Archive for April, 2008


Water management-Lessons from Singapore

April 11, 2008


Lessons from Singapore


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.


Water- Getting the prices right

April 5, 2008




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


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.


Film festival on water 2008 – Voices from the waters

April 3, 2008

Voices from the Waters 2008

3rd International Film Festival on Water


Bangalore Film Society, Arghyam, Svaraj- Society for Voluntary Action Revitalization and Justice, Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, Ithaca College, USA (FLEFF) Mountainfilm in Telluride, USA, Alliance Francaise de Bangalore, Max Muller Bhavan, Bangalore and Water Journeys – Campaign for Fundamental Right to Water are organizing the third International ‘Voices from the Waters’- the biggest international film festival on water in September 2008 following on the footsteps of the hugely popular and successful events in 2005 and 2007. We deeply appreciate your collaboration in this.

This consortium of committed organizations active in water issues  are inviting you to be part of this festival by contributing short, documentary, animation and feature films (DVD format only) with English subtitles on water and related issues. Also include a photograph and CV of the film-maker, a minimum of three film stills and a short synopsis of the film.  You are also most welcome to send us photographs for exhibition at the festival.

The first edition of ‘Voices from the Waters’ was held in April 2005 in collaboration with Alliance Francaise de Bangalore, while the second was held in June 2007 in Bangalore, India by a consortium of organizations. With the overwhelming success and the positive responses to the festival from across the globe and the urgency of the water issue to a planet headed towards catastrophe, ‘Voices from the Waters’ is being organized as an annual event of images and sounds, of films, songs, photo and art exhibitions, lectures and conferences, a platform for diverse voices – free as water as nature intended it to be.

If you have a film under the following categories:

1.      Water Scarcity,

2.      The Dams and the Displaced,

3.      Water Harvest,

4.      Water Struggles/conflicts,

5.      Floods and Droughts,

6.      Global Warming and Climate Change,

7.      Impact of Deforestation on Water Bodies and

8.       Water and Life,

you should consider sending it to us  so that we may place them in the festivalAll entries will be acknowledged. ‘Voices from the Waters’ is a public awareness program and while there is no entry fee for the festival, the final short-list for the festival will be decided from the entries by a committee comprised of eminent film-makers, film critics and social activists. This is also conceived as a traveling film festival.

Deadline for entries is 30th April, 2008 .                    

For more information, contact us at the address below.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,

The organizing committee

If there is magic on this planet it is contained in water

– Loran Eisley


Georgekutty A.L.

Secretary, Bangalore Film Society,

33/1-9, Thyagaraja Layout, Jai Bharath Nagar, MS Nagar P.O.,

Bangalore- 560 033. Karnataka, India

Tel: 91- 80- 25493705

Email: ,