Posts Tagged ‘rainwater’

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Build the institution Bangalore – the water is there

December 18, 2013

Water – the Bangalore story

It is a strange place to have placed four towers and have started a city but perhaps Magadi Kempegowda was not thinking of water when he had his grand dream. The city now has outgrown those four towers and the one small stream which was the only part of a running water landscape is now desecrated beyond measure and called the Vishabhavati (the poison river) from the original Vrishbhavati (that which originates from the mouth of a bull) .

As early as the 1850’s the British were complaining about the water and sanitation systems. It also did not help matters that sewage was being left into the very source from where water was being drawn. Both Ulsoor and Dharmambudhi Lake being the source and the sink.

In a pioneering effort of its kind, most probably aided by the fact that this was city not near a perennial water source and there was always a sense of shortage, the city started to search for water from far. Hessarghatta on the Arkavathy reservoir 24 km away was first developed as a storage dam. Steam engines were used to pump water into the city and when electricity came that then replaced the steam engines. In each case Bangalore was a pioneer in the use of steam and electricity to pump water to itself. Hessarghatta was found short to slake the cities thirst and Thippagondanahally on the junction of the Kumudvathi and Arkavathy came into being as a new reservoir in addition to the Arkavathy in the mid 30’s. The city continued to grow and in the 1970’s the Cauvery was tapped at Torekadinahalli, pumped to a distance of 95 kilometres and 300 metres high to quench the city’s thirst. This was a remarkable engineering feat by a remarkable institution the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board- BWSSB – the first exclusive city level water and sanitation utility created in India. Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4 and phases 1 and 2 of stage 4 have kicked in and one of the costliest water in Asia comes after being pumped in three stages into the city. Alas the limit to drawal also has been reached and there is no more water for the city unless there is a redrawing of the water requirement between the irrigation and the urban sector in the Cauvery basin part of Karnataka.

In the meantime the city found out an uncomfortable truth, not all of it was in the Cauvery basin. In fact 2/3rds of it was outside the basin and in a river called the Dakshina Pinakini or the Ponnaiyar so that part was not entitled to water from the Cauvery basin or so said the tribunal.

In true government style a committee was formed to find out how the growing needs of the economic and domestic demand of the city could be met. Proposals include getting water from the Hemavathi, the Sharavathy as well as the west flowing rivers. These of course are huge projects involving lots of money and energy, something which should get the construction lobby salivating.

In the meantime there are practical proposals such as rooftop rainwater harvesting, the rejuvenation of the remaining lakes of the city, the recharging and the management of the groundwater in the city and most importantly the treatment and reuse of waste-water which show tremendous opportunities.

While the city gets 1400 million litres of piped water supply, the equivalent of 3000 million litres per day falls as rain on it. The total volume of wastewater available for reuse is 1100 million litres and the amount of groundwater that can be drawn sustainably is close to 600 million litres per day provided it is adequately recharged.

Do the math then

Average demand 200 Litres per capita per day 

Total; available water 

From Cauvery   1400 million litres per day

From groundwater 600 million litres per day

From recycled waste-water 1100 million litres per day

From rainwater 600 million litres per day ( 20 % rain harvested)

Total  3700 million litres per day

Good enough for a population of 18.50 million

…and if we get demand efficiency right and demand down to 100 litres per dapita per day

37 million people of Bangalore can be served ( current population 9 million)

 

Unfortunately the institution in charge of water supply is not completely geared to undertake a water management approach. It has no skill set for example in lake management or in hydro-geology.

If institutional capacities are built up, if there is a strong vision and an accountable authority created Bangalore in its pioneering way can overcome its water shortage problems. Else it will be forever condemned to become dependent on a tanker economy. The choice is ours and the time is now. 

