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Restoring Water Resources Is A Crucial Step Towards Restoring Our Earth

We as a nation can no longer take water for granted and to succeed in our endeavour of water conservation, we will have to mobilize our societies, communities, private sectors, to catalyze change and form an inclusive approach in making every drop count.

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Earth Day is not just a day to raise awareness about ecological imbalance across the planet but also an occasion to review and recalibrate the efforts being made to rectify the damage being done. This Earth Day 2021, given that the theme is ‘Restoring our Earth’ – let’s see how we can focus on preserving our natural ecosystems with the help of green technologies. Portable water makes our planet unique, which also makes it a key focus area to work on for restoring our planet. Globally, 1.1 billion people lack access to water while in India 600 million people are undergoing extreme water stress. As per NITI Aayog, by 2030, India’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual 6% loss in GDP. 

If we don’t prepare now, India will have 1.6 billion parched people by 2050. A lot needs to be achieved and a good place to start would be by adopting sustainable solutions that can help us consume, manage, store and recycle water effectively. 

Time to plug the leak

According to World Bank, in 1950, India had 3,000–4,000 cubic meters of water per person. Today, this has fallen to around 1,000 cubic meters, largely due to population growth. The situation is further worsened by unequal distribution between urban and rural population. A shift in mindset towards the management, distribution and consumption of water will play a critical role in reducing the demand-supply gap. Rather than focusing on increasing water supply, we need to look at ways to efficiently use water while ensuring its equitable distribution. This is possible by undertaking measures to improve efficiency, reduce leakages, recharge/restore local waterbodies as well as treat and reuse wastewater.

Improving efficiencies requires strategic interventions to promote responsible water usage. The increasing awareness about water conservation has led stricter policies, and calls for adoption of sustainable solutions, which can address the ongoing issues. Intelligent technologies can address water issues in a smart manner, be it metering on intake of water, reducing leakages or ensuring they are energy efficient. 

The need of the hour are digital water technologies that are connected to work seamlessly together with IoT, AI, and cloud computing, to deliver the highest level of energy and cost savings for smart water management. These innovative solutions can address the water and wastewater management, both at micro and macro level. 

Intelligent pump solutions are today integrated with Internet of Things (IoT) based sensors to collect data on treated water quality, temperature and pressure on a real-time basis. This data can be analyzed to provide actionable insights on the consumption pattern to the end user. The predictive maintenance capabilities of the sensors allow it to detect leakages during wastewater transportation and other potential points of failure ahead of time. This provides an opportunity for rectification and course correction if necessary.

In many cities, more than half the water supply is wasted due to mismanagement or leaks in the supply chain and here, a Demand Driven Distribution (DDD) methodology can plug the leak for urban and industrial applications, by using smart technologies to monitor, measure and provide accurate system surveillance. DDD offers water distribution with critical point measurement and advanced flow adoption. The distribution system can be designed for an efficient water distribution network at the pumping station, where the controller controls the pumps, based on the demand, at critical points. This ensures maximum efficiency while helping reduce water leakages by 20% and energy consumption by 25%.

For example, India Dyeing Private ltd. based out of Tirupur, a garment manufacturer and exporter adopted DDD technology to address the issues they were facing while meeting the demand to fill up the tanks of their soft flow dyeing machines. DDD ensured that the transfer and the pressure boosting of clean water met the demand and the work was smoothly done. To optimize the performance of the pump, a variable speed system was installed to fill the tanks faster which resulted in trouble free operation and availability of ample servicing time.

Encourage re-use of water

For industrial water usage, the demand for water in manufacturing is expected to increase by 400% by 2050 [OECD], as many industries are water intensive. Directly or indirectly, water plays an important role as a solvent, cooling liquid, wash and clean liquid, among others. In response to water scarcity and rising clean-water and wastewater discharge costs, industrial facilities are moving towards water reuse all over the world. 

Take for example, the Grundfos plant in Suzhou, was struggling to meet its water consumption targets in the last few years. As a result, the water was being consumed at the site was monitored, which provided an opportunity to reuse grey water (water used in shower and production facilities) in the cooling towers and Deionized Water Systems. By utilizing a Reverse Osmosis (RO) system and constructing grey water collection tanks, the site was able to biochemically cleanse the grey water of impurities and use the water for other production processes. It is estimated that water saved is over 10,000m3 (1 000 000 litres) per year.

Restore water bodies

Waterbodies form an integral part of India’s water resources as they help in recharging groundwater, while also contributing towards maintaining the water table. Restoring urban waterbodies which have been depleted over the years due to rapid urbanization is an important step towards preserving our biodiversity and water resources. 

The 2019 Chennai water crisis was a stark reminder of the reality of water crisis in India. A multi-disciplinary approach is required to sensitize local communities on the various aspects of social, environmental and sustainability factors related to preservation of water resources. The Government, Corporate entities and NGOs joining hands for conservation of water bodies will provide opportunities for citizens and communities to participate in initiatives ensuring awareness, community involvement and restoration, across the country. 

For instance, in 2020 Grundfos and Cognizant joined hands to restore the 100-acre Sembakkam Lake in Chennai, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Care Earth Trust and Indian Institute of Technology Madras. The ongoing project will help clear the lake of solid wastes, improve the lake’s storage capacity by 50%, enhance groundwater recharge, improve water quality and benefit 10000 households. This restoration work will be completed in 2021.

Changing mindsets

With time, India’s reliance on groundwater has been increasing and it is critical to not only limit groundwater extraction, but also find ways to promote practices that maintain a healthy water table. The government should prioritize the reuse of water used for industrial processes as well as implement long term sustainable plans for using surface water for drinking purposes. 

It is pertinent that efficient wastewater infrastructure is integrated in cities to treat wastewater. Circulating the treated water back to the community will not only encourage reuse of water, but also create awareness amongst all. Water used for industrial processes can be treated and distributed to nearby agricultural lands to fulfill irrigation requirements. This will have a substantial positive impact on the overall lifecycle of water while successfully fulfilling individual requirements. 

Going forward we will also need dedicated investments towards pre-fabricated, automated and modular water treatment plants, which will provide reliable and affordable water supply to communities even in remote areas. Along with this, the recycled wastewater can be used for varied purposes such as irrigation of non-food crops and industrial cooling, to name a few. 

Such a mindset will not only alleviate stress on existing water resources but also create a more systematic approach in managing our water resources while reducing dependency on freshwater sources. 

The ecosystem of human livelihood is directly linked with how we manage our water resources. We as a nation can no longer take water for granted and to succeed in our endeavour of water conservation, we will have to mobilize our societies, communities, private sectors, to catalyze change and form an inclusive approach in making every drop count.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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George Rajkumar

Country President, Grundfos India

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