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Know your water better
Source : The Hindu Property Plus Published On : 2008-02-02 City : Chennai

Water quality issues are hitting headlines in most cities. Just what is it that we need to do ensure we use healthy water, asks S.VISHWANATH

 

     It is the complete inability of the institutions in urban India to cover the entire city with their network and then to keep the water lines fully pressurized and available 24 hours a day.

     It is also the lack of accountability of the institution for the quality of water delivered with a residual chlorine levels as specified, which creates the problem.

     A re-look is needed at the entire structure of water supply in the city and the endemic problem addressed, else we will face the same health issue arising time and again.

     The leakage in the distribution network of old water pipes is enormous and the order of 40 percent in typical Indian cities. Pipes have not been replaced or upgraded in many places. The sewage system is defunct. It is neither fully collected in a proper manner nor is it treated. People are not paying the true price for water and sewage collection and treatment and subsides are mis-targeted. It costs the BWSSB Rs. 18 to produce a kilo-litre of water and it supplies the first slab at Rs. 6 a kilo-litre to even the richest houses in Bangalore. If the rich don’t pay the true price for water and financially strengthen institutions, the poor will pay with their health as in this particular outbreak suggests. More money will be spent on water filters and assorted treatment devices for water than is setting the system right.

   

Unregulated private water supply

 

     A private water tanker in Bangalore has a 4,000 litres capacity load that cost Rs. 150. The leaking tanker comes and delivers water untested for quality to a family. The family has to buy water because there is a function in the house and the mains supplied water has run out. A sump built to receive the mains water, which comes once in two days for two hours, is all set to receive the tanker water this time. A bore well about 525 feet deep is the source of the tanker water. It has a 7.5 HP pump and it takes 15 minutes to fill the tanker. The tankers operate in a zone of two km. the firm has three tankers and altogether on an average day supplies 30 loads in a day, making for 1 20,000 litres daily.

     The first bore well that the firm dug went dry and so the second one, deeper of course, supplies the water provider has no system of checking for water quality. There is no regulation of tanker water by any authority. Yet they are doing a service. They are providing water to families in need which the city cannot deliver.

 

Thinking proactively

 

     If only private water tanker owners and operators are educated on the methods of checking water quality and adopting simple chlorination to the water they deliver! Knowing that they have to have residual chlorine of 0.2 ppm would be enough. Even people who buy this water can chlorinate it using bleaching powder. Checking for residual chlorine is easy and requires a small kit called a chloroscope. Spreading such water literacy is crucial to the public health of our cities.

 
 

Key questions emerge

 

     Why should not the water supply institutions supply enough water for the citizens? Why should not the water be a 24/7 supply in our pipes and with sufficient pressure to reach higher floors?

     Why don’t citizens demand better service providers? Even when we have gastro-enteritis in the city why do we not look for structural improvements in water supply and sanitation for the whole of the city? Urban India, please wake up and smell the coffee.

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