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On an urban community managed water system

November 11, 2013

The traditional in the modern – a community at work

zenrainman@gmail.com

At first glance you see a protective fence which is not impressive but as you approach the magnificence of the structure strikes you , a beautiful 120 feet diameter open well full of water and you wonder whether this is the Bangalore where groundwater is supposed to have sunk to 1250 feet. This residential layout on the South of the city has done a magnificent job of managing its water purely through community action. A dynamic association has taken charge and the committed team first cleaned up the ‘Rajakaluve’- the main stream linking water above and beyond , passing through the layout. Its attention was then focused on the beautiful heritage well on campus. The well was cleaned and a 100 truck loads of silt removed. The silt was place in the gardens and the open spaces rich in fertile soil.

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A beautiful old well revived and recharged – full of water 

The well now becomes a supplemental source of water for non-potable use and in case of an emergency with treatment for all uses. Each house in the layout has been encouraged to go in for rainwater harvesting. In the storm drains which run around, all of them are maintained clean and percolation wells are being placed so that the road run-off is recharged into the ground. Ultimately all run-off will be sent into the aquifer with the site becoming a zero discharge area for storm-water.

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Modified storm-water drain for silt trap and recharge – easy to replicate

A waste water treatment plant hums daily, treating and cleaning 200,000 litres of sewage from the entire colony. This treated waste-water too is reused in the layout. A 100 trees are planted every year and the waste water is used to feed the trees and the parks.

The community building where the residents meet , collects every drop of rainwater falling on the roof in large rain barrels and reuses them.

Begur 080Rainwater Barrels collect rooftop rain

 

 

On the day one visited the campus children had gathered at a science fair and were demonstrating various experiments that they had set up. Most of them centred around water. A group of them had already been taken for a tour  of the layout explaining what was happening with water and the necessity to keep the roads and storm water drains clean as well as to take care of the trees for the birds that are around.

A turtle was spotted in the well and was swimming about merrily, a cause for some excitement.

When communities come together it is possible to achieve the unthinkable, that is a clean environment and plenty of water with a bit of heritage thrown in. The more we expand thisn space the better for our urban areas. In this community awareness and action lies water wisdom.

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When the rain gods favour- stock up.

September 21, 2013

Monsoon Blessings

 

Summary:           It is in years of plenty that we should stock up for times of shortage

Many people are moving into a problem solving mode but it needs institutional reinforcement to help achieve maximum benefits.

 

The major Public Sector undertaking has a very large campus and has a huge water demand. It draws water from the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board and pays a hefty Rs 60 per kilo-litre for the water. Being water smart, it has set-up a waste-water recycling unit and ensures that all waste-water is treated and reused for non-potable purpose particularly gardening .Lawns are extensive in the campus and is needed for dust suppression. The unit has also set up a huge lake to harvest run-off from its vast land. More than 170 million litres of storm-runoff is stored in this vast lake.

Their attention has turned to the large rooftop areas they have on campus. From 11,500 square metre of roof area, they simply connected the rainwater downpipes and brought it into a small 20,000 litre sump tank. From here they have put a pump to send the water directly into a much larger sump tank which takes water through a Reverse Osmosis unit. This R.O. water is needed for their manufacturing purpose. The investment they had to make was Rs 10 lakhs.  Was the investment worth it?

The benefits translate as follows. They are likely to harvest 10 million litres of water annually. This will result in a savings of Rs 6 lakhs annually. The payback period for the investment is thus less than 2 years. There are other benefits. The embodied energy in alternate water, either from the BWSSB or bore-wells, is roughly 2 units of power per kilo-litre of water. The industry will therefore save nearly 20,000 units of power annually. This also translates as a savings in carbon emissions.

There are other benefits. The harvested rainwater is very soft with a Total Dissolved Solids of less than 50 ppm. This is likely to reduce further as the initial leaching of cement from the sump tank and the pipes become less.  As against this the water they used from bore-wells had a TDS level of nearly 1000 ppm. The life of the membrane used for R.O. now increases. The reject water from the R.O. has fewer salts and can be recycled more easily than before.

The advantage is clear and it is likely that the industry will move quickly ahead to cover all roof-tops with rainwater harvesting systems. This means that over 100,000 square metres can be covered and over 100 million litres of rainwater harvested. No small feat for an industry located in a water scarce city.

