Archive for March, 2010


Hebballi village- rural water supply ideal

March 25, 2010


An oasis named Hebbali – the move towards sustainability


WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE: One of the borewells in Hebbali village has an excellent recharge tank created next to it.

Rural domestic water supply schemes in Karnataka are plagued by the usual ills: dependence on ground water sources and hence lack of source sustainability, bad quality power hampering pumping of water, water wastage through overflowing cisterns because of lack of ownership of the asset, bad quality work through a highly centralised system of contract and supervision and consequent asset depreciation, bad institutional responsibility with no revenue to manage the system, an d lack of a legal framework to manage groundwater with agriculture drawing away most of it. One struggles to find a modicum of a success story in most parts of Karnataka. Hebbali village, however, may show the way.

The village in Hosdurg taluk, Chitradurga district, and part of the Krishna river basin, is a striking example of a successful and sustainable piped water supply model. The village is part of the Gram Panchayat of Hebbali comprising six other smaller habitations.

It had the usual problem: a dysfunctional water supply system based on community connections from an overhead tank. Most of the time the system did not work for want of timely maintenance. Water was available infrequently and for about two hours every day. Fights were regular at the water point and the situation became worse in summer when the borewell started to yield less and power cuts meant the hours of pumping were restricted. Rehabilitation of the water system was attempted under a DANIDA (Danish International Development Agency) project.

A framework for analysis of the sustainability of a drinking/domestic water system needs to include five questions. Is the system sustainable

Institutionally and does it have democratic accountability?

Socially and does it take care of the poor and disempowered and provide access?

Technically and can it be managed and fixed locally by the institution in charge?

Financially and can it recover at least the O&M costs plus a small sinking fund?

Ecologically and can the source provide good quantity and quality water for 20 years or more?

Institutional framework: The village water supply and sanitation committee (VWSSC) under the Hebbali Gram Panchayat is responsible for the system. This is true for the entire state of Karnataka. Members of the VWSSC are elected on an annual basis by all the villagers. The accounts are submitted on a monthly basis to the Gram Panchayat and audited. Democratic accountability and specific job responsibility for water and sanitation have been ensured.

Technical framework: The source for the village is underground water being pumped from two borewells. It should be remembered that more than 92 per cent of the habitations in Karnataka source their water from such borewells. Every connection is metered and the meters came through an innovative process of taking dealership and then accessing it instead of buying it. It took six months for the entire infrastructure to be built by the contractor.

Financial framework: Assistance from the DANIDA helped the project substantially. A total of 85 per cent of the project cost came from DANIDA assistance through the State Government, 10 per cent came as people’s contribution and five from the Gram Panchayat.

The estimated cost of the project was Rs. 12.50 lakh but the actual cost was Rs. 17 lakh. The work was done by a local contractor but purchase of the material and construction supervision was done by the VWSSC.

A connection charge of Rs. 650 was collected during the initial phase of the project. Now, for new connections, a charge of Rs. 850 is levied by the VWSSC. This is for the meter and the chamber, as well as drawing one line to the household from the main line.

One connection per meter is ensured and the conditions explained on a card given to each family.

Water tariff is fixed at Rs. 30 for the first eight kilo-litres and Rs. 5 per kilo-litre for additional consumption every month. Bills are given at the end of every month regularly and payment collected within the next 10 days.

The main expenditure on the O & M side is the power bill which is easily covered by the revenues generated. The other expenditure includes staff salary. In about two years since the project began a fund of Rs. 30,000 has been created.

Ecological framework: Source sustainability is crucial to the continuance of any water supply scheme. In Karnataka, there is a striking dependence on ground water and especially deep ground water for domestic water supply. Overdrawing of a weak hard rock aquifer especially by agriculturists and little attention to adequate recharge, results in the drying up of borewells.

The redundancy of many rural drinking water supply schemes is a follow-up. An avowed policy of the State is to shift to surface water sources. However, this may not be possible in all places.


Summertime waterwise

March 24, 2010

As summer descends and the mercury rises the thirst for water too will increase. We need to take in plenty of the fluids to combat the heat but we also have to take longer term action to ensure that the precious liquid will be available to us and future generations. Here are some things we can and must do for conserving water.

