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Corporate water wisdom: A video on how a large company can become water wise

How does a corporate resolve its water issues? Issues not just pertaining to adequate water for its large staff, but also the long term sustainability of this replenishable but finite source.

Shubha Ramachandran, a Water Sustainability Consultant at Biome Environmental Solutions, and Madhu Menon , the Chief Finance and Administrative Officer of Tesco-Hindustan Service Centre, talk to Lakshmi about the challenges in managing water as a resource in the corporate world and discuss how a large corporate can become water wise.

A talk on how corporates can be more water wise (Source of video:chaiwithlakshmi

Shubha speaks on how water management is carried out in large corporate setups. She begins by explaining that most of the corporates have offices usually in the periphery of the towns, where usually no city based water supply is present. Hence water dependency is on private water suppliers, the water tankers or through individual borewells that tap groundwater.

The water needs at corporates is usually more domestic in nature. Certain corporate buildings use 160l of water of a total consumption of 400 kl daily demand for merely for cooling towers. She emphasises that the major criterion is how to reduce water consumption? In this instance it could be a choice between a water or an air cooling system, and even a reconsideration of how much cooling is actually required?

The second issue is how employees perceive water in their daily work, are they connected enough to drive down consumption. It is mandatory for corporates to treat water and reuse it in the campus, which is utilised for flushing and gardening, both limiting in nature. Hence what is required further is to find out if this treated water can be used for recharging the groundwater, or sent out the campus for reuse and application or even to conceive a system through which this water could be discharged into the local water body.

Madhu discusses some enterprising ideas that TESCO has initiated in their Bangalore office to reduce water consumption and boost up their recycling chain. They have an aerobic sewage treatment plant ( STP) in the campus that recycles their waste water for landscaping and domestic use. In addition they have added initiatives like smart gadgets that control flow of tapwater, a water harvesting system using existing storm water drains, and constructing storage tanks and recharge pits, close to the borewells. As the lawns guzzle up about half of the water required for landscaping, they are looking at the option of replacing existing flora with a less thirsty, native species.

These initiatives have a far reaching effect, both in terms of the water reduction and the message taken home by each employee. Shubha reiteriates the importance of rainwater harvesting for replenishing the groundwater table. The need is to understand that groundwater is simply not a sump under the surface but a complex entity. The way forward is to involve all the stakeholders, both the community and the corporate, to bring about a wider perspective to manage and understand existing aquifers.

For sustainable water management a deeper understanding of water sources, awareness of water consumption, and engagement of all stakeholders both in the corporate circle and outside it, is imperative to become a little bit more water wise.

This video is sponsored by Arghyam in partnership with India Water Portal, is a part of the ongoing campaign 'Catch Every Drop', aimed at harvesting, reusing and conserving water in Bangalore.

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'Catch Every Drop': An initiative to harvest, reuse and conserve water in Bangalore

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Biomimicry: Nature inspired innovations in buildings & processes for a sustainable living

Biomimicry is a science that studies nature’s models, imitates or takes inspiration from them and shapes designs and processes that help reduce source depletion.

Learning from nature, a master craftsmen, that has been evolving for millions of years, we can create efficient, living buildings, learn to use sunlight and recycle energy, reduce pollution and be in tune with our environment!


Biomimicry

From the Greek bios, life, and mimesis, imitation comes the word-biomimicry ( Image courtesy:  inhabitat.com )

By looking upon nature as a role model, a sustainable measure and a mentor, we can reshape our thinking, and find innovative answers to many problems. By valuing nature’s models and imitating them; designers today are beginning to shape buildings and design unconventional processes.

Nature has very specific ways for dealing with conservation during times of scarcity. Grass becomes dormant during droughts, birds conserve food. Animals and plants too have an intrinsic ability to monitor and self-regulate. Thinkers today are regrouping to find a way to learn and adapt from these natural phenomenon around them.

Water being a finite source, a biomimetic approach for encouraging responsible water usage can have a major impact. In urban water consumption nature can inspire relevant, everyday solutions for city inhabitants to conserve water. A New York-based team ‘Smart Design’ took up the IBM Biomimicry challenge and worked on this concept and come up with suggestions for water conservation, inspired from ecosystems.

How sensitivity to water consumption & conservation can be enhanced: IBM Biometric challenge ( Source: vimeo.com)

They created the Heartbeat Faucet, which provides feedback by pulsing after dispensing water. This metered pulse allows users to see and feel how much water they are using each time they turn on the faucet, informing everyone in the household about their behaviour. They also developed a program that would track the building's water and give a community reward, if water consumption came in below a set target.

Another nature inspired idea was the creation of MicroParks, tiny greenspaces throughout the city. The' MicroParks' water feed could be manipulated to reflect the cities future water supply--a lush MicroPark communicated a healthy water supply and a withering MicroPark let residents know that conservation is critical. These miniature green spaces act in a similar manner to rivers and streams , where one could see the physical condition of the water sources and connect with it, making behavior-changing connections in a positive way.

Buildings too need to be a living organism, where all systems are interconnected for maximum efficiency and minimum environmental impact. It should be compatible with the natural surroundings, harvest its water and energy needs on site, operate pollution free, be locally relevant and generate any waste that cannot be reused in the immediate environment.

Qatars cactus building

Energy efficient catus inspired building in Qatar ( Courtesy: inhabitat.com)

In Qatar a new office building takes the form of a towering cactus, designed to be energy efficient and utilizing sun shades on its windows. Depending on the intensity of the sun during the day, the sun shades can open or close to keep out the heat. This is similar to how a cactus chooses to perform transpiration at night rather during the day in order to retain water – another great example of biomimicry.

Termite inspired building

Termite inspired office in Harare, Zimbabwe, with no air conditioning ( Courtesy: inhabitat.com)

Another wonderful example is a mid-rise building in Harare, Zimbabwe that has no air-conditioning, yet stays cool thanks to a termite-inspired ventilation system. It is modelled on the self-cooling mounds termites that maintain the temperature inside their nest to within one degree of 31 °C, day and night, while the external temperature varies between 3 °C and 42 °C. The building uses only 10 percent of the energy of a conventional building its size, and has saved 3.5 million in air conditioning costs in the first five years.

The more our world functions like the natural world, and we apply designs inspired from nature, the more likely we are to solve man made problems in a sustainable manner.

For more information on Biomimicry

What is Biomimicry? Click here

An example of application of Biomimicry, click here 

A book on Biomimicry in Architecture, click here

 Biomimetic Architecture, click here

Papers on biomimicry, click here and here

How to grow food on your roof ?: Video interview with Dr Vishwanath Kadur, an expert on terrace gardens

Do you crave for home grown, pesticide free, healthy greens on your plate? Does lack of land stop you from soiling your hands and farming your meals?

Read on and learn to grow food on your terrace itself !


Interview with Dr Vishwanath Kadur, a terrace garden expert ( Source of video: Getta India)

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A resource book on waterless urinals, an ecological sanitation method that saves water, energy and uses urine as a resource

Waterless Urinal

Waterless urinals (WLU) save water, energy and use urine as resource ( Image courtesy: R Sakthivel)

This resource book is a guide on ‘waterless urinals’ (WLU), that will assist individuals, builders, engineers, architects, and policy makers in promoting them. It presents the benefits of harvesting urine for reuse through waterless urinals and urine diverting toilets.

Schematic Drawing

Schematic drawing showing functioning of conventional and waterless urinals 

This ecological sanitation method does not require water for flushing, thus saving between 56,800 litres to 1, 70,000 litres of water per urinal per year. It includes the following sections:

Advantages of waterless urinals and reuse of urine

  • Saves enormous quantities of freshwater
  • Enhances efficiencies of sewer lines and wastewater treatment plants
  • Optimizes cost of plumbing accessories at supply & consumption ends
  • Conserves electricity used for pumping water & treating wastewater
  • Replaces chemical fertilizers with urine to grow crops
  • Produces fertiliser & other chemicals from urine (industrial feedstock)
  • Recovers hydrogen for producing energy and fuel
  • Reduces emission of green house gases and pollution of water bodies

Functioning

Water is employed to control odour in the conventional urinals whereas waterless urinals utilise odour control mechanisms like sealant liquid or membrane traps and biological blocks. A comparative analysis of popular odour traps with regard to cost, maintenance, replacement and clogging frequency is given in a tabular form. Steps for installation of these WLU ,storage and maintenance details are elaborated in the guide book.