A University: The University of Agriculture with a sprawling 1200 acres campus was once outside the city. Now it has become integral and falls within the Corporation Limits. Its water demand for agricultural crops is high. Most of the water comes from bore-wells. These are over exploited and many have gone dry. It has designed for itself a watershed based rainwater harvesting system. Thanks to a bountiful September rain a great amount of water has been collected and allowed to percolate into the ground. Many bore-wells have revived and are humming with water. The University is able to meet its water demands and students and Professors can continue to develop knowledge with experiments on the ground.

Groundwater banks are being created in the city by institutions that occupy large tracts of lands and have large rooftops. These efforts supplement the water delivery to the city and make the city water smart. Things have to be scaled up and more such institutions brought into the rainwater harvesting community. Further deeper understanding of how much water is actually recharged into the ground, what is a reasonable water demand to keep the groundwater banks humming for 2 to 3 years will ensure that the water shortfall in the city is overcome. Creative solutions using knowledge is the hall mark of the city and in this lies water wisdom.

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Menu from the monsoon – Rice and coffee from Rain

June 10, 2013

The monsoon is a magical time in India. The season of the wind, clouds and rain brings joy to a parched land. Rainwater to India is a gift from the Indian Ocean. The clouds do the couriers job and the winds play assistant. When i falls on our heads it is good to keep a clean catchment and then collect it in Rain barrels. You can then put this soft water which is slightly acidic to good use . Apart from drinking the water (after checking for purity) you can make coffee from it.

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A clean roof , a good cloth filter and a food grade HDPE tank to store rainwater

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Clean soft water slightly acidic and with a high Dissolved Oxygen content – rain

Here is Indian Ocean coffee for you 

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My coffee Percolator …filter we call it in this part of the world

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The percolator container comes on top

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Ground coffee powder goes in – Arabica with 5 % chicory is my favourite

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The cover plate on the coffee powder , to hold it steady

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Rainwater goes in – cold not hot – so that the Oxygen is not lost and there is an earthy taste

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Then you put the top lid and wait

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Rainwater percolates through the coffee powder..take it from the bottom container and percolate it again

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Indian Ocean coffee is ready

Then again you can also make rice using rainwater

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Rice , rainwater in a pressure cooker

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Soft tasty white rice …eat the monsoon flavour

 

 

Add milk and sugar as per taste and heat if you like. I prefer it cold and neat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A roof story – Bangalore

June 6, 2013

As the city expands and buildings fill it up to find open space becomes difficult. In Bangalore in the small sites it is impossible to have even a small garden. About 60 to 70 % of inner Bangalore will be roofs as a look at Google earth will show.

For an urban planner like me and for Chitra an Architect  this was a fascinating finding. What do roofs do and how are they designed?  Unfortunately we seem to poorly design our roofs apart from ensuring that they keep out the sun, rain and the elements. Most of the concrete and steel in the roof goes towards carrying its own self weight. Architect Laurie Baker had shown that we could make roofs lighter by using a filler slab.  Waste tiles were what he used as a filler material. This made roofs lighter, require less concrete and steel and also look beautiful from the inside. Scientists such as Prof Jagadish and Dr Yogananda had designed the flat tile arch panel roof, which was precast and which also was structurally lighter, more efficient and had a different aesthetic quality. We therefore used these roofs in our house.

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A filler slab roof using Mangalore Tiles as a filler material

A calculation on what was happening  the outside of the roof was also interesting. Almost all the rain on the building site falls on the roof. In Bangalore it can rain 970 mm in an average year. This meant that our house roof with an area of 100 square metres had 97,000 litres of pure rainwater falling on it. With the idea why allow it to go waste, we started to harvest it? This harvesting was done at many levels.

