Bhaskar Bhattar, Director, Vexl Environ Projects Pvt Ltd
Water is rarely given the required attention in our country except when we face a drought situation. Bhaskar Bhattar, a water consultant, shares his views on the management of this critical commodity.
Tell us something about water which is generally not known to its users....
Water is a limited resource. Per capita availability of water is reducing at an alarming rate as the population is increasing and we humans are polluting our fresh /good water resources. Irrigation takes consumes over 90 per cent of the available water; water for human consumption is about 3-4 per cent and 5-6 per cent is the industrial water requirement. The water availability should be in excess of 2,000 cum/capita/annum for a province to be called a water-safe province. In India, at most places, we are in the range of 900-1,200 cum/capita/annum and are thus in a severe water scare province. Water efficiency has to be increased i.e., yield per drop of water has to be increased in all sectors and that is the only way ahead.
Almost 71 per cent of Earth is covered with water. The oceans hold about 96.5 per cent of all Earth´s water. Water also exists in the air in the form of vapour, in rivers and lakes, in icecaps and glaciers, in the ground as soil moisture and in aquifers, and even in our body. So we all have a misconception over why water is a scarce resource, when it is present in ample amount.
Around 97 per cent of the water on Earth is saltwater, which cannot be consumed directly without processing and only 3 per cent is fresh water; slightly over two-thirds of this is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps. Only 0.3 per cent is available to us as surface water, which can be consumed directly. So considering this percentage, water becomes scarce though we have plenty of water on Earth.
Over 1.5 billion people do not have access to clean, safe water. Almost 4 million people die each year from water-related diseases.
What has been the general approach of our people towards water as a natural resource?
Natural resources again are limited resources and have to be used in an appropriate manner. Not only that, we cannot discharge or throw anything and everything into our water bodies. This could lead to their damage, making them unfit for human and other usage. We should protect our natural resources and also use them meaningfully. There are two major factors which give rivers their unique ability for holy water.
1. The presence of bacteriophages which gives the water its anti-bacterial nature. 2. An unusual ability to retain dissolved oxygen from the atmosphere.
Due to these two technical reasons, the water of the Ganges river is considered to be holy water. Further, every water body has self-cleansing properties. If any de-gradable pollutant is added to the water body, river, stream or lake, etc., the same will get decomposed over a period of time. The other aspect is the dilution owing to a large quantum of water, if available. In case the pollution load on the water bodies exceeds their self sustainable levels, the water bodies get polluted. If you observe, clean water bodies are getting contaminated owing to uncontrolled discharge of pollutants.
Water is potable for weeks or months as long as it hasn´t been polluted by external sources like dirty fingers/hand or spit which is full of bacteria.
Very few pathogenic bacteria can survive in clean water. After a while they will simply die out, so stored water is safe.
What is water audit? How is it carried out?
A water audit is an accounting procedure. The purpose of a water audit is to accurately determine the amount of unaccounted water in a water distribution system.
Reasons for carrying out a water audit:
1. Understanding the water distribution process
2. Installing water meters for measurement of actual water consumed
3. Preparing water balance
4. Accounting for water losses
5. Taking steps to rectify the leakages
6. Verifying the water balance.
Water audits of residential and industrial areas are carried out differently, but the concept behind it is the same.
What is the concept of being ´water positive´?
The basic concept of being water positive is using water efficiently and reducing water consumption, focussing on water conservation and recycling more and more water, and making rainwater harvesting mandatory for all citizens.
For instance, if a cement plants uses ´X´ cum/day of raw water (from any available source like rivers, mines, municipal, etc.,) and shows that it is reusing treated wastewater of ´A´ quantity and recharging rainwater of ´B´ quantity, these two (A+B) are more than the water that they use (X) and they are thus water positive. The plant also concentrates on most optimal use of ´X´.
What are the highlights of the audit you carry out at cement plants in general?
How sensitive is the cement industry about using water? Can you give some examples?
The cement industry is not a water-intensive industry as dry cement technology is used worldwide for manufacturing of cement. Water is used only in cooling towers for cooling of gearboxes and sprinkling on hot clinker for temperature reduction. Practically, for the cement industry, production is the prime focus of the plants, but water and wastewater issues become sensitive only when they directly affect production or legal compliances. Things are mostly attended to at the breakdown stages which leads to improper implementation and heavy investments which otherwise can be optimised by correct designing.
Is there any data available on how much of water is used by a million tonne cement plant?
Water is consumed in manufacturing of cement as per the approximate figures given below, based on a study done on life-cycle of cement:
Tell us something on recycling of water. How important is it for us?
Water recycling is reusing treated wastewater for beneficial purposes such as agricultural irrigation, industrial processes, toilet flushing, and replenishing a ground water basin.
Recycling of water directly saves this natural resource and is very beneficial as polluted water can be again used and fresh water is saved for future use, which promotes environment sustainability.
How do we sensitise people on the subject of water?
The following measures can be taken: