Catch water when it falls

A temple tank in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu
A temple tank in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu

Chennai's water warriors Sekhar Raghvan and Indukant Ragade believe that rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling are simple steps to achieve water sufficiency. To educate tomorrow’s engineers and town planners to understand and appreciate the importance of these two measures, India Water Portal along with the Rain Centre, Chennai and Indian Institute of Technology, Madras organised an event on the occasion of World Water Day 2014.

Celebrating World Water Day 2014

Rainwater that isn't harvested in Chennai runs off into the ocean. “People are not interested in using the rainwater during monsoons since their sumps fill up as the Metro water supply is good. Sensitization is of utmost importance to make sure people catch the rain when if falls”, says Raghavan. 

There is an undeniable resistance in the minds of people to consume recycled water and we aren't even talking about water that is recycled to potable standards, but even for less sensitive uses in the kitchen or the bathroom.

Director of IIT, Madras, Bhaskar Ramamurthi, talked about this culture of unwillingness to use recycled water and emphasized that it is possible to come up with engineered solutions for most problems. “There are different shades of grey in greywater. Given the constraints, technology providers should understand where the resistance is coming from. If we can come up technologies to treat these different greys separately, people might be more willing to use this water for purposes beyond flushing and gardening”. People do not like to reuse someone else’s waste water. That is why it is best if we come up with individualized solutions, rather than those which go to a central treatment plant and then comes back to individual apartments”, he says.

Managing key resources like water and energy in our concrete jungles today has become a key policy challenge. “It might just take 20-30 years more for Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur to disappear and merge into an extended Chennai metropolitan area, swallowing up hundreds of existing tanks in the process. Planning for urban infrastructure, therefore, should take into account all of these things. Water should be accorded higher or at least the same level of priority as some of the other sectors such as energy or transport”, says Emeritus Professor R. Sakthivadivel from the Centre for Water Resources, Anna University .

Public Water Supply is a complex affair. There is such a wide disconnect between the people and their water source that bridging this divide is crucial. Hydrogeologist Saravanan succinctly puts it - Integrated water resources management is a far cry unless proper attention is paid to action at the micro level.

Chennai now waits with bated breath for peak summer to hit. Its best bets to minimize water stress and reduce external dependence are rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling.