We need Bureau of Water Efficiency, Sasikala Rajeswaran

We need Bureau of Water Efficiency, Sasikala Rajeswaran

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Sasikala Rajeswaran, Editor, Sawdust

We need Bureau of Water Efficiency -min

We need Bureau of Water Efficiency -min
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Though the country is steadily hurtling towards a great water crisis in the coming years due to the prevailing near water-scarcity situation in the country as well as the regressive trend towards declining capita water availability, steps taken by the government in improving the situation are far from satisfactory

As the awareness about human health, cleanliness and safety increases demand for water too goes up. Added to this is the demand increase due to increasing population of the country. This only aggravates the problem of water supply as the source of water is finite and is also slowly decreasing due to unscientific exploitation of water sources.

Though  the country is steadily hurtling towards a great water crisis in the coming years due to the prevailing near water-scarcity situation in the country as well as the regressive trend towards declining capita water availability, steps taken by the government in improving the situation are far from satisfactory. Interestingly, whatever steps have been taken so far in conserving and saving water, most of them are concentrated on employing modern irrigation techniques in rural India. Though significance of rural India in our economy cannot be ignored, strangely the government is not showing the similar degree of interest in effecting water savings in other segments of the economy.   No wonder then not much is happening towards conserving water in household segment though lot of water is getting wasted in bathrooms, wash basins, kitchen sinks, toilets and urinals every day.

It is not that we need to invent something to save water but only need to learn from others’ experience in this field. Take for example, USA, where there are specific laws as to how much water can be consumed per flush in toilets. US  Federal law requires that commercial toilets manufactured after January 1, 1997 must use no more than 1.6 gallons ( 1 US gallon is equal to 3.78541 litre) per flush (GPF) and urinals must use no more than 1 gpf. Initially, some versions of ultra-low flush (ULF) toilets designed to meet this standard in USA did have some operational problems and were prone to clogging or required double flushing. However, these problems have been sorted out and the law is now functioning efficiently.

Similarly, Federal legislation passed in 1992 (EPAct) requires that all U.S. plumbing manufacturers and importers meet or beat the water-efficiency standards for new fixtures, that is,  showerheads—2.5 gallons per minute; and faucets—2.5 gallons per minute. In order to meet the legal requirements and also to make the showers more water efficient, manufacturers are incorporating a narrower spray area and a greater mix of air and water than older showerheads. These newer designs while effecting water saving, ensure that there is no discernible difference in quality or comfort is perceivable by the user.

Our National Water Mission aims to develop a framework to optimize water use by increasing water use efficiency by 20% through regulatory mechanisms with differential entitlements and pricing. However, the Mission has not given much attention to achieve savings in water consumption in household segment. Though the Green Plumbing Code Supplement-India is the most comprehensive document on sustainable plumbing systems in India, its recommendations are not mandatory. The Indian Plumbing Association (IPA) and the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials (IAPMO-India)  have jointly published Water Efficient Products-India (WEP-I) which specifies water efficiency star ratings for urinals, toilets, showerheads and faucets. Again these ratings are recommendatory and not mandatory which make the codes less useful.

When we spoke to cross section of realtors about the installation of water efficient fixtures and  fittings in their projects, it was revealed that the most important criteria for selecting a particular fixtures is its cost. “In this dull market, we cannot add up to the cost of the project by installing costly fixtures and fittings,” said a realtor. For them, cost is the most important criteria and most of them go for products imported from China which don’t adhere to any of our norms or codes. For realtors, the concept of  water conservation is not a saleable idea while lesser cost can attract more buyers.

The same is the case with the replacement market which is flooded with cheap Chinese and spurious products. For individual buyers cost and external aesthetics of the product influence their decision more than any other parameters. It is hard to find any buyer of fittings who makes his decision solely on water efficiency of the product.

All these things go to say that public awareness about water conservation is poor and in many cases non-existent. Part of the blame for this public ignorance should be borne by the government itself. While we can find regular TV commercials on saving fuel or electricity, there are hardly any such commercials educating public about the significance of water conservation. 

It may also be possible that the government is prioritising its action plan because in India there is substantial part of the population which still prefers compound walls to urinals to relieve oneself. And most of the time you find taps on public toilets dry which doesn’t necessitate any water conservation measures at all!

It is high time that the government sets up an agency on similar lines as Bureau of Energy Efficiency to drive home the importance of water conservation among the general public. Without such an agency no policy of the government can make any “Watersense”.