By Andrew Boyd
With the rains the Indian monsoons bring every year, it may be hard to imagine that India will be facing severe water stress by 2020. But with a population expected to exceed 1.3 billion people by 2020 and a surging economy, the country is quickly consuming and polluting the once plentiful surface and groundwater reserves.
Eighty percent of India’s water consumption is from agriculture. This fact is what inspired Ayyappa Masagi, an engineer and founder of the water literacy organization Rain Water Concepts. “India is a country where farmers are considered to be the backbone of the country,” said Mr. Masagi in an interview with Nourishing the Planet. “I believe that they are poor because they are not getting the right quantity of water at the right time. If we can disseminate our systems to them, we can promise rain water can be conserved and judiciously used most of the year.” To improve the management of life’s most precious resource, Masagi’s organization constructs simple and effective rainwater harvesting systems so that people are not reliant on costly and wasteful external irrigation.
Rain Water Concepts has implemented over 36,000 projects in 9 Indian states, successfully recharging 90,000 wells. To reach the goal of a water efficient nation by 2020, Masagi understands that this movement must grow far beyond his organization. He has conducted over 1,600 water literacy workshops, awareness campaigns, rallies, and training programs that give citizens the skills and knowledge to solve their own problems. Masagi has compiled his strategies in a book written in Kannada, the local Indian language, called Nela Jala Jana (Land Water People). Included in the book are do-it-yourself instructions for water harvesting and water conservation. “We involve the community in our work,” says Masagi, “everyone tries to give his or her best and the result is obvious success.
Masagi also attributes this success to the simplicity of his engineering systems; “Our rain water harvesting and non-irrigational agriculture systems are easy to understand, easy to implement, and need almost no maintenance.” Masagi avoided traditional filtration designs that need frequent cleaning to remove silt. To minimize cost and labor, existing structures such as bore wells and lake beds are re-used. Bore wells are deep, narrow holes drilled into the earth to tap groundwater aquifers. Human consumption often outpaces the natural rate of replenishment and the well goes dry. Rain Water Concepts re-tools these wells to act as rain-water storage and filtration systems.
Rainwater harvesters can be installed on roofs of houses and buildings, in fields, and next to factories. One particularly success story that shows the potential of Masagi’s method to alleviate the conflict between industrial production and the health of neighboring communities is the water recycling unit installed at the Yalamali Iron Processing Plant. The Yalamali Company was spending a lot of money trying to find fresh water sources and was paying farmers to dump used contaminated water in their fields. Rain Water Concepts installed a simple filtering system using locally available stone, pebbles, and sand. The water was then sent to a groundwater reservoir through a dried bore well for storage. This simple solution solved Yalamali Company’s supply and disposal problems and eliminated a consistent source of pollution for the neighboring farmers.
Masagi hopes to spread his techniques outside India. He is currently in discussion with the Ashoka Fellows Program to address water scarcity issues in Kenya.
To read more about improving water security, see: Innovation of the Week: Making a Week’s Worth of Rain Last the Whole Year, Improving Water Access in India, One Drip at a Time, What Works: Improving Water Efficiency and Safer Water, Better Health: Improving Access to Clean Water and Sanitation to Combat Disease.
Andrew Boyd is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.
To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE .
- Innovation of the Week: Using Traditional Strategies to Address Water Problems
- Innovation of the Week: Access to Water Improves Quality of Life for Women and Children
- Innovation of the Week: Getting Water to Crops
- Innovation of the Week: Making a Week’s Worth of Rain Last the Whole Year
- Innovation of the Week: Directed Funding to Alleviate Poverty
- Innovation of the Week: Giving Farmers a Reason to Stay
- Beyond Drip Irrigation to Water Fields in Dry Land Areas: An Interview with David Bainbridge
- Innovation of the Week: More than Just a School