Water supply – Innovate or perish?

Earth’s surface is covered by 70 per cent water and 30 per cent land.  But 97 per cent of this water is unusable since it is stored in oceans and is saline.  Out of the remaining 3 per cent, one per cent is in the form of snow/ice, one per cent is in the form of rivers, tanks etc., and the remaining one per cent is ground water, some of which is cannot be used directly.

    Water is not anybody’s property: Water on earth is millions of years old.  There is nothing like fresh water but due to improper usage, some water may become unfit for consumption by living beings on earth.  Waste/Grey water is also water and it will not be prudent to discount this quantity of water by branding it unusable.

   Water is a gift of nature and nobody owns it or has authority to lease it or use it for commercial purpose.  Neither water can be imported from outer space nor can it be manufactured in bulk in laboratories. All water belongs to all living beings on this earth and has to be shared in an equitable manner.   Water evaporates, goes up into the atmosphere, gets cooled, becomes cloud and depending upon the temperature variations on surface of earth due to generation of  heat  and  depressions, it rains and gives earth its elixir of life.

     Inequitable distribution:  But this elixir of life is becoming scarce by the day with ever increasing demand /use/misuse, by all living beings.  Of late, due to man-made destructive activities like uncontrolled deforestation in the name of development/ urbanization/ industrialization/modernization with encroachments on agricultural land, consumption of  meager natural resources for construction of huge buildings, etc.,  are resulting in spewing of large amounts of CO2 and other green house gases. This, in turn, is resulting in climate change and global warming with El-Nano, sunami effects and we have noticed a marked inequitable distribution of rains resulting in untimely droughts and/or flooding. It is the poorest of the poor who suffer most.

     Toxic ground water: Tragedy is that in urban areas, human beings, are misusing treated and clean drinking water for flushing toilets, car wash, portico wash, gardening, industrial use and a host of other mundane needs.  Due to over usage, the alternate source – ground water has depleted beyond recovery. Even if available at depths, due to seepage of sewage, high content of fluoride and other chemicals, it is becoming unusable and in industrial belts, discharge of effluents and sewage water, is polluting the ground water with toxic elements thus making it completely unusable.

     Solutions:    Time has come to re-think, rejig and re-arrange our priorities for utilizing available water resources.  There is no life without water.   It is a need than a requirement.  Need is most important since without drinking water we cannot live but we also have other requirements of water for washing, toilet/ portico cleaning, etc., for which drinking water need not be used.

     Therefore, following suggestions are made keeping in mind our consumption habits, health aspects, doability, economics and sustainability and supply management:

(1) Need-based supply:

     There is a syndrome that the so called mineral water or water available in bottles/tubs and other containers at considerable cost, is pure and bacteria free. They are being procured only by those who can afford.  Unfortunately, even ordinary people have started buying such costly tubs/bottled water for their daily consumption due to alarming water health reports corroborated by scientific investigations from authentic sources that most available waters are not fit for human consumption.  It is stated that contaminated ‘potable water’ being supplied through corroded pipes are  laced with e.coli, sewage / worms etc., and consumption of which is one of the main causes for frequent outbursts of water borne diseases.

     It is time to rearrange our supply system and pricing policy for supply of bacteria free elixir of life to all consumers so that without disturbing the present supply system, people can be supplied pure drinking and potable water according to the per capita consumption levels/quality of water prescribed by Indian and International standards/WHO.

    Create a separate Governmentnt company say – Karnataka State Potable Water Supply Company Limited(KSPWSCL) on the lines of Karnataka State Beverages  Corporation Limited – (KSBCL) – a Government company making profits since 13 years by ensuring supply of quality liquor at Maximum Retail Prices fixed by Government to drinkers.  If Government can ensure quality drinks, creation of a company to supply water, elixir of life, to people will be a welcome step in the right direction and is likely to earn the goodwill of the people.

–  The Mission & Vision Statement and Charter of Demands of KSPWSCL must be to supply clean drinking water to people either freely or at cost or on No Profit/No Loss basis or with best possible subsidies.

–   Or else, convert the existing Vani Vilas Water Works or any other agency responsible for supply of water in other areas of our country,  with all its men and material to the newly formed company and to be governed under the Companies Act, 1956

–  supply raw material – water from government controlled source and act as a regulator

– purify – have proper quality control mechanism in place

– ensure bacteria free water to be bottled in food grade containers of different quantities

– supply them to PDS units to enable the consumer to buy it – just like food articles, Kerosene, etc. 

– sell at reasonable rate/no profit-no loss basis to the extent of per capita requirement or subsidize to BPL families

– adopt dual pricing system for those who need more at a higher cost – fix higher cost for commercial use – like commercial use of electricity/gas connection.

Advantages:

 – Ensures austerity in usage of precious drinking water

– ensures better health of people, especially women and children, helps women folk to rid of the tiresome journey to fetch water from long distances in rural areas

  – ensures good governance of elixir of life and saves precious water from misuse for other purposes like car wash, portico wash, bath rooms/toilets, washing cloths etc.

For Non-potable purposes:

– Present system of supply of water through existing pipes can continue for all other purposes with minimum treatment.  Consumers can use them and at a cost to be fixed separately and on the basis of pay as you use.

– No need to invest huge amounts of public money to improve water quality to permissible bacterial levels since separate arrangements will be available for drinking purposes.

– Expenditure being incurred for cleaning the water in jewel filters etc., could be minimized.

– No need to outsource demand and supply management to outside agencies at huge public expense/royalty.

      (2) Waste water/Grey water – Reclaim, Recycle, Reuse:

      Grey water or waste water discharged by people in mega cities is also water and has to be treated with equal importance. There is an urgent need for changing of mindset and rejigging of priority in water usage by urban dwellers.  We cannot ignore this source of huge amount of water going waste and water managers have to immediately either rejuvenate the old Sewage Treatment Plants for optimum production or have vision statement to create STPs with special purpose vehicle plan of action.

    Reclaimed water from such e.coli and bacteria/chemically free waste water can be used in urban areas for gardening, fire protection systems, vehicle washing, toilet flushing, public parks and cloth washing.

   If the present drought situation continues and there are no rains, lakes in urban areas will be drying up.  Then, the only source of water for replenishing them would be the huge amount of waste/grey water that is running through various drains and into water bodies. Then it becomes imperative for water managers to take note of this precious product, create necessary infrastructure like Sewage Treatment Plants etc., and then allow that treated water into the lakes or water bodies to enable aquaculture to survive. Such water stored at suitable tanks, ponds, etc., can help migratory birds.

   Such treated water can also be used for agricultural purposes like growing food crops, grass for animals, fodder, orchards, aquaculture and hydroponic green houses.  Even untreated sewage can be transported from source to desert areas, arid, semi-arid and wastelands for rejuvenating the depleted soil nutrients so that in course of time we will be able to grow endemic shurbs, trees etc.

   Similarly, industrial users like factories, building constructions etc., can use this water for cooling, concrete mixing and others like race courses, golf courses, clubs, market areas, hatcheries, etc.

   Finally, in course of time, if rain water is not available at all due to vagaries of nature, climate change, drought, global warming, El Nano effect etc., it may become necessary for us to accept treated water for drinking and other potable usage.

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

(Environmentalist) 

 

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