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More than two-thirds of the earth’s surface is covered by water. However, very little of this is potable (safe to drink). Moreover, the available usable water, is not enough to meet the needs of the growing population. The problem is compounded by the decrease in water levels owing to climatic changes, reduction in rainfall due to deforestation and shrinking of water bodies as a result of the increase in population, leading to acquisition of shallow lands for landfills. World Water Day is observed by the United Nations, every year on March 22. The aim is to advocate importance of sustainable management of freshwater resources. On this World Water Day, let’s see what communities and authorities can do to conserve water.
Importance of rainwater harvesting
Although India’s geographical location gives it several advantages, yet there are several regions, especially in metropolitan cities that are seriously affected by lack of usable water. “Owing to rapid real estate development in our cities, the demand for resources such as water, is highest in such regions. Rainwater harvesting is the only real solution available now,” asserts Sachin Agarwal, CMD of Maple Shelters. Rainwater harvesting involves collecting, filtering and storing rainwater from the roofs of dwelling units into storage tanks or cisterns in the ground. Amol Shelar, a resident of Gulmohar Apartments in Mumbai, which installed a rainwater harvesting system a few years ago, says that the harvested water can meet about 50% of everyday household needs. In his society, water from the harvest is used for:
- Household and vehicle cleaning
- Garden and green space maintenance
- Flushing toilets
Agarwal maintains that it is fairly easy for everyone to implement rainwater harvesting. “Installation of gutters is the first step for any building, along with a filtration system to ensure that leaves or any other kind of debris do not find their way into the storage tank,” he explains. “Safety precautions include having locking lids or bars, to prevent contamination of the stored water and breeding of mosquitoes. Catchment areas in a city can include paved areas such as car parks, roads and paths where water can be harvested for several non-drinking purposes,” he elaborates.
Smart cities to strengthen water infra
At a macro level, cities that have been selected in the government’s Smart Cities Mission, are expected to witness a strengthening of their water infrastructure, to achieve 24×7 supply. This is likely to be achieved by incorporating:
- Information and communications technology (ICT) applications
- Source augmentation
- Wastewater recycling
- Sensors to detect leakages in sewer systems.
Other cities too, have adopted different approaches – authorities in Solapur are incentivising conservation of water, while those in Chennai are exploring the creation of new water sources, using desalination plants and by recycling water for various purposes.
Tips to save water at home
Architects, meanwhile, point out that simple measures, such as choosing the right bathroom fittings, etc., can also do a lot of good. Sheena Chhabria, an architect and interior designer, emphasises that leaking faucets and taps that are not closed properly, are the biggest sources of wastage of water. Chhabria has several suggestions to save water at home during everyday use:
Additionally, you can:
- Fix leaky faucets which is one of the biggest water savings
- Replace old flushing systems which use more than 12 litres water in each flush. Upgrade to efficient flushing systems which use 5 liters water in full flush
- Clean the car using a pail of soapy water. Use the hose only for rinsing.
What is rainwater harvesting?
When it rains, water that falls on surfaces can be filtered and stored for various purposes. This is called rainwater harvesting. Many states have made such harvesting mandatory owing to the water crisis in many parts of India.
Which Indian states are at a greater risk of facing a water crisis?
Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad may run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people.About 40 percent of India’s population will have no access to drinking water by 2030, the Composite Water Management Index report by NITI Aayog had said.
What is the progress of Jal Shakti Abhiyan?
The Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) aims to address water and irrigation needs of 255 water-stressed districts across India. It is also built on citizen participation to accelerate water conservation across the country. The initiative is working well in states but experts believe that the targets and outcomes of the effort should be defined clearly. Wastewater treatment is another area where the JSA should focus, agree industry insiders.