S. Vishwanath says apartments buy water by the tanker loads every day and many have installed a meter to measure the water delivered

As the monsoons fail to make a great beginning and as the populace of India waits for the July and August rainfall, one thing is becoming clear: we are more dependent on the monsoons then we ever were. Added to that urban water utilities are struggling to improve and expand infrastructure and augment resources. Private water tankers which supply homes and apartments with supplemental water charge from Rs. 50 to Rs. 150 a kilo-litre or more. If available, water is expensive and is spurring some innovations across the board.

Some examples…

As apartments buy water by the tanker loads every day many have started to install a meter to measure the water delivered by the tankers. Daily quality tests of the water, though not yet the norm, are likely to become so. Some apartments are reported to have set up weighbridges to measure the volume of water delivered and not to be cheated.

Start-ups have started to make smart meters linked to the web and which will start delivering consumption details to every flat. This will make the charges for water volumetric and more equitous within large apartments, rewarding the efficient consumers and punishing the inefficient ones.

Prepaid meters are becoming a distinct possibility and remote switching off and on is possible if say by chance a flat owner goes on a holiday forgetting to close the tap in his kitchen.

Waste-water reuse has reached phenomenal levels with one set of buildings and apartments called T-Zed putting in place a STP and an R.O. system and taking waste-water to drinking levels in each building.

The ‘yuck’ factor has been overcome and this recycled water is cheaper than tanker water delivered. At the very least treated waste-water is replacing non-potable use and reducing net ‘good’ water demand by as much as 60 per cent.

Smart technology

Industries and apartments which use several borewells for their drinking water now use smart technology to back down the inefficient ones first as well as monitor and manage pumping in such a way that the pump runs based on groundwater availability and not 24 hours a day.

Rainwater harvesting and recharge has become the norm with many large buildings accommodating these in the design itself. Water efficient fixtures such as aerated taps, flow controllers, efficient flushes and showers are making inroads into the market, reducing water consumption considerably. Time of day irrigation, point-of-use application of drip irrigation and sprinklers are entering the landscape market which already is moving towards efficiency by shifting to native species of plants and trees.

With a surfeit of waste-water in many apartments and layouts, methods are being sought to further improve quality through artificial wetlands, enabling this treated waste-water to be able to fill ponds and lakes and indirectly recharge groundwater.

Scarcity and price are the greatest drivers of technology and efficient water use, as young business thrive on making use of these opportunities. Like it or not, the market is here and the system will have to deal with it proactively. That would be water wisdom.