A turnaround in groundwater in a smart industrial areaDecember 12, 2009
Managing water in an industrial unit
|Thanks to a 10-year master plan, a water-scarce area sees a change of fortune|
Proven method: Drip irrigation systems deliver water directly to the root zone of plants and reduce consumption
Located in a semi-arid area, the industrial unit spread over 343 acres depended solely on groundwater for its requirements. Borewells to a depth of 450 feet supplied the five lakh litres of water needed daily. In the year 2000, a disastrous year of rainfall, all the groundwater sources dried up and water had to be rationed. The plant had to shut operations and it became difficult to even supply water to the factory workers and their families resident in the colony.
The industrial unit resolved to consult experts from the ground water and forestry departments and came up with a comprehensive 10-year water management master plan involving watershed planning, rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and large-scale tree plantation.
Work began in right earnest that year itself with constant monitoring. More than 1,10,000 saplings of native trees which required little water were planted on campus. Percolation tank areas were identified and dug, recharge pits made and channels dug to link catchments to dried open wells.
A demand management strategy reduced water consumption to its optimum. Drip irrigation system was introduced to deliver water directly to the root zone of trees and reduce consumption.
A gradual change came over the area. Due to the recharge efforts the groundwater table rose by 250 feet and groundwater is now available in open wells also. Though the daily demand has gone up to eight lakh litres, a combination of reducing demand, recycling and reusing waste water and recharging groundwater has ensured that sustainable water is available right through the year.
Due to the rise in groundwater table, pumping costs have decreased and water is available at around Rs. 7 per kilo-litre. Energy costs and carbon emissions too have declined since the head to which water has to be pumped has reduced. The trees are fully grown, reducing ambient temperature by 2 degrees Celsius. Birds are flying in and biodiversity has increased and the industrial unit has become a bird-watchers’ paradise. Fruits from the mango, coconut, chikku, pomegranate and gooseberry trees fetch nearly Rs. 2 lakh a year. The entire ecosystem has been transformed and regenerated.
What began as a work to tackle water shortage has resulted in bio-diversity enhancement, a carbon footprint neutral plant, and an energy-efficient and water-efficient plant.
The Mahindra and Mahindra unit at Zaheerabad won the excellent water management unit award and the innovative projects award for this remarkable work at the recent National Award for Excellence in Water Management 2009 organised by the CII at the CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Building Centre in Hyderabad.
Industries like M & M Zaheerabad show that a dedicated team effort to overcome water adversity, combined with leadership, scientific planning, implementation and monitoring can transform a water-scarce region to a water-positive region. Since industrial demand for water is fast rising in India, solutions which show ‘water positivity’ are the need of the hour. That is water wisdom.