From the staircase rooftop which had an area of 10 square metres, we placed a Rain barrel and collected the water on the roof itself. A small platform was designed and the 500 litre Rain Barrel placed on it. On the staircase roof we placed a gutter to collect the rain. This came down into a vertical pipe with an end cap called the first rain separator. During the first rain and subsequently when we want to clean the roof or the rain gutter we open the cap and the dusty water flows out through the first rain separator. Then after a ‘Y trap’ rainwater flows in through a ‘dhoti filter’ into our rain barrel. We checked the rainwater quality using a H2S strip test and found the water potable. Sometimes when there is slight contamination we use a method called SODIS (Solar Disinfection) to treat the collected rainwater for drinking purpose. Here you fill a PET bottle with the rainwater and leave it in the sun for 5 hours. The water is now sterilized and can be brought into the house cooled and is ready for drinking. This is not a low cost solution for water treatment but a no-cost solution.  Our annual requirement of drinking cooking water comes from this rain barrel alone.

Rain Barrel

We also have an Ecosan toilet on the terrace. This pan in the toilet separates solids and liquids at source. We collect the urine in a barrel, dilute it and use it as a fertilizer for our terrace garden. The solids are covered with ash every time we use it. This is then transferred to some Blue drums we have kept on the terrace and again covered with earth or straw. We then plant trees in these drums. Trees such as Papaya, lemon, curry leaves, sapota are planted and they grow well. No waste from our toilet on the terrace leaves the roof.

The rainwater falling on the Ecosan toilet too is collected in a 200 litre rain barrel and used for ablution purpose.

We have a box type solar cooker to cook our lunch on the terrace. A solar water heater heats water for bath and for the kitchen. During cloudy days we use a ‘Gujarat boiler’ which uses bio-mass for the water heating. The Gujarat Boiler also generates ash for us to use in the Eco-san toilet. We have planted many trees in front of the house and the twigs and branches from the trees are used for the Gujarat Boiler.

Next we have placed a bathroom on the terrace itself. This also has a front loading washing machine which is one of the most water efficient ones in the market. We collect the water from the bath we have on the terrace bathroom as well as from the washing machine in a small ferro-cement tank placed just below the roof slab. We then pump it up to a planted reed filter to clean up the grey-water using a small pump. The reed filter is Cattails – reeds found in lakes- placed in 4 blue drums. In a fifth drum we have sand and gravel filter to clean up the grey-water further. This treated grey-water is then used for the terrace garden where we sometimes grow rice paddy.  Some extra grey-water is also used for flushing the toilet in the ground floor. No greywater is allowed to go waste.

The rice on the rooftop grows well on even a small area. We place 2 sheets of a pond lining material called Silpaulin with a brick edging. The sheet is then filled with a mix of compost, vermi-compost and red earth up-to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Rice paddy is then planted in it. The water required for the paddy comes from grey-water alone. For the fertilizer the urine from the Eco-san toilet is used. Kitchen waste which is composted is also added to the soil. We have had productions of paddy to the tune of 1 kg per square meter. We have also found that we can grow 4 crops of rice in a year. Millets can also be grown instead of rice. Vegetables such as tomatoes, brinjals, lady-fingers, chilies all grow on the terrace though the monkeys who frequent this place can also be a nuisance at times.

A small wetland has also been created in a ferro-cement tank where different plants and fishes occupy and clean water.

Solar photo-voltaic panels on the roof provide enough power for us to store in batteries and use to light 11 bulbs in the house. The house incidentally has no fans let alone AC’s thanks to the cool terrace as well as thanks to the trees planted on the sides which enfold it in shade.

A well designed rooftop can provide all the water required for a house-hold, provide energy for cooking , lighting and water heating, provide food-grains and vegetables , enhance bio-diversity as well as absorb all the waste-stream from the house from the kitchen and bathroom / toilets and convert it to reuse .

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Monsoon preparations- Recharge wells – managing aquifer recharge

May 31, 2013

Many parts of the city of Bangalore have lateritic soil and highly weathered rock. By designing storm=water drains correctly and placing recharge wells such as this one, rainwater can be allowed to infiltrate and recharge the aquifer. This recharge well built in June 2004 will be completing 9 years shortly. On an average it has been sending in 1 million litres of rainwater into the ground each year. More such appropriately designed recharge wells will help improve groundwater levels , of course when balanced with managed and controlled withdrawal.

