Monday, September 6, 2010

Every drop counts

Every drop counts

Every drop counts

The advantages of a rainwater harvesting system completely outweigh the costs involved. It requires commonly used equipment such as PVC pipes and storage tanks which are usually found in most households, reports Anisha Mehta

Get ready to conserve water. With the BWSSB announcing that all new and existing buildings need to opt for rainwater harvesting before May 27 or face disconnection of water supply, immediately, myriad questions pop up - where do you get this connection? How much will I end up paying? Will it really benefit me?

“Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) can solve many of Bangalore’s water woes,” says Vijay Krishna G, Director, R&D, India Water Portal, a charitable trust that aims to provide access to safe and sustainable water for all.

He points out that people across the city need to be more aware of the advantages this new rule will bring along with it. “It can enable households, factories, schools and offices to overcome problems of irregular and inadequate water supply or water supply of poor quality.”

The process involves storing rain water that falls within one’s premises and re-using it after basic treatment. By using equipment that is easily available, rain water is diverted towards existing underground tanks or terrace-fitted tanks and then supplied to the taps. “Treated rain water is safe not just for cleaning and washing, but also for cooking and personal consumption,” says Krishna.
So what exactly are these regulations? All new buildings with site area of 1,200 square feet (30 x 40 site) and above, and existing buildings with site area of 2,400 square feet (40 x 60) need to install RWH structures in their premises. This applies to all buildings including residential, non-residential, commercial and government.

How to save rain water...
Rain water that falls on the roofs should be harvested through a storage tank or recharged through an open well or a borewell in the building irrespective of the nature of sub-soil conditions. Rain water from open spaces around the buildings including gardens and parks should be harvested using appropriate ground water recharge structures depending on the nature of the sub-soil conditions.
There are two options available for people. The first is collecting water and the other is ground water recharge. People are welcome to do both. According to the norms, every sq mt of roof area requires 20 litres of water storage. For ground water recharge, for every sq mt of ground area, 10 litres of storage or infiltration are required.

Help at hand
The BWSSB and organisations like India Water Portal and Argyham are there to offer help. BWSSB has a 24-hour hotline number (155313) and a help desk for rainwater harvesting (23341652 / 23348848 / 23348849) has been set up by the Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology. This helpline will ensure that people plan the structure, provide information on whom to approach and how much will the structure cost.

“The BWSSB site has a host of information to help people adapt to the change. It provides lists of plumbers who are qualified to implement rainwater harvesting. Also, Bangalore has many water consultants who can help you with the entire set up,” informs Krishna. The advantages of this system completely outweigh the costs involved. Rainwater harvesting requires commonly used equipment such as PVC pipes and storage tanks which are usually found in most households. Labour charges for hiring of local expertise such as masons and plumbers will be additional.

Therefore, the cost would depend on the type and length of the PVC pipes and on additional investments for storing rainwater such as new terrace fitted, ground fitted or underground water tanks. Materials costs involve purchase of natural filtration ingredients such as pebbles, sand, small stones which are easily available. Overall, it is a one time investment with nominal expense related to maintenance of rainwater harvesting system. At the individual level, Krishna suggests some other ways of conserving water. “Individual water metres are the need of the hour. Majority of buildings have a common metre that gauges the total water consumption of residents irrespective of the amount each household consumes.”

Individual metres help
Individual metres instead will help civic authorities charge individual households according to the water they use. Deconstructing water bills in this manner, to a great extent, will bring down water consumption. As Krishna points out, water problems in the city are going to get worse and it’s time to adopt a pro-active approach towards conserving this precious resource. Here is where water security comes into the picture. “People should be aware about water security, before they buy their dream home,” he says. First things first, ensure that the building is harvesting rain water. Also, if it has a proper sewage treatment facility and if they have installed individual water meters. “People are ignorant about the fact that RWH can save up to 30 per cent of the water they use at home,” adds Krishna. Majority of people living in apartment blocks use water tankers many a time to fulfill their water needs. Rainwater harvesting will help them reduce, if not entirely remove their dependency on water tankers.

Another change that can be introduced in homes is getting rid of the RO (reverse osmosis) water treatment system. “This technique actually wastes a lot of water.”
Forgoing reverse osmosis can help save up to 30 to 50 per cent of water used in a single home,” says Krishna. He adds, “Rainwater harvesting ensures a win-win situation for the government and people at large. It’s the purest form of water available and helps conserve water. Time we realise its far reaching benefits.” So, get started!

Use low flush toilets and low flood shower heads.

Landscaping too helps save lot of water.

Maintaining lawns in individual and apartment blocks is common in the city, but these lawns consume large amounts of water.

Instead grow plants, that too, local species to save water as they easily adapt to the local climate.

Rain water harvesting can help store water that can be used for car washing, gardening, washing vessels and drinking too, provided it’s filtered properly.

For the same, regularly check your water filter. Boiling it before drinking is also advisable.

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