In Ahmedabad, apartments are installing water meters for each individual flat. Residents are arriving at their own tariff for the borewell-based supply, says water activist S. Vishwanath

There are many new initiatives happening in the urban water and sanitation front which are below the radar and which go unnoticed. One interesting example is emerging in the city of Ahmedabad.

Many apartments and societies, as they are called, also depend on groundwater for their daily requirement. These are drawn from borewells using electricity pumps of increasingly greater horse-power as the water tables fall.

Since the energy tariff in Ahmedabad is one of the highest for any urban centre in India, this means the apartment owners association and in turn the flat owners have to pay a huge bill. This has lead to a realisation that only a reduction in water consumption will lead to a more modest electricity bill. Apartments are therefore putting in place water meters for each individual flat. They are arriving at their own tariff for the borewell-based water supply.

Systems in place

Hundreds of apartments and societies are now putting in place these systems. Initial results of this metering and tariff measure has suggested a dramatic drop in water consumption which in many places has come down by 50 per cent. This has completely eliminated wasteful use of water and reduced electricity bills for the flat owners.

The lessons

The lessons are clear: pricing policy can drive water conservation and reduce demand. A city like Bangalore which is now faced with a water shortage as the dams on its river source are running out of water has to bite the bullet and look at increasing the price of water.

A contrary thought at a moment of scarcity but one which is likely to ensure more water availability by eliminating wastage and encouraging conservation. Similarly the borewells have to use energy. The electricity to these borewells need to be considered on a separate basis and tariffs appropriately charged.

At the root of better water and groundwater management is tariff and pricing. Volumetric tariff is the best and therefore metering is essential. Whether one is connected to the centralised system or not, whether it is a private set of apartments or layouts, whether it is new or whether it is old, it is time all associations and institutions considered metering and volumetric pricing seriously. This in the modern urban India would be water wisdom.

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