Alisha D’souza, 23, has not turned on the shower for years. Instead, she uses a bucket of water to bathe. “Ever since I learnt in school that keeping the shower running wastes a lot of water, I have used the bucket,” said the media professional, whose family also uses soap water from the washing machine to clean bathrooms.
Environment-conscious citizens such as D’souza are not easy to find, but increasing awareness is making more and more people think twice before they leave that tap running. Many housing societies, companies and educational institutions too have started making efforts to conserve water.
Cypress Society in Mulund, for instance, has never faced water shortage, but it still has one rainwater harvesting plant and two water recycling units in its premises. In 2009, residents spent Rs1.10 lakh to set up the rainwater harvesting plant. The collected water is used for gardening and for washing cars in the society.
A year later, residents added two grey water (water from bathrooms and kitchens) recycling units at a cost of Rs2.25 lakh. “The society took this step to save water, which we consider our social responsibility,” said Prakash Shetty, former chairman of the society.
At Amulakh Amichand High School in Wadala, a big water storage tank is kept on the playground to catch rainwater, which is then used in the school toilets. “We started this initiative three years ago,” said Uma Chaudhary, school headmistress. “We now plan to direct water from air-conditioners towards watering plants and for other uses.”
Educational institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) in Powai, which is one of the first green campuses in India, has an elaborate water management system in place and conducts regular water audits. “Since 2005, we have inculcated environment education in our academics, which makes students more environmentally sensitive,” said Shyam Asolekar, professor, Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering, IIT-B. “Students have understood the importance of water management, and themselves conduct water audits in the hostel and on campus.”
Apart from harvesting rainwater, citizens can also treat and recycle water. “About 80% of our household water goes into the drainage without being recycled or treated,” said Sharad Chaphekar, director, environmental conservation, Indian Institute of Environmental Medicine. “People have a mental block against using treated water, but it can easily be used in gardens and flush tanks.”
Though the trend of water conservation is encouraging, little is being done to protect our natural water resources. Environmentalist D Stalin said that unless we save our water sources, any attempt at conserving water will be futile. “It has now become fashionable to say that we must save water, while continuing to turn our lakes and rivers into sewers,” said Stalin, who is associated with Vanashakti, a not-for-profit organisation that works for the environment. “We wouldn’t have to pay for water if we knew how to preserve our water resources.”
(With inputs from Apurva Venkat)