The report by Carewater INREM Foundation deals with Reverse Osmosis (RO) technology, which is emerging as an important solution for drinking water treatment in rural Gujarat. RO plants with capacity ranging from 10 litres per hour (lph) to 6000 lph are now supplying drinking water in several hundred villages of the State. Small sized plants with capacity < 20 lph are used by individual families whereas medium to large sized plants (>100 lph) are being used for public consumption.
The mode of operation of these larger plants ranges from exclusively owned as a pure business to those owned by the community. The large RO plants (100 lph – 2000 lph) are located in few pockets like the coastal stretch close to Surat and are predominant in areas where affluent non-resident Indians have donated plants for their native villages.
Local assemblers of treatment plants located in small towns have played a major role in this boom. Some of the plants are by choice restricted to one society or community, whereas others are open access giving rise to several offshoot water suppliers serving surrounding villages.
Planning of future treatment systems in rural areas, needs to keep in mind the need of the community, proper maintenance, awareness generation amongst potential consumers, proper regulation of price and attention to safe disposal of effluent from the plants. The study indicates the need to take care of these aspects -
- RO technologies need to be promoted only for those areas where the dependable source of drinking water has dissolved salts and chemical pollutants, such as fluoride, arsenic and high TDS. An expensive technology like this is not necessary when biological contamination is the only problem.
- Local institutions need to be strengthened for proper maintenance of the plant. There have been several failures of such plants in the past such as the Nalgonda filters in the 80's-90's and RO plants in the 90's in coastal Gujarat, mainly because of poor local institutional involvement in operation of the plant.
- Keeping a balance over cost recovery and community orientation is necessary so that both sustainability of plant and reach to maximum users is achieved. It is essential to have awareness programs and promotion schemes for introducing the treated water to users, many of whom just need a small push.
- Proper disposal of effluents from the plant is vital to avoid conflicts with the other users of water bodies.
Download the report here: