Water conservation: Why every drop matters

The groundwater level has been going down at an alarming rate in Maharashtra, and a government study has revealed that more than 50 per cent of the city and villages are facing drinking water shortage. And now, water conservation is being taken seriously, finds out Vibha Singh

You can live about a month without food, but only about a week without water.

 In 15 years, the demand for water will surpass its supply by 40 per cent.

“Water, water, everywhere/not a drop to drink.” These lines by Samuel Taylor Coleridge might just turn out to be true if the existing outlook of people doesn’t change. Mumbai had faced severe water problems in 2009 and 2015, with 15 to 30 per cent water-cut. The worst phase was in 1993, when the city faced 40 per cent cut throughout the year.

Need to conserve

Water conservation reduces energy use and can even save households money. The less water a household uses, the less they must pay each period. If most of an area’s clean water is wasted, there will not be water for future generations to use, meaning the city will need to come up with new ways to produce clean, fresh water, which will ultimately be at the taxpayers’ expense. The less water used or wasted by people, the less clean water will become contaminated. In some cases, using excess amount of water puts strain on septic and sewage systems, leading to the contamination of groundwater, as untreated, dirty water seeps from the sewage system into the ground.

Kala Suresh, civic activist says, “Increasing awareness among people is an imperative step towards water conservation. In developed countries, the focus of water supply projects is on efficiency, minimising water losses and recycle-reuse of wastewater. But Indian cities are in fire-fighting mode to meet the ever-growing water demand. Such supply side management tactics will not work in the long run. Cities must adopt demand side management in water sector. Government authorities need to rethink water policies and strive towards more conservation as well as recycling of water, as is done in Singapore. It is imperative that people take steps to conserve water, or else the world will face an increasingly severe water deficit.”

Plugging the leaks

A tap that drips once every second waste about 1000 litres of water every month. In 2007, after reading a newspaper report, which said that if one drop fell per second from a leaking tap, each month 1,000 litres went down the drain. The overflow of water from tanks in societies is also a major concern. As watchmen leave the taps open, cause huge wastage of clean water.

Aabid Surti, cartoonist, resident of Mira Road took up the task of fixing the taps in the area after he found out that one or the other tap dripping is a common sight in every house. Surti said, “Fixing a tap could help save tens of thousands of litres of clean water in a year and save individual household a lot of money in the process. It is common in every house that one or the other tap is dripping.  I couldn’t get that image of someone pouring down 1,000 bottles of water into the gutter out of my head.”

Now, every Sunday, he visits a society in Mira Road and after taking permission from the committee members visits every apartment and asks them if there is a leaking tap in their house. He is accompanied by a plumber and a volunteer. He also puts up posters to create awareness about saving water. Till date he has fixed leaking taps in more than 10,000 homes in the last seven years and saved several millions of litres of water.

Simple and effective

Rainwater harvesting systems are simple to build and operate. There is absolutely no requirement for the complicated purifying systems, which needs to be applied to cleanse groundwater, since rainwater is pure. Rainwater collection systems use modern, yet, extremely simple technology, and their care simply involves occasional cleaning of pipes and the storage tanks to ensure that the collected rainwater is not contaminated. Some of the other successful water harvesting projects are one which have been installed in Shivaji Park, Somaiya college, VES college and Sealine building in Khar, was one of the early adopters of rain water harvesting. These buildings are no longer dependent on tanker water supply, even in summer.

Aniket Godbole, who has been promoting rainwater harvesting in housing societies in Mumbai and has implemented it in nearly 17 of them successfully, says, “A terrace of 1,000 sq ft can save up to 2.24 lakh litres of rainwater during monsoon. On average, societies can collect a minimum of 5 lakh litres. The water collected can be stored for reuse or can be percolated to recharge the groundwater.” Also, one doesn’t require a large budget for the whole effort as this can be done on a small budget.

Reviving our wells

Earlier people used to have wells in wadas and gaothans. But these days due to safety reasons, the many people have got them covered or levelled. After the pipelined water came, these traditional water sources fell into disuse and got closed with idol emersion and increased construction activity. But if revived, they would sure ease the water scarcity problem. The residents of gaothans in Chembur and Bandra after complaining to the civic body innumerable times about the bad condition of wells, took upon themselves, the task of cleaning and maintaining these wells.

Reviving wells will solve a lot of water scarcity problems in the city
Reviving wells will solve a lot of water scarcity problems in the city

Rajkumar Sharma, civic activist, along with other residents, got the wells cleaned and the group then started surveying the other wells in the area. Talking about the present conditions of the well, he said, “Now the water of some of these wells is being used for non-potable purposes. The water quality is not good enough so that it can be used for drinking. But we have written to the authorities to do the needful. Wells must be cleaned every five years so that water can be used for drinking.” There are more than 1000 wells in the city but only few of them are being used by residents.

How to save water?

  • Fixing Usage Point Optimisers on taps.
  • Choosing squat pans over western toilets/optimising flush tanks.
  • Avoid using a shower for bathing. Try using a bucket instead. This will help save about 150-200 litres everyday.
  • Turn off the tap while brushing.
  • Use small glasses for drinking water.
  • Reuse leftover or used water.
  • Adopt rainwater harvesting.
  • Use brooms more, not a hose.
  • Plant drought-resistant shrubs and plants.

(To download our E-paper please click here. The publishers permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal