How crucial is it to conserve water in our daily lives and activities?
In 2016, while the state of Maharashtra was reeling under one of the worst droughts in the history of our country, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis declared that 900 million litres of water are wasted everyday in Mumbai alone. Soon after, the BMC claimed that there were no takers for treated sewerage water in the city, resulting in 70% of it (3-4 million litres) being released into the sea on a daily basis. And that’s not all, the city also loses approximately 25% of its water to leakage and theft.
It’s a grim reality, especially since we have a very real water crisis on our hands. And the issue isn’t limited to Maharashtra alone. With grave numbers from across the country – Hyderabad losing 168 million gallons to leaks, 16 crore litres wasted in Chennai and cities like Bangalore and Delhi predicted to run out of ground water entirely in just a few years, it’s no wonder that India ranks 120 among 122 countries in the water quality index.
Conservation would seem to be the most obvious first step. But one must begin with an understanding of the typical water usage patterns of the average urban Indian, to see what needs to be curbed and which checks and balances can be implemented effectively.
With a steadily exploding population there is a natural decline in per capita availability of water. 1700 cubic metres of annual per capita availability of water is considered the safe line. Anything lesser puts us in a water-stressed situation. This number slid from 1820 cubic metres in 2001 to 1545 cubic metres in 2011 and is expected to drop to 1341 cubic meters by 2025.
A 2013 report in The Hindu pegs the average consumption of water in an Indian household at about 135 litres per person per day. This number, especially if you consider the further break up by activity, is alarmingly high. Take bathing and washing utensils, for example, pegged at requiring 55 litres and 10 litres respectively, every single day. Other things like toilet flushing and washing clothes are at 30 and 20 litres respectively. Surely with just a little prudence and awareness these basic, everyday chores can be managed judiciously?
Simple choices like using a bucket rather than a shower, for a start, and others like being slightly more aware about the frequency and method of washing dishes, installing low-flush toilets, turning off taps, curbing water usage for yard work and gardening, can go a long way in judiciously conserving water.
It’s important to also note the issue of equitability. For example, in Bangalore, 10% citizens consume twice the water they actually need, leaving over half the city with only about 65% of the water they need. So it really does come down to every single one of us and how we use view these finite resources at hand. If each household is made aware of these staggering numbers, vis-à-vis the larger crisis, and each one of us begins to pitch in in a small way, the numbers could stack up and make a true difference.
In Cape Town, South Africa, the government previously announced a date for Day Zero – a day when there would officially be no water left. However, the date was indefinitely put off thanks to conservation methods and regulation being introduced stringently.
It goes without saying that we are already at a point in history, very close to no-return. If we don’t begin to look at our scarce resources and treat them with care, that point is going to hurtle towards us faster than we can prepare ourselves for it. It’s hard to imagine a world without water – how will we manage the crisis and what it will mean for us as a race. And yet, not enough is being done, and not soon enough, to address this urgently.
Wouldn’t it be smarter to begin at home in small ways, however we can? At our workplaces? At schools and colleges? In our neighbourhoods and communities? This way, there is the added benefit of getting people involved and aware, and making the issue alive and real. Rather than relegating it to a deceptively distant future.
Here are a few simple to moderate measures you can explore:
Use a bucket
Turn off taps when you’re brushing teeth, washing hands etc
Fix drips and leaks as soon as you see them
Install low consumption flushes
Consider a smaller, water-efficient washing machine
Use a tub of water rather than a running tap, so the water can be later reused, for cleaning vegetables and fruit
Limit the number of dishes you use
Try and handwash dishes only once a day, using the double-dip method rather than running water
Choose an efficient dishwasher and use it not more than once a day
As far as possible find ways to repurpose waste water from the kitchen, either to water the garden, clean the car or other such chores
Shrink the lawn area as they’re huge sinkholes for water
Choose plants that require less water
Only wash your car once a week and try and use repurposed waste water
Install rain water harvesting systems
Shrink geyser sizes
Where possible, install means to repurpose and reuse waste water
Take care to be efficient with water use even on holiday or during travel