Dig a recharge well: The best time to dig a well is summertime. This is when water levels are at their lowest and though it is difficult to dig the hard earth, the depths achieved will reflect maximum water depths. Now that rainwater harvesting has become mandatory in Bangalore this is the time to dig recharge wells. The law states that the depths should be a minimum of 10 feet. In most parts of the city, a depth of 20 feet to 30 feet is recommended. Draw the rooftop rainwater through a filter into the well and you have a perfect rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge complying with the law. Typical diameter of the well will be between 2 feet and 3 feet.

Use less water: Though the temptation may be huge do not wash your cars with a hose pipe or drown the frontage of your house with water. A bucket of water should do the job as much as 10 buckets do.1 litre of water saved is as good as 1.5 litres of water generated and it save on energy too since water has to be pumped for it to be used.

Water plants in the evening hours: If you have lawns, a garden or even pots remember the thirst for plants too will be at its peak during summer. To use less water, the best time to water pots is late evening or early mornings. Remember to mulch the pots too. This will prevent water from evaporating. If you can pick water from washing vegetables in the kitchen sink, do so and use this water for the plants.

Paint your roof white: This simple step will bounce off the incident heat radiant on the roof and keep it cool. This will also keep the inside of the roof cooler and reduce air conditioning loads. Saving energy is equivalent to saving water and using paint that allows even the rooftop rainwater run-off to be collected is a bonus. Choose these white paints for your rooftop.

Plant a tree: Better still plant 10 trees. As the old saying goes ‘The best time to plant  a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now”. If you step into any street in Bangalore which is fortunate enough to have trees left, you will see the Pongaemia or ‘Honge’ in Kannada in full bloom. The leaf laden bough virtually bend down and the flowers fallen on the road create a carpet. On the trees the flowers attract a billion insects and the shade is legendry in cooling. This is the time the pongaemia sheds its seeds. Pick 10 of them, use empty milk packets, fill with soil and plant the seeds. Water them and you have 10 beautiful saplings in 2 weeks time. Wait for the monsoon and plant wherever possible. The Pongaemia shades the road and keeps the black asphalt from heating up cooling the surrounding. Cars are parked below the tree and an afternoon siesta is best enjoyed below the tree.

Water wisdom lies in realising the ecological value of water and taking all steps personal and community to ensure its lasting availability.

Persian Wheel -photo exhib

Pongaemia- providing shade and cooling a road


World Water Day 22March 2010

March 24, 2010


Reflections on world water day


March 22nd is officially designated by the U.N as World Water Day. The focus this year is on water quality and as the website explains ‘UN-Water has chosen ”Clean Water for a Healthy World” as theme for World Water Day 2010. The overall goal of the World Water Day on 22 March 2010 campaign is to raise the profile of water quality at the political level so that water quality considerations are made alongside those of water quantity’.

What are the key threats to water quality in urban areas? The water that comes from surface water bodies are normally treated and therefore our piped water in cities like Bangalore is absolutely potable. The water quality threat to piped water comes mainly from the intermittent supply – 1 hour every alternate day- and from the vacuum created in the non-flow hours. This combined with old , leaking pipes results in waste water being drawn into the pipes at times . This can then lead to water quality contamination if not properly addressed. The best solution for this problem is to ensure fully pressurised pipes all 24 hours a day. Old and leaking pipes also need to be replaced and a maintenance plan drawn up to plug leakages immediately.

From groundwater there are two major sources of pollution. One natural and another man made. The natural or geo-genic pollution is from substances like Fluoride, high salinity, Radium and Arsenic in some places. Manmade causes include primarily Nitrate contamination but also industrial pollution and sewage resulting in bacterial contamination. Solutions lie in what is called ‘source control’ methods. Never to lead any waste water untreated out into the system. Ensuring that  soak pits and septic tanks are well designed and do not contaminate groundwater and also ensuring that no industrial waste water is left untreated all help in protecting groundwater sources.

Another important measure is to ensure that garbage or solid waste is collected and disposed properly in lined land fills which do not leach or leak and pollute surface or groundwaters.

Once prevention is ensured then positive steps like recharging groundwater with clean rainwater can augment groundwater and improve quality. Secondary contamination can be avoided by storing water in clean vessels or tanks, regularly maintaining sump tanks and cleaning them and ensuring safe withdrawal through taps without dipping contaminated ladles.

Every citizen has a role to play both at home and at work to ensure that we take care of our scarce water resources and also ensure it’s sustainable availability. The best role is to be aware of our actions and to always prevent pollution of clean waters, whether on the surface or in the ground or even in the clouds. This is the path to water wisdom.