Water security for cities

Water security

Summers are almost off our heads with only a few more weeks of relentless hot sun being replaced by a constant drizzle of monsoons.

A welcoming relief that soothes our sub-continent moving in a predictable albeit temperamental pattern. Our cities that by now are already buckling under the water stress and constant fight for water security have crucial and chronic issues standing within their way. Our love for concretization and surface asphalt as a way to unleash urbanization stands in the way of securing ample water.

The problem with “planned development” is that it still considers parallel wide roads with paved surfaces as necessary. Even to the extent that we get to see “organized greenery”. The concept of green architecture and landscaping is being introduced now as a failure to contain design drawbacks – intense water discharge from large flyover roads and bridges are now being given green vertical gardens as a way to alleviate city temperatures and use lost water.

Water security is under threat due to vertical lifting of as much water as we like from limited aquifers in the ground below. An aquifer is a groundwater resource that recharges via natural seepage and percolation of water from the ground above. The same ground on which now impervious concrete pavements and structures stand.

The modern sustainable way of overcoming this design flaw is to allow natural seepage of water. More green areas with grassy and tree cover along with use of natural vents within concrete to allow rainwater penetration is needed.

The other great way of making tall residential buildings ‘water secure’ is through rainwater harvesting. The math behind rainwater harvesting is simple, economical and must-have especially in areas that largely depend on groundwater.

In fact with centrifugal filters that get rid of large leaves to simple designs using recycled materials, rainwater harvesting has become simpler, reliable and efficient.

Except for the fact that depleting groundwater is our major concern due to our consumerist attitudes. It is only Chennai that has so far outlawed bore well drilling without prior permission from the collectorate. However, the fast drying bore wells and need for water is a trend that is increasing all over India. Pervasive water tanker culture has further made us more and more dependent on a fast vanishing resource. Perhaps rainwater harvesting in large structures’ built-up areas should be looked to be made mandatory.

Standing costs of rainwater harvesting are next to nothing even when employing certified and tested equipment. With one-time investment paying for a few decades although minor repairs in few years’ time would ensure better efficiency throughout.

It is not even a question in modern day urban scenario that we should look to conserve water. However, methods like rainwater harvesting can support the natural water penetration in the ground and look to create a parallel resource of sorts.

You would be surprised how much activism, enthusiasm and sometimes plain corporate feasibility studies can achieve. A healthy amount of gated communities across Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and in NCR have opted for a rainwater harvesting system. Rural communities in Pune, Satara and Ahmednagar districts of Maharashtra are practicing modified rainwater harvesting in their often drought stricken villages. Manipal group of institutions near Mangalore, in a rainfall surplus region that educates thousands of students each year, has installed rainwater harvesting on each of their roofs to maximize water availability.

Spread across three different demographics on the scale of wealth distribution and need – rainwater harvesting still serves them with similar efficacy.

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