Innovative urinal designs

The following innovative urinal designs can be promoted as per the feasibility and budget available:

  • Waterless Public Urinal Kiosk (WPUK): A stand‐alone concrete reinforced pre‐fabricated urinal kiosk which can be installed in public places and institutions. These are cheap and robust
Green urinal
Green waterless urinal at IIT Delhi, diverts collected urine to nearby plants ( Image courtesy: R Sakthivel)
  • Green Waterless Urinal (GWU): A low‐cost onsite urine application model suitable for sites where adequate space is available and the number of users are limited. Urine collected is diverted to a plant bed of Canna Indica and Ficus planted around the urinal.
Eco Liliy
Eco-Lily, a self constructed urinal used in rural areas in Africa (Image source: GTZ)
  • Self Constructed Urinal: A simple option of creating waterless urinals in rural areas. “Eco‐lily” is one such model promoted in some parts of Africa

Urine diverting toilets

These facilitate separation of urine from faeces and wash‐water and its advantages are as follow:

  • harvesting of nutrients present in urine and faeces
  • saving of water used for flushing
  • saving of energy required for water and waste water treatment
  • minimising ground water pollution

Urine harvesting for agriculture

Urine harvested by constructing waterless urinals and urine diverting toilets can be utilised as a resource in agriculture depending on the quantity produced and the quality. However precautions need to be taken while using urine as a fertilizer.

Preparation of Struvite

Manually operated reactor for recovery of struvite (Image source: EAWAG)

Some of the methods used are direct application, deep Injection, drip irrigation, struvite (a fertiliser in solid form, obtained by adding magnesium chloride to urine) and composting (urine can be added to compost to enrich its nutrient values and also for quickening the composting process).

Challenges and the way forward

  • Institutions and public places: Installation of waterless urinals should be made mandatory for institutions and public places.
  • Building code for houses: Installation of waterless urinals as an integral component of toilets in individual houses should be made mandatory for large houses with several toilets
  • Female urinals: Innovative designs of waterless urinal designs are yet to be developed for meeting the requirements of female population.
  • Industrial application of urine: Apart from the use of urine in agriculture, industrial applications using human urine need to be developed to utilise the urine harvested by installing waterless urinals
  • Awareness: Awareness among builders, engineers, architects, town planners and policy makers is essential to promote waterless urinals on a large scale. Efforts to popularise the concept can result in large scale replication of waterless urinals across the country.
  • Maintenance: Undertaking proper maintenance routines of waterless urinals installed is essential for ensuring their effective functioning
For the complete resource book on waterless urinals, click here.
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Wastewater irrigation in Hubli–Dharwad, Karnataka, enables farmers to diversify their cropping practices - A paper in the Environment and Urbanisation Journal

Farmers utilise the permanent streams of sewage-contaminated wastewater emanating from the twin city of Hubli–Dharwad to their advantage. This paper considers the effects of the availability of this perennial water resource and its effects upon livelihood practices of farmers and the implications for health.

This paper 'Wastewater irrigation in Hubli–Dharwad, India: Implications for health and livelihoods' is divided into the following sections:

Introduction

The area where the study was conducted, its rainfall pattern, climate, the physical characteristics, soil conditions and location of water courses are presented in this section.

Methodology

Surveys were conducted at intervals between 1997 and 2001, and in 2001, fieldwork was expanded to a transect-based study.

