Does Bangalore face a Waterless Future? – Part-1

ApnaComplex presents thoughts of Mr. S.S.Ranganathan, a retired senior executive of Ion Exchange and currently a freelance Water Management Consultant based out of Bangalore, on the Water Crisis looming in the City of Bangalore and the solutions that can adopted, especially by the Gated Communities.

Below is part-1 in the series of 3 parts of the thoughts.

Does Bangalore Face a Waterless Future?

There is a distinct possibility of this becoming a reality in a few years. In early 2010, I happened to see the front page of the Deccan Herald dated 27th March with the Headline “City may become unliveable in 5 years” (reference to the article) which appears to have been prompted by the elections to the BBMP which were about to take place the next day. The article was based on the Study by Indian Institue of Sciences’ Energy & Wetland group at the Centre for Ecological Sciences. Take a good look at what this study says under the heading “Ecological Degradation”. The statistics are mind boggling and, for someone like me, entirely realistic, I believe Bangalore does indeed face a waterless future, and, the worst affected will be the residents of apartment complexes and gated communities.

The number of calls I get from Residents Welfare Associations (RWA) has increased substantially over the last one year. In almost every case the Association has either bore wells with drastic reduction in water yield or which have gone dry. All of them have been forced to switch over to water supplies from water tanker operators, and, they are finding that the monthly water expenses of each family are as high as Rs.2000/- to 2500/- per month!

Worse still, after paying such high prices for water, they can not be sure of the quality of the water they are getting nor the quantity. Summer is here now and water demand will soar to dizzy heights. The result will be steady increases in the cost of water supplied by tankers. I am just re-stating what is reported frequently in newspapers and magazines, the water table in and around Bangalore has dropped drastically and will even turn the tanker operators’ wells dry.

Why are we in such a precarious Position?

In the year 1946, the water table in many parts of Karnataka and in Bangalore was just 8 metres below the surface. Today, practically all bore wells drilled are forced to go down to depths of 400 to 500 metres to find water in insignificant quantities. More often than not, bore well drillers find no water even after they reach these depths. Water pumped from such depths contains very high levels of minerals (known as total dissolved solids, i.e., TDS). These levels are beyond the acceptable limits as laid down in BIS-10500 which is the Indian Standard for drinking water. The cost of purifying this kind of water would be prohibitive. Add to this the electricity required to pump water from such great depths. The power consumption would be so high as to make the whole exercise economically unviable.

Bangalore is developing at a phenomenal rate and this means that population growth & built up area is increasing as rapidly and thereby preventing rain water from percolating down in to the ground to re-charge the water table. At the same time daily water demand is rising fast. A few years ago I had seen a report in the Newspapers about a study made by the Ministry of Water Resources that showed that 7 states in the country had exploited their water resources to a point of no return and Karnataka is one of them.

What can be done to improve the situation?

Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) is one thing that the entire area covered by the BBMP needs to put in place without further delay. The concerned authorities have done very little to make this happen, and, the government too is to blame for not having made RWH mandatory with severe penalties for not implementing RWH. Chennai and the whole state of Tamil Nadu had to implement RWH state wide or face severe penalties. This was the dicktat of the then Chief Minister and this has helped the state and very definitely the city of Chennai. Since it happens to be my home town and I visit it very often, I know that the water table is rising steadily. In 2009, after the rains, it had risen by as much as 5 metres, quite the opposite of Bangalore! I have seen wells where the static depth of water has risen and what is more, the quality of water has improved in many parts of Chennai and is now drinkable with just filtration or boiling to make it safe.

I believe our state Chief minister needs to emulate the former CM of Tamil Nadu and make it happen. I have been approached last year by many Resident Welfare Associations to help them implement RWH. Once they received proposals for installing RWH, they back off saying that it was too expensive. Little do they realize that when they have only tanker water left as a source, it will be so expensive that the cost of installing RWH will seem trivial in comparison. Tanker supplies will get costlier steadily as the water available for Bangalore becomes scarce.

In such a situation, I can only point out that the best thing to do is REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE. There is simply no other option since there is simply not enough ground water that can be used, nor can we hope for extra water from the Cauvery since the quota of water awarded to Karnataka which included a specific volume of water for Bangalore which is being utilized fully. There is just no water to spare.

To be continued in Part-2 and Part-3.

About the author
S S RanganathanMr. S.S. Ranganathan, author of this series of guest posts, is a retired senior executive of Ion Exchange and currently a freelance Water Management Consultant based in Bangalore. His blog at “India Water Portal” explains the work he does in detail. He can be reached at +91-93437-34229.

This article aims at providing information for benefit of ApnaComplex customers and blog readers. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely of Mr. S. S. Ranganathan and NOT of ApnaComplex or its representatives. We suggest to post your queries or comments below and Mr. Rangathan can answer them at his convenience.
  1. KJ

    Interesting. Though not denying the larger issue of water getting scarcer (and the short term implications), think the author is relying on linear extrapolation. If I was a betting man this is what I think will happen (of course my view and very subject to corrections):
    – Once the water problem becomes a crisis the govt / politicians will get off their ass and be forced to act & hasten steps to improve water supply (Cauvery Phase IV, diverting more water from other places, community RWH/ recharge, TBD etc.)
    – In the short term there will be shortage, rationing, tempers, fights, black market.
    – Tanker water mafia’s greed will increase rates to unsustainable levels forcing people making alternate measure like RWH, ground water recharge economically feasible (for which they see no need / economic feasibility at the present cost / availability). This will happens whether the govt mandates or not though govt orders can hasten the process.
    – Obviously, we will all learn to live with less water per capita.
    – And the absolute worst case we will have reverse migration back to the US, Europe 🙂

    It is not going to be smooth. There will be tempers, greed, mafia, political pressures, political maneuver to topple govts etc no different from any crisis we see for supply of constrained goods. Remember the whole middle east region lives on created water / small quantities. And much larger cities with far less natural water availability like Chennai have managed far better. What we are encountering is the short term consequences of govt inaction.

    The articles seem to project dooms day thinking linearly without realizing that the system will be locally out of equilibrium in the short term but in the long term it will be settle to the regional equilibrium state.