A newly painted board announces the presence of a Delhi Jal Board (DJB) rain centre.
A small room in a corner houses informative boards, posters and rainwater harvesting (RWH) models. Help is also at hand for those who want to understand how to build RWH pits at home.
Welcome to DJB’s latest initiative to promote rainwater harvesting. There are three rain centres in Delhi – RK Puram, Dwarka and Lajpat Nagar. The plan is to open many more in the coming six months.
At the RK Puram office, a young water engineer – Saurabh Arya - sits and waits for people to come to clear their doubts and answer questions.
“We get 3-4 queries every day. People come to us and ask us the benefit of a RWH tank and the installation cost,” says Arya, who works with the Forum for Organised Resource Conservation and Enhancement (FORCE), the organisation that has partnered with DJB for the rain centre project.
More than curiosity, it is the threat of a fine that brings people to these centres.
The DJB has made it mandatory for owners of properties built on an area of more than 500 metre squares to install a water harvesting system.
They will get a 10% rebate on water bills if this is done. If not, the water tariff will increase by 1.5 times every month. The deadline is September 30.
Experts say rainwater harvesting will help replenish the falling groundwater level and fulfil Delhi’s water needs.
Delhi gets an average of 611 mm of rain in a year and even if part of it is tapped, some pressure will be off the DJB to supply water to a vast majority of parched Delhiites.
According to Arya, mostly owners of properties built on an area of more than 500 square metres visit the centre.
“People who come here mostly fall under this category and are worried about the penalty. They want to know how much the pit will cost and how much rebate they will get in water bills,” Arya says.
The rain centre at RK Puram has a small jar filled with layers of sand, activated charcoal and rocks to display how these help in filtering water. These are the filtration elements to be used in the RWH pits.
The most expensive component of the three is activated carbon, Arya says,
“The approximate cost of building a rainwater harvesting pit for a building above the area of 500 square metres is around R80,000 to R90,000. People often ask us if rain centres help building the structure. They don’t and are primarily advisory in nature,” he says.
The Delhi Jal Board has given people the option of doing away with the expensive activated charcoal and just use and rocks instead and put a gunny bag on the bottom of the pit.
For over a decade, policy makers in Delhi have tried to encourage rainwater harvesting. Policies have made the construction of rainwater harvesting pits mandatory in buildings built on an area of more than 100 square metres but the ground situation hasn’t changed.
The rain centres might help.