Wastewater-irrigated agriculture

  • Main cropping patterns : The 3 distinct cropping systems of vegetable production, field crops with vegetables, and agroforestry along with their spatial distribution is detailed here.
  • Irrigation methods :The method used consists of an overland flow and furrow irrigation system using a centrifugal pump along with some form of filtration.
  • Wastewater properties : Research showed that for many plant nutrient ions, concentrations in wastewater was similar to those from borehole water, with the exception of total suspended solids (TSS) and its associated biological oxygen demand (BOD ). Presence of heavy metals was below the permissible limits.
  • Vegetable production: A distinct feature of this system is the year-round production of vegetables for sale and the absence of a fallow period, requiring considerably higher labour input, as there is a problematic increase in the incidence of weeds and pests.
  • Field crops with vegetables: Larger farms have more land devoted to field crops, as vegetable production requires greater labour inputs. Nature of the cropping patterns changed at increased distance from Dharwad.
  • Agroforestry: In the peri-urban villages all farmers bordering the nalla engaged in wastewater-irrigated agroforestry.
  • Fodder production: A dairy farmer irrigated land for fodder production, alternating wastewater with borehole water on a daily basis, producing an impressive two-fold increase in milk yield.

Discussion

Health issues: Some of the major concerns are

  • Wastewater laden with faecal bacteria exposes the farmer to the risk of dysentery or cholera
  • Due to nutritional deficiency and worm infestation anaemia was common
  • Crop samples taken from a ridge were bacterially contaminated by the wastewater flowing in the furrow
  • Due to intensive use of pesticides, cumulative effect of organophosphate pesticide poisoning rises
  • Farmers have reported presence of disposable needles and syringes in the wastewater

Gender implications of wastewater irrigation

  • Due to the high nutrient loading from wastewater, there is great increase in the incidence of weeds leading to higher labour inputs
  • Higher percentage of women labourers are hired due to cheaper rates
  • Working full day in the fields increases women’s exposure to the hazards of wastewater
  • Food preparation and cooking by these women, increases the risk of pathogen transfer to other family members

Management of irrigation with wastewater

  • Outright banning of wastewater irrigation would be neither practical nor feasible
  •  The economic implications of such a measure too would be vast and affect the farmers in this area

Conclusion

For public health and environmental risks to be mitigated without threatening the livelihoods of poor farmers the following steps may be undertaken:

  • Involving non-governmental organizations in mobilizing the farming community into self-help groups to facilitate learning in sustainable agricultural practices
  • A village-based extension approach to suit safer and more sustainable farming practices
  • Public health benefits could be enhanced through public education aimed at raising awareness of disease prevention
Download the paper here.
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Video: ‘Water futures - It’s everyone’s business’: A talk by Rohini Nilekani

Bhogilal Leherchand Institute of Indology was started to sponsor and promote research in indology and aspects of Indian culture. It organises a highly prestigious yearly event, the Bhogilal Leherchand Memorial Lectures ,  calling on people of eminence to speak on variant topics highlighting the institutes moral vibrancy and intellectual reach.Read More

Sustainable resources management for food security and sustainable livelihoods - Action – A newsletter of AFPRO – Volume 2, Issue 3 of October 2011

Action for Food Production (AFPRO) newsletter - Volume 2, Issue 3 of October 2011, focuses on wider promotion of location-specific-low-cost technologies for better management of natural resources, such as soil and water conservation measures, integrated farming, diversion based irrigation systems, sustainable agriculture, tree-based farming to name a few.

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Sustainable resources management for food security and sustainable livelihoods - Action – A newsletter of AFPRO – Volume 2, Issue 3 of October 2011765.18 KB
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"Idol immersion without pollution" - A citizens' group initiative that is instrumental in reviving a dying lake attempts to protect it with innovative methods

Guest post by: Usha Rajagopalan

"How a citizens' group that is instrumental in reviving a dying lake in an urban locality attempts to protect it with innovative methods that are effective yet sensitive to people's genuine needs and beliefs. PNLIT believes that an inclusive problem solving approach will encourage public participation which is the key to sustaining not just the Puttenahalli lake but all water bodies." 

Spot bill duck

Photo credit: Sujesh S

As caretakers of the Puttenahalli Lake in J.P. Nagar 7th Phase, a festival like Ganesh Chaturthi sends a shiver down our backs. Our Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust is the first citizens' group to sign an MOU with the BBMP to maintain a lake and we do take our assignment rather seriously. About two months before Ganesh Chaturthi, we began worrying about how we were going to prevent people from immersing their idols in the lake. What if the chemicals kill the fish? Only now we have been able to partially control sewage water from entering the water. Won't the flowers, the plantain leaves, the plastic cover and of course, the painted idol undo all the good work?

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