For decades, rural areas have benefited from development agencies installing water pumps to tap bore water for drinking. However, this holds the risk of contamination. The ICRISAT Development Center is piloting a self-sustaining model for filtered drinking water at Kothapally village in India.
The pilot project involves a community-dug borewell with a pump to take the water to a reverse osmosis and sterilization machine. The village is expected to cover the costs of maintenance and hiring an operator by the sale of water to the villagers at ₹ 5 (7.5 US cents) for 20 liters. The water purification plant currently runs off the power grid but the future plan is to have it run on solar energy.
Earlier, women in the village used to walk 2-3 kms to fetch drinking water from an agricultural borewell from January till July. Through the watershed work that the ICRISAT-led consortium undertook in Kothapally, the village was able to access drinking water within the village due to increased water availability all through the year. Although set up especially for drinking purposes, this was a component in the watershed development work as it needed to integrate with the water needs of the farm and ensure there was enough water recharge. As the village has progressed with the many agricultural and related livelihood options, villagers can now afford to dig a new and deeper bore well along with more sophisticated water treatment, to produce safe drinking water.
Wastewater treatment plants
Similarly, through the India-EU project on Water for Crops (W4C) supported by the Department of Biotechnology, IDC has established decentralized domestic wastewater treatment plants using constructed wetlands in this watershed. Through this facility, wastewater is treated and made safe for agricultural use.
This pilot could be critical for the future in providing clean drinking water in rural areas. Untreated bore water commonly has natural contaminants and sometimes agricultural chemicals seep into the water.
Nitrates are one example of agricultural runoffs that are particularly dangerous for unborn babies and children. Such a pilot initiative for integrated water management addresses the multiple issues of health, drinking water as well as improving livelihoods.
The pilot was launched by Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, on 4 September, amidst the village community.