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By Abhishek Dutta

Introduction

A Water Safety Plan (WSP) is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a comprehensive risk assessment and risk management approach that encompasses all steps in water supply from catchment to consumer” to ensure safe drinkingwater.

It is described in the WHO’s Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality (GDWQ) as the “most effective means of consistently ensuring the safety of drinking water supply.” It is implemented as a series of steps that are revisited periodically.

Objective

The objective of promoting WSPs is to broaden the emphasis of water quality management to include operations and management of water supplies.

WSPs are locally tailored to respond to factors such as:

  • Estimated contamination levels and risks for a specific system,
  • Expectations of investors and clients,
  • Willingness or ability to recover costs from the community, and
  • Expectations of water quality standards including health and, possibly, acceptability aspects.

Brutal Truth About Present Water Supply System in Terms of Water Safety & Security

Safety
Looking at the urban water supply system, India has such ULBs (Union Local Bodies) where water supply is generally for on average 6-8 hrs/day basis.This means we are in a country of intermittent supply. Now, we know that in any intermittent supply,quality is of course compromised. In most of the cases, water supply networks and sewer networks are laid in the same alignment.As a result, when any leakage occurs in the water network pipelineduring supply hours, water is lost through leaks, and during non-supply hours, the contaminated water/ sewer water enters in the pipeline from that particular leakage and gets stagnant. And when the supply startsagain, the treated water gets mixed up with the contaminated water and reachesat the customer’s end.

Now, we can identify two problems on a single platform:

  • Age old pipelines and infrastructure,
  • Insufficient water to deliver on a 24×7 basis to encounter the above-mentioned problem.

Which option should be used then?

24×7 water supply, on one hand, indeed provides a beneficial water service to the consumers, but on the other hand, it causes more water loss (man-made + leakage originated) than intermittent supply. And we are not in a position to waste the water but need to save water for the future and use the exactquantity which we required for our livelihood.

Hence, I must say, we should explore the other option, i.e.,“age-old pipeline and infrastructure”. I think, in the urban water supply system, apart from daily monitoring of water quality in the distribution system and treatment plants, if we donot initiate to improve the underground infrastructure, i.e.:

  • Replacing pipeline networks,
  • Pressure management tools,
  • Schedule an active leak detection problem,
  • GIS mapping and integrate quality management system with it, and
  • Segregation of small water-pockets/zones/ boundaries/ DMAs and so on – to control water loss and detect unreported leaks as soon as possible, etc.

Any water supply system has to compromise its water quality at the consumer’s end – mainly due to unequal water supply system.

I am glad to see that India is gradually being conscious about upgrading its water infrastructure to improve the water supply system, but the velocity of moving should be a little high in a hugely populated country like India.

Security
Indian citizens still don’t have sufficient awareness about usingthe treated water in a proper way. ULBs should educate local public about the ‘use of water’, and ‘ways to save water at home’. Generally, we compare even serious natural resources like water, petrol, etc. with our ability to buy it. Whereas, we must realize that we should use it gently and save it for the future. Because that day is not far when we are going to have serious issues on the treated water in India.

Groundwater

India is a groundwater economy. At 260 cubic km per year, our country is the highest user of groundwater in the world – we use 25 percent of all groundwater extracted globally, ahead of the USA and China.

When we think of water, however, our brains have been programmed to think of large dams and rivers, and not wells. This, despite the fact that India has at least four crore irrigation wells and millions of farmers who use well water in agriculture.

India was not the highest extractor of groundwater in the 1960s and 70s,but the “Green Revolution” changed that. At the time of our independence (1947), the share of groundwater in agriculture was 35 percent, whereas today it is a startling 70 percent.

Adoption

The management of water safety through WSPs (or equivalent) is increasingly being formalized globally as an obligation or through strongly promoted good practices for urban water supplies. In a recent WSP implementation progress report, it was noted that “92 countries, representing every region of the world, have implemented WSPs or equivalent risk assessment and risk management approaches.”

Influence of WSP

Direct Influence

  • Drinking-water infrastructure projects, such as water reticulation networks or water treatment plants.
    Water resources infrastructure projects, of which one of the intended beneficial uses is subsequent drinking-water supply.

Indirect Influence

  • Projects that draw water from drinking-water sources (dams, weirs, reservoirs, and rivers), or add water to drinking-water sources, and as a result change the flow of rivers or the level of water in water storages (such as agricultural use, and irrigation).
  • Projects that either pollute or clean up drinking-water sources, such as environmental remediation projects or infrastructure investments relating to mining or industry.
  • Projects that provide basic infrastructure that, in turn, facilitate improvements in water supply and quality, such as power infrastructure investments.

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