RWAs can contribute in a big way to conserve water

Water conservation

Dr.K.S.R.Murthy

Rapid growth in irrigation, urbanisation and industrialisation has put enormous stress on one of the vital components of life – water.

The cumulative impact of the increased use of this precious natural resource has led to scarcity in many regions of the country. Climate change has exacerbated the situation changing the hydrologic cycle.

As a result, water is becoming scarce across the world. Hence, its effective and efficient management based on sound scientific methodology for sustainable development becomes a necessity.

The need of the hour, therefore, is to adopt innovative practices of groundwater augmentation by rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge, promoting water use efficiency, recycling and re-use of water and creating awareness through people’s participation in the targeted areas resulting in the sustainability of groundwater resources development, adequate capacity building amongst the stakeholders, etc. The responsibility thus falls on every citizen individually, and every community collectively, to make every effort locally to conserve, manage and augment water. The inspiring story of JR Nagar RWA’s experience in Visakhapatnam is worth recounting in this respect.

JR Nagar RWA                                           

An RWH Pit in the Colony

The Jagannadharaju Nagar RWA in Visakhapatnam was formed in 1993 with a humble roster of just about four members. Today it is one of the most prominent RWAs spearheading the RWA mission in the city. It is a conglomeration of 20 apartment complexes and 50 individual houses accommodating nearly 1,500 residents.

This RWA has won several awards and appreciations for its achievements in serving the residents at the micro level. It has its own website and has two WhatsApp groups for quick dissemination of any information about the colony’s activities. It is associated with several activities in the colony and in the city of Visakhapatnam on civic issues like solid waste management, rainwater harvesting, clean and green, solar energy, waste composting, women’s security, plastic pollution, etc.  The colony had organised two national seminars so far on the “concept of model colony” and on “RWAs’ role in combating the degrading urban environment”.

Water conservation and harvesting

Pre-implementation scenario

  • Before 2000, there were no RWH pits in the colony and no recharge pits in apartments and individual houses
  • The RWA started focussing on the need for water conservation and management since 2000, consequent to the rapid increase in the consumption of groundwater by the multi-storied apartments
  • Since 2000, a systematic approach was made in implementing RWH in individual apartments by directing the excess water from the terraces and other outlets to the recharge pits in the premises, and today almost 70 per cent of the apartments have their own recharging pits. Rainwater outlets of these houses/apartments, particularly from the terraces are now connected to recharging pits. There are nearly 26 such pits out of the 20 apartments.

It adopted a systematic approach to implementing RWH in individual apartments by directing the excess water from the terraces and other outlets to the recharge pits in the premises. Today almost 70 per cent of the apartments have their own recharging pits. Rainwater outlets of these houses/apartments, particularly from the terraces are now connected to recharging pits. There are nearly 26 such pits out of the 20 apartments.

1Dr. KSR Murthy, President, JR Nagar RWA, Visakhapatnam receiving the Third Best RWA Award from Hon’ble Sri Arjun Ram Meghwal, Minister of State, Ministry of Water Resources, Govt. of India, New Delhi at a function on 25th February, 2019

Post-implementation scenario

Since 2012, eight RWH pits have been constructed along the roadside, each of approximately 5’x3’x5’ feet, following the standard technical procedure.  Subsequently they were increased to 16. The location of these pits were chosen based on the topography and the general direction of the rainwater flow in the colony premises.

Awareness programmes

The RWA has also taken up several awareness programs to sensitise the residents. Residents were taught about the importance of water and the need to conserve it. A 10-point pamphlet in two languages, English and Telugu, was prepared on conservation of water in daily routines.

In summers, these awareness pamphlets were displayed and distributed to the visitors at “Chalivendrams (Centres for free supply of water)” erected in the colony and also at popular public places.

The JR Nagar RWA has thus followed a three pronged approach in water conservation and management to partly meet the alarming water crisis.

In essence, it was demonstrated how an RWA can act as an ambassador to conserve water as well as recharge the water resources in its neighbourhood, thereby protecting the residents from a water crisis.

About 80 per cent of the domestic water from the apartments and houses (of nearly 1,800 residents) is redirected to the recharge pits within the individual premises and not much water is wasted by overflow.

Further, the eight RWH pits adjacent to the roads in the colony collect any excess water as well as rainwater. This way, excess water runoff is controlled in the colony. Over the last nearly 20 years, the colony has not procured water from outside even once. The colony is self-sufficient in terms of its water requirements. Groundwater can be found at only 60-80 feet in this colony even in the present state of degrading water resources. It is hoped that the measures taken may help in sustainable water resource management in future.

Some important web links on JR Nagar’s Rainwater harvesting system:

*[Revised from the article in “Down To Earth”, a fortnightly Environmental Magazine from the Centre of Science and Environment. Republished in the compendium published to coincide with the 7th National Conference of RWAs held on November 16-17, 2019, at New Delhi.]