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Water Blindness – a modern urban disease

May 30, 2013

 

2013 has been a strange year. April and May is seeing a staggering case of ‘water blindness’ in Bangalore. The media is full of reports on how the Krishna Raja Sagara dam on the Cauvery ( about 14 km. from Mysore City ) has reached dead storage level. The new Chief Minister of the State of Karnataka, India had to be consulted and water released from an upstream dam at Gorur on the Hemavathi River to the KRS dam. Police protection had to be ensured so that no farmers ‘stole’ the water en-route from one dam to the other.  Water is released from the KRS dam and it reaches the Shiva Anicut downstream, from here the water is diverted to the Netkal balancing reservoir and is then pumped a distance of 95 kilo-metres and to a height of 300 metres to be distributed to the thirsty population of Bangalore.

As this riverine drama was going on, it was raining on the city itself. In the months of April and May, the driest and hottest months all across India, it poured all of 163 mm on the city. If you did the math, on the city of 1250 sq. km. which is the Comprehensive Development Plan area, the total volume of rain that fell would be a staggering 1,87,500 million litres. At the demand from the city of 1200 million litres per day, this water if harvested would have provided for 156 days of requirement. Granted that not all of it can be harvested and some is required for nature but even 50 % efficiency in collection would mean 78 days of supply.

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Measuring rain is the first step to understanding it 

Bangalore has made rainwater harvesting mandatory (www.bwssb.org). All old sites with over 240 sq mt plot area and all new sites with 120 sq. mt. mt. of plot area must have a rainwater harvesting structure. The rules are also simple – create 20 litre storage or recharge structure for every square metre of roof area. For the paved area on the plot, create storage or recharge structure of 10 litres for every square metre. The recharge structure itself should be 1 metre in diameter and at-least 3 metres deep.

If the good citizens of Bangalore follow the law there should be no water shortage in the fair city.

Individual examples: Some fascinating examples stand out. Mr. Balasubramanian, in the layout called Vidyaranyapura,in the northern suburbs of Bangalore has an old open well. The well which is 5 feet in diameter and about 30 feet deep had gone dry . He has recharged it using a simple drum filter filled with sand. The rooftop rainwater comes in through the filter and into the well. Since 2008 his well has not gone dry and provides him water right through the year. The water too costs him Rs 2.30 /- a kilo-litre, the cheapest water in the city. The quality of water in the well is only improving with time and recharge.

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Mr Balasubramanian recharges the old open well in his house from rooftop rainwater

The well provides him all the water he needs for the year

Such is also the case with Mr. Chandra Shekar of Jayanagar 3rd Block in the Southern part of the city of Bangalore. He too has rejuvenated a well which is 50 years old. The fact is that rainwater harvesting keeps these wells alive and in an emergency even when there is no power water can be drawn through buckets thus providing electricity independent water.

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The 50 year old open well of Mr Chandra Sekhar , recharged with rooftop rainwater and now full

Dr B.R. Hegde on the other hand has built a separate rainwater sump tank of 5000 litres capacity. He stores the rooftop rainwater and uses it for non-potable purpose.

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Dr Hegde stores rooftop rainwater in a 5000 litre sump tank with the steel cover.

Rainwater Harvesting Theme Park: The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board have set up a theme park on rainwater harvesting in Jayanagar 5th Block. Here citizens can see more than 50 different types of rainwater harvesting possibilities including recharge structures as well as landscape and storm-water design which is rain friendly. A free consultation is also available with Engineers for a basic rainwater harvesting design. The BWSSB will also put you in touch with trained plumbers to carry out the job.

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Rainwater harvesting theme park in Jayanagar  40th Cross,5th Block Bangalore

All in all rainwater harvesting is slowly but surely establishing its foothold in Bangalore. Once it becomes a mass movement, water should no longer be a constraint for the growth of this city. It is time to look to the skies and act rather than to look to the dams and complain.

