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  • Rainwater harvesting and management strategies

    India is one of the largest users of groundwater resources. The country largely depends on this water source for daily usages, industries, and agriculture. In fact, India’s groundwater utility is way more than China and the USA. However, due to unplanned urban growth, and huge volumes of waste water, the country is looking face to face with a groundwater scarcity scenario.

    At present, farmers and urban planners have to dig deeper and deeper to access the groundwater level. The situation is worsening every day. The groundwater resource largely depends on the famous Indian monsoon. However, with intense climate changing pressure on the environment, India has been noticing irregular monsoons of late. Considering all these factors, implementation of groundwater management across India is the need of the hour.

    Proper steps are necessary both in the micro and macro levels. Both industries and residential complexes need to implement proper strategies of managing water. This involves basic parameters like optimizing the use of available water, recycling the water as many times possible, making sure that the waste water does not pollute the groundwater levels and so on. Whether you want a sustainable water solution in your home or you are the water resource manager at an industry, you need to make sure of not delaying the implementation of water harvesting techniques in your area of action.

    In a monsoon rich country like India, rainwater harvesting must receive its due importance. In cities, most of the rainwater is lost as waste water. In villages, where there are open fields, still the rainwater seeps within the ground to nourish the aquifers. The harvesting of rainwater must begin at the homes. Homeowners can manage the water supply during the monsoon through harvesting the rainwater. This involves collection, storage, treatment and recycling of the water. You need to find a service that can provide all these solutions.

    Water scarcity is set to be a menacing problem in India without the immediate implementation of proper corrective measures. India largely depends on its groundwater resources for water supply, and there is intense pressure on this sole resource. The pressure of urbanity in highly populated cities is already evident in water scarcity in many places. High-rises and slums alike need water to survive, and so the pressure is severe. Added to this is the water requirement of industries crowding the urban scenario. Plus, in the surrounding villages near the cities draw out groundwater for agriculture and livelihood. All these activities put immense pressure on groundwater, which is dwindling away at a rate faster than it is getting refilled. All these factors points out to the mandatory need for implementation of water harvesting techniques. This includes two broad parameters, groundwater and rainwater management.

    The monsoon rains provide the supply of groundwater. In seasons, when monsoon is scarce, groundwater levels plummet substantially. In extreme situations, draught situations may develop. Cities cannot get much of the monsoon rain to store as groundwater. The concrete of the cityscape does not absorb water, and a lot of the rainwater just wastes. The wastewater problem is also a huge issue.

    Rainwater harvesting can be a very useful solution for a country like India, where most regions receive abundant rainfall during the two-three months of monsoon rain. There is a huge potential to this method of harvesting the water supply from the clouds. Rainwater is very pure, but since most of the cityscape has high pollution, it may not be as pristine. So, along with the collection system, a water treatment system needs to be set up. The collection, purification, and distribution systems are the three key aspects of using rainwater.

    There are several aspects of groundwater management. The key focus is to recycle water and make it easily available for everyone. Identification of aquifers using advanced hydrogeological instruments is important for proper mapping and usage of groundwater. This water is also important for agricultural purposes. So, a proper plan must be in place defining agricultural use and personal use of the water resource. The combination of rainwater and groundwater can see to that India does not suffer from the impending doom of huge water scarcity.

    Our ancient religious texts and epics give a good insight into the water storage and conservation systems that prevailed in those days. 
    In the forests, water seeps gently into the ground as vegetation breaks the fall. This groundwater in turn feeds wells, lakes, and rivers. Protecting forests means protecting water 'catchments'. In ancient India, people believed that forests were the 'mothers' of rivers and worshipped the sources of these water bodies.

    The Indus Valley Civilization, that flourished along the banks of the river Indus and other parts of western and northern India about 5,000 years ago, had one of the most sophisticated urban water supply and sewage systems in the world. The fact that the people were well acquainted with hygiene can be seen from the covered drains running beneath the streets of the ruins at both Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Another very good example is the well-planned city of Dholavira, on Khadir Bet, a low plateau in the Rann in Gujarat. One of the oldest water harvesting systems is found about 130 km from Pune along Naneghat in the Western Ghats. A large number of tanks were cut in the rocks to provide drinking water to tradesmen who used to travel along this ancient trade route. Each fort in the area had its own water harvesting and storage system in the form of rock-cut cisterns, ponds, tanks and wells that are still in use today. A large number of forts like Raigad had tanks that supplied water. 

    In urban areas, the construction of houses, footpaths and roads has left little exposed earth for water to soak in. In parts of the rural areas of India, floodwater quickly flows to the rivers, which then dry up soon after the rains stop. If this water can be held back, it can seep into the ground and recharge the groundwater supply.

    This has become a very popular method of conserving water especially in the urban areas. Rainwater harvesting essentially means collecting rainwater on the roofs of building and storing it underground for later use. Not only does this recharging arrest groundwater depletion, it also raises the declining water table and can help augment water supply. Rainwater harvesting and artificial recharging are becoming very important issues. It is essential to stop the decline in groundwater levels, arrest sea-water ingress, i.e. prevent sea-water from moving landward, and conserve surface water run-off during the rainy season.

    Town planners and civic authority in many cities in India are introducing bylaws making rainwater harvesting compulsory in all new structures. No water or sewage connection would be given if a new building did not have provisions for rainwater harvesting. Such rules should also be implemented in all the other cities to ensure a rise in the groundwater level. 
    The most important step in the direction of finding solutions to issues of water and environmental conservation is to change people's attitudes and habits¾this includes each one of us. Conserve water because it is the right thing to do. We can follow some of the simple things that have been listed below and contribute to water conservation.
    Try to do one thing each day that will result in saving water. Don't worry if the savings are minimal¾every drop counts! You can make a difference.
    Remember to use only the amount you actually need. 
    Form a group of water-conscious people and encourage your friends and neighbours to be part of this group. Promote water conservation in community newsletters and on bulletin boards. Encourage your friends, neighbours and co-workers to also contribute. 
    Encourage your family to keep looking for new ways to conserve water in and around your home.
    Make sure that your home is leak-free. Many homes have leaking pipes that go unnoticed.
    Do not leave the tap running while you are brushing your teeth or soaping your face. 
    See that there are no leaks in the toilet tank. You can check this by adding colour to the tank. If there is a leak, colour will appear in the toilet bowl within 30 minutes. (Flush as soon as the test is done, since food colouring may stain the tank.) 
    Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Put a brick or any other device that occupies space to cut down on the amount of water needed for each flush. 
    When washing the car, use water from a bucket and not a hosepipe.
    Do not throw away water that has been used for washing vegetables, rice or dals¾use it to water plants or to clean the floors, etc
    You can store water in a variety of ways. A simple method is to place a drum on a raised platform directly under the rainwater collection source. You can also collect water in a bucket during the rainy season.