Thrissur city is reeling under an acute water crisis. All wells, ponds and water sources in and around the city have either gone dry or filled up by real estate sharks. There is already a fall in water supply and the situation is bound to deteriorate during summer.
In this grim situation, an interesting success story of rainwater harvesting in Kolazhy, a village in the district, could serve as an inspiration to the Thrissur Corporation. The soil in the village, located just 6 km away from the city, is loamy on the top and has a laterite carpet at the bottom. The average depth of the wells here is nine metres from the ground level.
Thettayil Rappai, 61, and his wife Elsy, 52, live in Kuttoor, near St. Annes School in Kolazhy grama panchayat. They have been living in a house, built on 11 cents of land, for the past 27 years.
Their open well never had water during the summer until the year 2010. During the other seasons, they used to pump water from the well into the overhead tank, which has a capacity of 750 litres. Twenty-five litres were utilised for drinking purposes by the family, comprising three people, and the rest was used for washing, cooking and other purposes.
During summer, they depended on water tankers to meet their needs, which cost them Rs.500 for 6,000 litres. Water supplied by the tanker was poured into the open well as they did not have an alternative storage system. But water from a single tanker would last for just 15 days. When the well went dry, they either borrowed water from their neighbour or called in the water tanker again. This was the practice for 27 years.
But there was a sea change in 2010. ‘Mazhapolima’, a groundwater recharge programme through roof-water harvesting, was implemented in 98 houses in the Kolazhay panchayat ward no.11—the driest among all panchayat wards.
The grama panchayat implemented the scheme in the house of Rappai and Elsy. PVC pipes of six inches were installed to collect rainwater on the roof of the house. Two-inch pipes directed the water to the open well. Beneficiaries were supposed to clean the well and roof and install a filter system, as per the direction of the grama panchayat. The system also had a flush unit to drain out unclean water from the roof that got accumulated after the first or second rain. The system cost less than Rs.3,000 for the panchayat.
The Rappai family learnt about the benefits of the scheme from the classes conducted at the Kolazhy grama panchayat and the beneficiary meeting jointly organised by the grama panchayat and Mazhapolima Monitoring and Coordination Unit.
The roof area of Rappai's house is 950 sq. ft. and it can harvest nearly 2.25 lakh litres of rainwater as per the matrix of Central Ground Water Board with 3,000 mm average rainfall in Kerala. The ‘Mazhapolima’ well-recharge unit was installed in March 2010. Elsy said water rose to a level of four feet during summer. Their well had been completely dry during summer for the past 26 years. They could also save the Rs.500 they had been spending for buying water from tankers.
The Reppai family is overjoyed as they now have abundant water even during summer. The ‘Mazhapolima’ project has so far installed more than 8,055 rainwater harvesting units in Thrissur district, said Jos Raphael, coordinator of the project. The project has been implemented in 47 local governments (panchayats and municipalities) of Thrissur.