Reining in rainwater wastage

10 years on To replenish groundwater level, Delhi Jal Board invites plans for rainwater harvesting.

Struggling with depleting watertable and wasted rainwater, the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has been trying to raise awareness towards the benefits of catching and recycling rainwater for more than a decade. Now, to ensure that its efforts don't get washed down the drain, the water utility is looking for experienced organisations to boost its campaign.

Just before the new year, the board issued an expression of interest, asking applicants to explain how they would rekindle awareness and engagement in rainwater harvesting. Successful contenders will have 12 months to identify 600 areas where rainwater can be harvested and to prepare designs for harvest in these areas. They will also have to check the impact and maintenance of 150 existing schemes.

"There is a prime need to safeguard and replenish Delhi's groundwater level. DJB has been actively promoting rainwater harvesting to preserve Delhi's groundwater reserve," DJB CEO Debashree Mukherjee said.

Rainwater harvesting systems can only be designed and built by professionals because they involve a series of canals and catch basins that funnel filtered water to the ground or store it for later use.

In 2001, DJB had asked building owners to maintain harvesting systems, but officials believe that the effort and other promotions by the government, such as rebates, are being neglected.

Nitya Jacob, programme director of water at the Centre for Science and Environment, has been working with the DJB on harvesting improvements. He said, "We need to make managing rainwater everyone's business."

Jacob said developers build trivial systems to appease the unspecific laws and existing basins, which are not maintained, can potentially contaminate the groundwater.

"At least 160 people have acquired rebates for rainwater harvesting. Applying for a government rebate, however, can take several months and it is a lot of bureaucratic legwork for just 10 per cent or less of the cost," he said.

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