Bengaluru has empowered residents to record groundwater usage and water waste through a Participatory Aquifer Mapping Project. Community groups use crowdsourcing platforms to share information with experts, and work together to create and develop solutions to reduce their water use and identify new water sources. In a pilot project, the approach helped one community transition from a near-drought scenario to selling 25,000 litres of water per day.
Results & Impact
Although the project is yet to publish definitive results, one neighborhood, Rainbow Drive, has yielded encouraging indicators of future success. Water use in the 200 home neighbourhood was reduced from 250 to 150 litres per person per day, more than 350 recharge wells were dug, and what was close to becoming a dry neighbourhood now sustainably generates excess water, even selling off a surplus of 25,000 litres of recycled wastewater per day
Wipro Technologies, Biome Environmental Trust, Mapunity, Advanced Center for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM), Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), Department of Mines and Geology (DMG), Geological Society of India (GSI), Karanataka State Remote Sensing Authority (KSRSAC), Resident Organisations, schools, slum communities, individual residents
Local businesses, residents, schools and slum communities use shared online platforms and face-to-face collaborations with experts to record their rainwater usage, document water sources and identify new groundwater resources. The information is shared with well diggers, water-quality testing labs and plumbers to develop localised sustainable solutions, combining techniques like rainwater harvesting and wastewater recycling, tariffs on water use, and recharge wells. In doing so, the collaborative effort develops tailored solutions to water challenges as well as raising awareness and encouraging active participation among ordinary people
Cost & Value
Rainbow Drive households each paid 25,000 Rs ($366) to dig recharge wells and now collectively sell 25,000 litres outside the neighbourhood for $75 every day. According to Wipro Technologies’ estimate, the Participatory Aquifer Mapping project has generated nearly $40,000 in natural capital for the year 2014-15
Formally running since 2015
Engagement in water monitoring and reduction can be difficult to sustain for ordinary people especially when participating demands significant time and money, but demonstrating a clear benefit and establishing champions within communities had made continuation of the project possible
Participatory groundwater mapping is underway in 70 villages across rural India, with support from the Arghyam Foundation, and groundwater mapping projects are in development in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Andhara Pradesh with the cooperation of local communities
A crowdsourced information gathering project that enlists residents to monitor water use and drilling is tackling scarcity and overconsumption in Bengaluru, India.
The Participatory Aquifer Mapping Project has enlisted the cooperation of residents, local businesses, schools and community groups, linking them with service providers and environmental organisations through online platforms and rainwater clubs. The information gathered has helped establish sustainable water supplies and the project has been so successful that neighbourhoods once facing drought are selling excess water harvested from their wells.
Resources in Bengaluru are today being pushed to their limits. The city’s suburbs aren’t served by municipal water supplies and 40% of a population of 11 million depends on self-managed boreholes for their water. That means rampant unregulated groundwater extraction – and the resource being depleted to dangerous levels.
PAQM tackles this with a methodology based on three hypotheses. It uses the participation and knowledge of residents to better inform water management response, and by involving citizens in groundwater monitoring encourages them to regulate their own water use. That behaviour change and involvement, organisers hope, will support government action too.
The project revolves around resident groups who collect and share information about boreholes and water use in their area using mapping tools and online forums including Facebook and Google groups. Expert organisations then use the information to work with residents in developing real-world, tailored solutions to their water needs.
“We did a lot of communication and they started to see the benefits themselves. This was a community that used to flood when it rained, and as they started digging the recharge wells the flooding stopped,” Shubha Ramachandran of Biome, the environmental trust that co-manages the project, said. “They saw they had a problem, that the wells were drying up. And over a period of time there were a few champions in the community that wanted to take it forward themselves.”
Funding for the project comes from WiPro, a technology company that backed the project as part of its commitment to sustainability in areas where many of its workers live. Biome brings expertise in rainwater harvesting, and Mapunity provides mapping tools for residents to record their observations.
One of the communities benefiting from the programme is Rainbow Drive, a community of some 200 homes. Once, the promise of unregulated, unmetered water access was an attraction here, but 15 years ago residents realised that the groundwater they were mining wouldn’t last forever. In response they set up a residents association to educate and raise awareness, and with the help of Biome began recording water use and acting on their findings. Rainwater harvesting is now carried out in every house in the neighbourhood, more than 350 recharge wells have been dug, and a phytorid waste water plant has been established. Water consumption has reduced from 250 litres per person per day to 150, and neither flooding nor shortages are a problem – in fact, water is so plentiful that residents are selling it on to farmers based nearby.
“They realised that the supply change is not going to be enough, that they had to keep the demand low too. So they started investing in meters, looking at wastewater,” Ramachandran said. “While Biome as an organisation stayed with them, a lot of the initiatives they were able to drive internally themselves… Just reaching out the them made them know about the project and curious to find out more.”
While the participatory mapping project was only formally founded in 2015, it scales the extensive experience of Rainbow Drive, creating sharing software and developing solutions across the 34 km2 Yamalur watershed in Bengaluru. With groundwater providing 48% of India’s urban water supply, there’s plenty of opportunity to extend the project across the country, too.