Saving water begins from home

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There is a lot of water wastage by apartment complexes in cities. In water-starved Bangalore, some complexes have undertaken exemplary water-saving measures. Usha Hariprasad chronicles some case studies.

Last week I had been to Munireddypalya, a layout in South Bangalore. One of my aunts stays there in an independent house with a beautiful terrace garden. As she was watering her plants she also sprayed water on the terrace. ‘That is to keep the rooms cool’, she explained. I was stunned. You see, I stay in North Bangalore, and we are reeling with water crisis in our apartments. Our bore wells have gone dry, and we are dependent on water tankers for our survival.

Most of the times in monsoon, the Gali Anjaneya temple in Bangalore gets flooded. It is a low lying area. But some of the residents living nearby have no wish to move out. ‘It is a problem when it rains, but in summer we don’t have any problem getting water,’ said Vidya a teacher who conversed with me. ‘We have 24 hours water thanks to the Cauvery water supply,’ she added.

This is the situation in Bangalore. While some developed areas in South Bangalore have a good supply of water throughout the year, in certain areas of North Bangalore, the piped water supply is infrequent and the layouts are dependent on bore wells. However, the bore wells in most of these areas are drying up rapidly. Newer layouts, areas in the city’s periphery do not have piped supply at all. The situation in these places is worse with bore wells already dry, and the apartments depending on tankers for water supply. And tankers compound the problem further.
For one, they charge exorbitant rates and they hike prices in a jiffy. A 6,000 litre tanker can cost around 800 rupees and can go up. Sometimes the tankers auction the water to the highest bidder. Areas like Bellandur that boast of more than 1000 apartments are still not connected to Cauvery water supply and face such issues.

Our city does not have any perennial source of water. It was once dependent on its lakes and rivers until the piped water supply came into the city. Slowly the lakes and wells disappeared. Over time, with rapid development of the city, bore wells are also running dry. The aquifers that these bore wells tap are finite, and with no recharging of the water tables below, the bore wells do not retain water. The bore wells get dug deeper. However, no water is found even if the depth of the bore well is increased to 1,000 feet and more. In areas like Varthur in Bangalore South taluk, the depth of the bore well has increased to more than 1,700 feet. The adjacent Varthur Lake is silted; the aquifers are polluted. This is cause for concern as the bore well water will be contaminated and can lead to gastroenteritis.

Water conservation strategies

So, how have the residents coped in these areas? Water rationing, digging bore wells deeper have been certain measures. According to a report in The Hindu, in certain apartment complexes in Mahadevapura, water rationing is done; water supply is restricted to certain hours so as to save water.

In Akshaynagar, in some complexes, the associations have urged flat owners to use the reject water of RO filter. Individual metering has been installed as well. There are advantages of individual water metering. ‘Installing water meters makes the flat owners diligent and they make sure that there are no leaks in their flat. Or if they have gone for a vacation, they ensure that water valves to their apartment is closed,’ mentioned the secretary of an apartment association from South Bangalore.

Using reject water from RO filter: Maa Brindavan apartments in Whitefield has managed to save 500 litres of water everyday just by adopting a few measures. Initially they were dependent on tankers. Later the residents decided to use rejected RO filter water for non-drinking purposes. So the residents collect the RO water; their apartment approximately generates around 500 litres of reject water every day. The house keeping staff is responsible for collecting and storing it in big drums kept in parking lot, which is used for washing cars and floors.

Adding water aerator: Adhinarayana Rao Velpula, a resident of the apartment and a water warrior mentioned that they were additionally using water aerators to save water. This has not only conserved water, but also brought down their expenses.

Water aerator is a device that reduces the flow of water discharge from taps. He says, “We have installed water aerators in 115 wash basins in the month of April. This has helped us save around 42,000 litres of water.” In April the water consumption of their apartment complex was 6,87,000 litres, while in May the water consumption came down to 6,45,000 litres.

It has also brought down their tanker expenses. ‘This water saving has led us to save on 12 tankers. And we have saved approximately Rs. 6,600,’ he says, considering that they pay Rs. 550 for a tanker of 3,500 litres.
Installing water meters: In Doddanekundi, East Bangalore, ‘The Greens’ apartment took a couple of water saving measure to save water. They installed individual water meters for flats. Amal Padmanabhan, a resident says, “We saved around 25-30% of water by putting water meters and charging users based on what they consume.”

Installing individual water meters was not easy and required a lot of plumbing work. Yet, this does not stop them from going ahead.

Using treated STP water: Another worthy water saving measure that they adopted was to reuse water from Sewage Treatment Plant (STP). The idea was to use the treated water from their STP plant in flush tanks. Could the treated water be used directly? ‘The output of a cleanly running STP in flush tank is of reusable quality. So no further processing is required. However, it also depends on the type of STP technology apartments are using,’ said Amal Padmanabhan.

How was the reaction of residents to this idea? ‘Initially they were averse to the idea. But slowly it started picking up. Now everyone is happy for having done this, ‘says Amal Padmanabhan. Rain water harvesting was also done in their apartment.

As per the Bangalore Water Supply Sewage Board, rain water harvesting is mandatory for existing buildings with site area 2,400 square feet or more. And for newer buildings, it is 1,200 square feet and above. Installing overflow valve in the overhead tanks, water leak detectors, using recharge structures wherever possible to rejuvenate water table, are some other methods to save water from getting wasted.

Other conservation measures: Campaigns and conservation measures have also been initiated to save water in the city. The #BAFHalfBucketChallenge , a social media campaign is one such challenge which challenges member residents to use only half a bucket of water to take baths.

It is initiated by the Bangalore Apartments Federation, one of the largest body of apartments in the city. It has some 400 apartment complexes as its members, and it has thrown up this challenge to conserve water.

There are also other projects taken up. A million recharge wells for instance is undertaken by Biome Environmental Trust and voluntary citizen network Friends of Lakes .The idea is to revive the open wells, thereby recharging ground water. It plans to engage community, individuals, corporates and institutions in this project.

The beginning is always NOW. So if you are committed to saving water, there are umpteen number of ways to do so. One of my friends collects the water from washing of fruits and vegetables. She then uses it to water her plants. A small beginning is enough. After all, the beginning is the most important part of work, according to ancient Greek philosopher Plato.


Usha Hariprasad

Usha Hariprasad is a freelancer who is fond of travelling, discovering new places and writing about
travel related destinations around Bangalore at Citizen Matters. Currently, she works in a trekking organisation.

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