Innovative water conservation methods need of the hour

Toilets that flush intelligently, pipes that transfer dishwater to the garden and flyovers that collect rainwater. Such innovations may sound odd but are likely to result in saving of many litres of precious water in this parched city.

india Updated: May 14, 2003 16:33 IST

Toilets that flush intelligently, pipes that transfer dishwater to the garden and flyovers that collect rainwater.

Such innovations may sound odd but are likely to result in saving of many litres of precious water in this parched city.

With the onset of summer, the scarcity of water is already hitting the Indian capital's 15 million residents hard and the utility failing to meet the mounting demand. And so the need for conserving this invaluable resource has arisen again.

According to the World Bank, 75 percent of India's rural population does not have access to public water supply. It is said the average water availability in larger cities is five to six hours a day at the most, that too with contamination.

Experts at a workshop on conservation here said there is an urgent need to conserve water using innovative methods before it is too late.

Citing inventive methods of conservation, R B Kabra, president of Hindustan Sanitaryware Limited, said, "It is estimated that a family of four can save over 20,000 litres per annum if they switch from a 10-litre flush to a six-litre one."

"Assuming a city's population is 10 million, the saving will hypothetically exceed 50 billion litres annually," he said. "Most countries have six-litre standard, except in Singapore which has 4.1 litre."

Agreeing with Kabra, who manufactures and sells such innovative toilets, Niranjan Khatri, general manager at Welcomenviron Initiatives, ITC hotels, said designs should be introduced in buildings so that dishwater is directly recycled and used for gardening.

"We have used such innovative design in a building complex in Dwarka (southwest Delhi) and which in the long run helps all," Khatri said. "Water harvesting needs to be made mandatory across the country."

The daily requirement of water in Delhi is 828 million gallons, but civic utilities can supply only 660 million gallons. Water tariff in Delhi is among the lowest in the world.

The shortage of water and power outrages in this city resulted in sporadic unrest last month.

Said D Chakraborty of the Central Ground Water Board, "In most areas, rainwater is lost and the local streams remain dry for most part of the year due to terrain conditions in India. There is an urgent need to fully utilise this surplus surface runoff during the monsoon period."

Added R K Sriniwas, a technical expert at the Centre for Science and Environment, an environmental watchdog, "Eighty percent potable water ends up as waste water. Sewage generation at present is estimated to be around 610 mgd (million gallons a day) and treatment is around 360 mgd only. This 250 mgd untreated sewage is thrown into the Yamuna."

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit acknowledged that precious water is wasted and said her government is considering an increase in tariff to stop this.

"People who can afford to pay more should pay more. Right now the people don't feel the pain of wastage and believe that it is the government's responsibility," said Dixit.

"We have to bring wastage down to 15 percent (currently it is as high as 40 percent). The overuse of groundwater means every drop must be harvested. People should understand the importance of water conservation. Every year there is a seven percent increase in water consumption in the city. This means we would not be able to sustain for long," Dixit warned.

"We have ordered that all new buildings should harvest rainwater and even flyovers would be doing that."

P K Tripathi, the chief executive officer of the Delhi Jal Board, the water utility, said, "Industry should assist in recycling water."

He cited the examples of Chennai and Singapore, where industrial areas mostly use treated water.

First Published: May 14, 2003 16:33 IST