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Cities and water self-reliance

May 25, 2013

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Examining a recharge well – storm water will be infiltrated into the aquifer here
It is the last fortnight of May and the monsoon is eagerly awaited by the people dependent on dams for water. The Krishnarajasagara dam on the Cauvery had to get an infusion of water from the Hemavathi Dam upstream just to keep the water supply to the cities of Mysore and Bangalore going. Being on the banks of the Cauvery did not help Mysore much as it struggles to pump enough water in the pipes.

Ironically it is been pouring on the cities themselves. Bangalore has received more than 150 mm of rain as pre-monsoon showers. The rain accompanied with squalls on Wednesday evening was 40 mm as measured. What does this mean to the city?

Taken as a whole, the 1250 square kilometre of the city of Bangalore has received 187500 million litres of rain. At 1200 million litres per day this is the equivalent of 156 days of its water. These are staggering volumes especially because it has been raining on the city and not in the catchment of the dams. The rain gods are telling us to go and think local.

If every house had made provisions for rainwater harvesting and every tank in the city had been de-silted and linked to the catchment to collect the rainwater runoff, groundwater would have been full and there would be no shortage of water in the city.

Over a 100 square metre of roof area, 150 mm translates to 15,000 litres of water. On a 200 square metre roof area, typical of a 60 x 40 site construction 30,000 litres of rainwater has fallen in the peak months of summer when the rivers and dams are dry.

While the city as a whole may not be going on a war footing to catch the rain many citizens are. In the layout called Rainbow Drive on Sarjapur Road almost every alternate home is digging a recharge well. Typically these wells are 3 feet in diameter and about 25 feet deep. A recharge well can cost Rs 25,000 approximately.

Rainwater from rooftops is filtered and led into the wells. Storm-water flowing from roads and in drains can also be filtered and led into these recharge wells. This way no water is allowed to go waste and all of it goes to make up and recharge the groundwater keeping the bore-wells running.

A reader from Jayanagar 3rd Block, Mr. Chandrashekhar, is a long time resident of Bangalore. He has an old well in his home and has made provisions to direct the rooftop rainwater through a filter to his well.

The well has water for most parts of the year and he saves water for the BWSSB from anywhere between 6 to 8 months in a year. He makes the point that there are many such old open wells in Jayanagar and that all of them can become recharge structures.

People have built special sumps for rainwater and have not had to buy a single tanker of water in these crucial days of shortage.

It is time the good citizens of our cities realized the benefits of local self reliance and looking at the skies above rather than the dams afar for water. Harvesting rainwater in each and every building should be the mantra and the new government should take every step to make this possible as a mass movement.

Coimbatore and the wonderful initiative there called ‘Siruthuli’ is dredging silt from its big tank and making it ready to receive the monsoon. Similarly all tanks in the cities, be it Mysore, Bangalore, Hyderabad or Coimbatore, should be made ready to receive and store as well as recharge as much of the rains as possible.

Big dams alone will no longer be the answer to the growing thirst of our cities. Every effort from all citizens will need to be mobilized. In that lies water wisdom.

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Approach and solutions- Water crisis in Bangalore

May 17, 2013

As a blogger and a columnist in a newspaper it is still very pleasant to get e-mails like this below. 

Water Shortage – an Open well Rainwater Harvesting solution.

 
These are the days of water shortage. Krishnarajasagar (KRS dam on the Cauvery) is at an all time low in water level. Water rationing is round the corner.
 
Bangalore is well known for its open wells. So why don’t we revive and take care of our open wells?  Places like Malleswaram, Basavanagudi, Jayanagar and VV puram have large wells in the gardens of houses.
 
Of course, many old houses have been demolished giving way to apartment blocks. These depend on borewells and tanker supplies for their water needs. Occasionally BWSSB water is supplied.
 
I have a house in Jayanagar which is 50 years old. I have a well which is 35 feet deep and about 3 feet in diameter. Many years ago – around 15 years ago I installed rooftop Rain water harvesting structures. I collect around 1 lakh litres of rainwater each year of  three rainy seasons. I filter the collected water from the roof and feed it to the well. In about two weeks of rainfall, the well is full of filtered water. The attached photos will show the well Imagebrimming with water. These photos were taken last season.
 
