For the residents of Som Vihar apartments in New Delhi, expressions like “aquifer recharge”, “catchment area” and “sub-soil percolation” are part of everyday parlance. It’s not they are all experts in the field of hydrology. It’s just that one of their biggest daily concerns is whether the water table in South Delhi is being adequately replenished.
Som Vihar residents started rainwater harvesting at a time when very few had even heard of the term. Since 2002, they have been ensuring that every trickle of rain that falls within their boundary wall goes into the soil and adds to the ever-depleting water table. “It is not a cosmetic project, it is our lifeline,” says R.S. Deswal, head of the management committee of the residents’ welfare association.
It all started in the early nineties, when authorised water supply to the colony started decreasing, largely because of the increasing population of the booming Capital. It was then that the residents started drawing from their reserve—two tube-wells.
By 2000, the level of the wells had sunk to such low that it was harder and harder to pump up water. “The Jal board’s supply was around 10 kilo litres per day against the need for 450 kilo litres (450,000 litres) per day. So we were heavily depended on groundwater,” says Deswal. So they decided to do something about it.
Designed by the engineers of the Central Ground Water Board, one of the Capital’s first society-level rainwater harvesting projects (RWH) started in 2002. It cost Rs 6 lakh. “With an area of 28,000 sq meters to catch the rain, the water available for recharge is 9,840 cubic meter, stopping depletion,” he says. Calling the achievement pathbreaking, Delhi government reimbursed the cost of installation.
Grounded in the future
Delhiites are waking up the fruits of harvesting rain. No more is it unusual or rare to install RWH at home. The Delhi Jal Board organises the Best Rainwater Harvester Award, which had 48 shortlisted nominations last year. Som Vihar, for instance, has won the award this year.
It’s popular with schools too. The Shri Ram School (TSRS) Vasant Vihar, Mother’s International Aurobindo Marg, and Mira Model School Janakpuri, are a few awarded by the DJB.
TSRS has the oldest RWH project of them all and has been putting back 1,890 cubic meter (1,890,000 litres) of rainwater into the water table for the past ten years. “It is usually an instant hit with kids. They love the idea of catching the rain and putting back for future use,” says Madhu Bhatnagar, head of Environment Initiatives at TSRS.