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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Stop wasting water even if you can afford to pay for it

For saving water at home, it is up to the citizens to curb daily wastage and misuse of water even if they pay for it.

delhi Updated: Aug 19, 2019 12:03 IST
Shivani Singh
Shivani Singh
Hindustan Times
While incentivising those who save water, the city must also penalise those who waste.
While incentivising those who save water, the city must also penalise those who waste. (Shutterstock)

Last week, Aam Aadmi Party legislator from South Delhi’s Malviya Nagar Somnath Bharti announced a campaign to save water by fixing leaking pipes and taps in houses in his constituency.

The project, which Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said could be scaled up if successful, is a much-needed intervention by the residents who live in a city that borrows almost half of its water from other states.

The inspiration for the project comes from Aabid Surti, an 85-year-old writer and painter, who along with a plumber and a volunteer, visits Mumbai homes to repair leaky taps. “If a tap leaks one drop every second, a thousand litres of water goes down the drain in a month,” says Surti, who runs the Drop Dead Foundation.

Since 2007, he has devised a weekly drill. Every Monday, his volunteer seeks permission from officials of a housing society to conduct checks and then put up posters on the notice board carrying details of Surti’s visit and a message: “Save Every Drop or Drop Dead”.

A day before the visit, pamphlets containing information about the project are distributed to every home. “On Sunday, when I go to the building with a plumber, most people are ready for the checks. Many leakages are fixed on the spot,” says Surti.

Legislator Bharati, who is all set to launch the “Aabid Surti model” in Malviya Nagar, says that he has divided his constituency into 35 mohallas, each with its own Whatapp group, connecting with 16,500 families in all. The focus will be on checking taps in kitchens, toilets, bathrooms and leakages in water tanks. Surti funds his project mostly from his award money and donations. Bharti too is confident that funds will not be a problem.

Saving water at home, though, will take more than such drives. It is up to the citizens to curb daily wastage and misuse of water even if they pay for it. Water obtained from reverse osmosis filtration units, now almost a mandatory feature in most middle and high-income households, is just 25% of the quantity that enters the system. The rest simply goes down the drain.

This May, the National Green Tribunal directed the Union environment ministry to prohibit the use of such water purifiers in places where the total dissolved solids (TDS) in water are less than 500mg per litre, which is the acceptable limit for safe drinking water, and make it mandatory for people to recover 60% of water from the RO system, wherever it is permitted.

Insisting that the quality of water it supplies is potable, the Jal Board blames consumers who do not repair ferrule, which connects the mains to individual homes, and silted overhead tanks for contamination. While it may take a while before the DJB is able to convince people that its water is safe for drinking, those using ROs must reuse the water rejected by the purifiers for washing clothes, cars, in toilets and house cleaning instead of wasting potable water supplied by the DJB on household chores.

In Singapore, a host of measures — demand-side management, strict penalties and punishments such as snapping connections if found wasting water, conservation efforts involving citizens and use of efficient bathroom fittings and washing machines — have helped the city-state bring down per capita daily domestic water consumption from 165 litres to 143 litres since 2003.

In January 2018, South Africa’s Cape Town, which faced drought for three consecutive years, announced that it would run out of water in 90 days. But it has so far averted “Day Zero” by methods such as new water-pressure system, which reduces the flow of water, saving roughly 10% of overall municipal water consumption, and hiking the water tariff and enforcement of prohibitions on heavy users, the CityLab reported in April this year.

In Delhi, the government provides free water to those consuming up to 20,000 litres a month. This has got more people into the habit of saving water, said Delhi’s finance minister Manish Sisodia in his budget speech this year. He said 8.67 lakh more families used less than 20,000 litres of water as compared to 2015.

While incentivising those who save, the city must also penalise those who waste.

Delhi could perhaps take a cue from the neighbouring Gurgaon where the municipal corporation created a flutter in June this year when it fined cricketer Virat Kohli’s domestic help for washing his car with a hosepipe. Rich or poor, nobody can afford to waste a fast-depleting essential resource. Maybe time for routine water policing has come.

First Published: Aug 19, 2019 12:02 IST