I have estimated that I consume around 40,000 litres of water  each year from the well. The remaining 60,000 litres feed the ground water acquifers.  This is a substantial amount of water both for home consumption as well as ground water recharging. During the rainy season I am happy to shut off the BWSSB supply valve. When I use well water for all our needs, I not only save on my BWSSB bills but also precious Cauvery water which is now available for other users. 
 
The rain water harvesting solution is simple and one can do it oneself. It is a self help aid. The cost involved is only for the PVC pipes and filter. In my case I did the plumbing work myself.
 
I wish other citizens of our State help themselves and become self reliant as regards water needs. 
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Kindly publicise and popularise this concept so that we can overcome the present water crisis.
 
Thanking you,
 
S. Chandra Shekar.
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A Plan B for water to a thirsty city – Bangalore

May 2, 2013

The news on the monsoon front for Bangalore has been disappointing. After the least rainy month for 117 years which was June, July too has seen hardly any downpour in the first 10 days. The clouds are picking up and it is also true that the rainiest months are ahead being August, September and October. The Kabini reservoir which is one of the first to fill up and overflow is almost at rock bottom. It is from here that water flows and joins the Cauvery before it is pumped into the city to reach our taps. It is said that the prayer for rains in the Thanjavur area of the Cauvery delta, the rice bowl of South India, is for it to rain in Mercara so that the Cauvery will flow and reach their fields. Similarly Bangaloreans must pray for rain in Wynad as much as they pray for rain in their own city.

Apart from prayers there should be a Plan B for a low monsoon. What is that? As of now it is not clear that the city has a Plan A let alone a Plan B to distribute water to reach all its citizens. However here is what a Plan B could look like.

Make rainwater harvesting mandatory for all buildings in the city. The lesser the rain that falls on the city, the more precious the water that will be harvested and put to productive use. Every building should become a contributor to the water requirement of the city rather than only placing a demand on it.

Take up de-silting and improvement of all the tanks in the city on a war footing. Here is an opportunity masquerading as a crisis. When citizens have realized the scarcity of water it is for the government to wake up and make plans which are implementable in the short run and which focus on storing water and increasing the groundwater table to recharge the aquifer as and when it rains.

Make it mandatory for all parks and medians to use treated waste-water only. Stop the wasteful use of fresh groundwater in the 1000 or more parks in the city and use the bore-well water to supply it for domestic requirements. There is plenty of treated waste-water in the city which is not being used and the opportunity presents itself to put this to good use for construction activities also such as the metro and the large apartments being built in the city.

Quickly implement the groundwater bill and make sure that groundwater is treated and used as a community property resource rather than as a private good. Take over the large yielding bore-wells and make them part of the city distribution. Every bore-well must be mandated to have a recharge structure and as much of rainwater as possible to be recharged into the ground.

Storm-water drains must be made sewage free and those that are made sewage free should then have recharge structures in them to ensure that storm-water too is put to productive use.

Apartments and layouts – They play an important part in demand management and reducing demand by 20 % should be easy. Metering of each flat should be taken up quickly as is putting the waste-water treatment plants to good use. Treated waste-water must become the first charge for non-potable use and layouts must be mandated to put them into place and start using them immediately.

Watering of lawns and washing of vehicles should be banned and a social mobilization created against such waste quickly.

Individual homes:  My friend from the neighbourhood and 14 years old Aravind suggests that school- children should be involved in water conservation efforts by their parents. One bucket of water for a bath is enough he says. By not getting clothes dirty much water can be saved in washing them and he also suggests that boys should clean their own plates and cups with as less water as possible in homes and schools.

The fragility of our water systems, their dependence on rain  and the linkages of tanks and lakes and groundwater is clear to us. A crisis they is also spelled as opportunity in Chinese Mandarin. Will we make use of the opportunity? Will we put in place a Plan B ?

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