Limits – water

July 15, 2012

Staying within limits



The bore-well supplying water to the apartment went dry. The question posed was what do we do now? The members of the committee managing the apartment thought drilling one more bore-well, possibly deeper was the answer. So a new bore-well was commissioned. After much trouble a new one was sunk for more than 900 feet and it yielded nothing. Insofar as groundwater was concerned the apartment had hit and exceeded the ceiling for use.

The situation in the apartment is illustrative of the blissfulness we live in in terms of our natural resources. As one observes the progress of the ‘water footprint ‘of our cities one is reminded of the motto of the Olympic games- Citius, Altius, and Fortius – a faster, higher and stronger consumption of water.

In this thirst for increasing consumption we have dried up our lakes, depleted our rivers and now sucked out the water from the ground up-to a 1000 feet deep. This unbridled urbanization coupled with consumption simply cannot go on as the resource runs out.

While the conventional answer to the running out of water has been looking for more supply it is now necessary to take a hard look at demand. Is it really possibly to have economic activities and unrestrained urban growth?

We have to be smarter with using multiple sources of water such as treated waste-water, rainwater and storm water but we have also to realize that urban planning within a river basin has also to be envisaged with limits. The only recharge for all sources be it rivers, lakes or groundwater is rain. The annual replenishment done by the monsoon is what we are entitled to. Nature has its ceilings. Technology can stretch the ceiling by trying to reuse water but this too has limits.

The city of Bangalore for example will get 1500 million litres of water per day. Of which around 50 % is unaccounted for meaning only 750 million litres per day will be available. With a population which will hit 10 million shortly this means that every individual is entitled to 75 litres of water per day. In so far as groundwater is concerned, a rough estimate is that the annual replenishment will provide the equivalent of 300 million litres per day equivalent. When the city of Bangalore has a population of 10 million we will be entitled as individuals to 105 litres per person per day. We need to architect our lives around this availability of water so that there is equity and just allocation for all.

If we are profligate and exceed nature’s limits we will have conflicts, inequity and disturbance in society. Let us understand these limits, let us live within them and let us stop sinking deeper bore-wells. In this lies water wisdom.


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