The first step towards water conservation begins with reducing wastage. Many of us follow simple measures such as turning off the tap while brushing, opting to bathe with a bucket of water instead of a shower. But there’s a lot more we can do. It begins with a rainwater harvesting pit in the compound and ensuring that it’s cleaned annually to remove silt and allow percolation of water.
But what if we go a step further and channelise all the rainwater from our rooftops to a storage tank? It doesn’t require sophisticated mechanism and is doable. The outflow pipes from the terrace can lead to a sump; rainwater is clean and can pass through a small filter bed of coal and sand — to filter any dust and leaves — before it flows into the storage tank. This water can then be used in the household/office, supplementing municipal water supply, in turn reducing our dependence on tankers.
Kalpana Ramesh, an architect who specialises in interiors, advocates this method of utilising rainwater. In her home-studio built seven years ago in Gachibowli, a 30,000cc tank was installed to collect rainwater. In hindsight, she feels she could have opted for a larger storage capacity. Kalpana is a volunteer with SAHE (Society for Advancement of Human Endeavour) and along with the organisation, has been helping residences, apartment complexes and offices effectively harness rainwater. It begins with creating awareness; she emphasises that it’s a simple and cost-effective process. “A plumber can connect the rainwater outflows from the terrace to the sump within a few hours.” This helps cut the recurring cost of calling in water tankers.
- Check if the building has rainwater harvesting pits. In addition, channel the rainwater from rooftops to a sump for domestic use.
- If possible, install grey water recycling units in homes and offices. Several companies in Hyderabad sell small recycling units for homes and offices.
- A defunct borewell can be checked and restored within a few hours, with the help of a plumber at a cost of ₹10,000 to ₹15,000.
- For technical know-how and contact numbers, check http://www.saheindia.org/save10kbores/
With volunteers of SAHE, Kalpana promotes the ‘Save 10K bores’ initiative to help revive several defunct borewells, by directing rainwater to a recharge pit in the vicinity.
In the gated community she lives in and in nearby colonies, Kalpana has coerced many residents to install rainwater harvesting pits, segregate waste and take up home composting. The green cover in the community is nurtured by compost and recycled water.
Recycling of grey water from homes is an additional step Kalpana took up seven years ago. Water that flows from showers (not from the commodes, which is called black water and needs sophisticated sewage treatment plants) and kitchen use is directed towards a physical filtering system to remove any solids such as hair, grains or vegetable peels that may find their way in. This water is then led to a tank and then to a recycling unit to remove chemicals. The recycled water is clean enough to be used for gardening and cleaning purposes.
The garden in Kalpana’s house, which looks deceptively small, is nourished by recycled water. It has several fruit trees (papaya, chikoo, guava and pomegranate), and a small vegetable garden on the terrace. The eco-conscious lifestyle extends to using solar power. Solar panels generate ample power to run the house and efficient construction has ensured that the premises remains relatively cool even in Hyderabad’s intense summer. The household incurs only ₹200-300 as monthly electricity bill.
Though Kalpana was inclined towards a sustainable way of living for a long time, the intent to take up a campaign for water management began in 2016, when she was part of the TEDxSalon event near Gandipet lake. She recalled that in the 1920s, water from this lake was sufficient to meet Hyderabad’s needs. As Hyderabad grew exponentially, citizens began heavily relying on tankers in addition to the municipal water supply. “If all of us harvest rainwater and recharge borewells, where’s the need for tankers?” she asks.
SAHE, in collaboration with voluntary organisation Smaran and the Hyderabad Software Exporters Association (HYSEA), announced the Save 10k Bores initiative in May 2016 and it’s an ongoing project.
One of SAHE’s projects is ‘Live for Lakes’. Hyderabad was once a city of lakes, many of which are now encroached upon and have turned into frothy cesspools. SAHE is a part of a collaborative project that has revived the Kudikunta lake, with help of the local administration and residential colonies. That’s another story.
(Planet Healers celebrates green initiatives. If you know an eco warrior, email us at hydmetroplus@ thehindu.co.in)