households in urban areas.

For the customer the correct price of water ensures access to clean water at an affordable price but also signals that excess consumption has a penalty and therefore he is dissuaded from over consumption.

For the institution it means the ability to maintain the system for efficient delivery of water as well as to be able to invest for expansion of services.

Increasing block tariff: Many cities charge for water and include it as part of the property tax. This is a very indirect way of recovering revenue. Others charge a flat rate based on the dimension of the connecting pipe to the household. Say for example Rs 45/- per month for a 3/4inch pipe connection and Rs 30/- a month for a half inch pipe connection. This too is an arbitrary method of collecting water revenues.

There is increasing consensus however that an increasing block tariff makes the most sense. This is what cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad use for their water charges.

Bangalore’s tariff for water looks like this

DOMESTIC

0- 8000 litres Rs 6.00 per Kilo litre

8001-25000 litres Rs 9.00 per kilo litre

25,001-50,000 litres Rs 15.00 per kilo litre

50,001- 75,000 litres Rs 30.00 per kilo litre

And so on

There is a separate charge for NON-DOMESTIC consumption on an increasing block tariff too and for INDUSTRIAL consumption on a flat basis.

These city utilities therefore try to provide access to basic water requirement at affordable prices but ask heavier consumers to pay more. The non-domestic and industrial connections actually cross subsidize the domestic consumers bringing in an element of social justice.

Metering: For historical reasons, Bangalore has had an effective metering system thanks to farsighted decision makers, almost since water supply started to be provided to the city from Thippagondanahalli reservoir in 1932 and therefore is able to levy an effective volumetric charge. Without metering and a system of reading and recording the meters it is impossible to levy an increasing block tariff and to have any meaningful method of charging for water.

Production cost: While typically the price of water should depend on the long run marginal cost i.e. the cost of obtaining the next unit of water for consumption, knowing the production cost of water is important. On this will depend the pricing of water.

The Bangalore water utility charges a flat Rs 15 /- on the first 25 kilolitre of water as a sanitary charge. It goes to 15% of the water bill if the consumption of water is over 25 kilolitres and 20% of the bill if it is over 50 kilolitre. It is usually argued that the true cost of water is captured when it is returned to nature at the same quality at which it was appropriated. Obviously city utilities are yet to get there but ill do so through a system of selling tertiary treated water and recovering costs of sewage treatment through this value.

Lessons for smaller properties: Apartments and layouts have to manage with multiple sources of water. Most probably they will source water from the mainline, from bore wells, from private tankers, bottled water and even recycled water. There are lessons in water management that they will have to pick up if they have to manage conflicts. For one they will have to meter all individual connections so that each flat or each site is charged according to its consumption and not in an arbitrary fashion.

Associations will also need to know the combined cost of the waters they source. Metering the bore well and knowing the energy and maintenance cost of the water system will help. Private water tankers will have to be clearly measured volumetrically to understand the right costs incurred per kilolitre.

Based on the sewage treatment plant setup costs of sewage treatment will have to be calculated and recovered from the water consumed by each individual connection.

Slowly but surely water managers will need to come into play to ensure that a systematic and structured approach is adopted to ensure sustainability, equity and fairness in charging for water and making sure it is available to all when required.

By knowing the costs involved from various sources such as bore wells or private tankers optimization exercises can be undertaken to ensure lowest water and sewage bills.

As water gets to be an increasingly scarce resource, better management practice is the only option for continued and sustainable availability. Getting the price right is one aspect of water wisdom.

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