jal vayu tower banglore

Rain Water Harvesting at Jal Vayu Towers Bangalore by Joseph Thomas

 

Foreword

1997. I retired from the Army, and took up an assignment with Ashok Leyland. I was located at Hosur (TN), which is in effect a suburb of Bangalore. For those who may not know, Hosur was a village with a population of just over 10,000 in 1962. The Tamil Nadu government decided to develop it as an industrial town. It drew technical manpower from Bangalore and very soon several industrial units came up. The population grew at a rapid pace and within 30 years it had increased by a factor of eight. By the time I joined housing colonies were coming up like mushrooms and the real estate business was thriving. However, the town planners had not catered for water. My own establishment had enough area for horticulture and the soil was rich and fertile. For water we had to depend on tankers, but since the quality was poor I had to procure several cases of bottled water from Bangalore for drinking and cooking. Soon I discovered that the money which we were spending on water exceeded our electricity bill, and it became a cause of concern.

When the monsoon set in, we received heavy showers and I saw the rain water creating a nuisance all around. In a casual discussion I heard about ‘rainwater harvesting’, and I liked the idea. Within the next two years we were able to collect this precious liquid and store it in underground tanks. In the meanwhile, reverse osmosis machines were invented, and we were amongst the first customers for the RO plants. Both these initiatives succeeded and we were able to solve the problem to some extent.

Bangalore is now faced with water crisis. The population is bursting at the seamlines. Water has become a political issue and can assume alarming dimensions. My friend, Joseph Thomas who lives in a multi-storey complex has studied this issue in detail. He has come out with a brilliant solution and the results have already begun to show. At my request, he has summarized his experiences in the form of a paper given below. Thomas was a test pilot in the Indian Air Force, but he is an engineer by nature and instinct. Some of you may recall the papers which he wrote to combat floods in the Kashmir Valley. He had suggested dredging of the river, and his recommendations were implemented.

I am sanguine that ‘Rain Water Harvesting’ will also catch on, and the citizens of the “City of Gardens’ will soon have enough water to quench their thirst and give a new lease of life to the parks.

 

 *

 

 

Rain Water Harvesting at Jal Vayu Towers, Bangalore

 by

Joseph Thomas 

  

Bangalore is situated at an elevation of 3000 feet on the Deccan plateau. Being in the rain shadow area it receives only an average of 905 mm (35.6 in) of rainfall per year.  On average there are 108 days per year with more than 0.1 mm (0.004 in) of rainfall.  The driest weather is in January when an average of 1 mm (0 in) of rainfall occurs. The wettest weather is in September when an average of 244 mm (9.6 in) of rainfall occurs. 

rainfallMonthly rainfall patterns in Bengaluru city during January 2015October 2017

 

Bangalore does not have any major natural perennial source of surface water.  The Arkavathy, a  tributary of the Kaveri is the best it has.  When the population was small, the water it gave was sufficient for Bangalore. But, increasing population and increasing consumption by farmers has left both its reservoirs — Hessarghatta and Thippagondanahalli  — dry almost all the time.  Bangalore figures in BBC’s list of 11 major cities that are likely to run out of water.

banglore lake

Pollution in Bangalore’s lakes is rife

 

The situation is made worse because new housing is going up faster than the city’s water utility can expand and repair the decaying water system.  Rain water harvesting (RWH) is, therefore, essential to the survival of Bangalore.  It has been made compulsory but the public tries to avoid it.

Jal Vayu Towers is no different.  The majority of residents pay lip service to RWH but oppose it in practice.  Some even oppose it fiercely.  They do not realize that rain water is distilled water and the cleanest source of water available in Nature.

The foundation stone for the project was laid in April 2004.  The specifications included rain water harvesting but no details.  The architect, project director and contractor were dragging their feet.  It took a lot of effort to convince Air Force Naval Housing Board (AFNHB) to implement some measures to gainfully utilize rain water.  Very grudgingly, they provided for roof water to be collected and stored in 3 x 20 kL tanks. The plan was for the water to be then pumped into the main drinking water sump. 

After the flats were occupied, the residents did not want to drink the rain water.  They were partially justified because the outflow from washing machines was being added to the rain water.  This could have been rectified but the residents did not want to drink rain water.  Period.

In 2008, the next step was taken when Air Mshl N B  Amaresh was President.  He fully supported RWH.  The two leading RWH organizations of Bangalore — Rainwater Club
( http://www.rainwaterclub.org ) and Farmland Rainwater Harvesting Systems ( http://www.rainyfilters.com/)  — were invited and both of them did studies.  It so happened that they proposed different systems.  Rainwater Club proposed charging of rainwater into wells of 30 feet depth.  Farmland proposed direct recharging of our bore wells.

Both solutions were expensive and so we thought of creating a shallow depression which would collect rain water and let it soak into the ground.  A sunken garden was possible. 

However, there was strong opposition to the scheme on the grounds that it was an “eyesore.”  When the managing committee changed, there was a  move to fill it up altogether.  Finally, a compromise was made whereby it was half filled with gravel and sand.  It eventually became a Children’s Park.  It doubles as a soak pit for rain water but its capacity  is far below the requirement.  Hence, it overflows even during a moderate rain.

 children park

The Children’s Park cum Rain Water Harvesting Pit 

 

By 2009 we had a serious water crisis.  The city water supply was disrupted and the three bore wells we inherited from the builder proved insufficient.   We were forced to buy 70 tankers of water just in one day.

We engaged a water diviner prior to digging new bore wells.  The water diviner found a line of suitable points —  children’s park, BB court, main lawn.  This meant that there is probably an underground aquifer along that line.  When extended, it probably goes to the borewell near Block 3.

The water diviner was exceptionally good.  We dug in 3 out of 4 places recommended by him and found water in all 3.  The 4th spot is in the main lawn.

rain harvesting pit

The next improvement was to add to the capacity of the AFNHB built underground storage tanks.  Two additional tanks of 20 kL were built.  Part of the rain falling on the roof of the Community Centre was also captured and sent to one of these tanks.

Certain other measures were taken.  Some water from a storm water drain was channeled into a shallow well.  From there a 2 inches diameter plastic pipe was located underground to a series of such wells.  The small diameter pipe got clogged right in the beginning and the water overflowed into the central storm water drain.  When the management changed, it became possible to stop the wastage of water by building a small bund so as to retain the water in the basket ball court and letting it soak.  However, subsequently, the plastic pipe was cut and the water let out into the drain.  Such are the travails of rain water harvesting. Very few city bred people accept the idea of utilizing rain water.  They want rain water to flow into rivers, then dam it and bring it in pipes to their homes.

Further progress became possible in 2016 when Adm T Ganeshan became the president.  He was in favour of RWH but some residents strongly opposed it.  Fortunately, near the end of his term he bypassed the naysayers and channeled rain water to the central lawn.  He also presided over the digging of a trench of 2 ft x 2 ft just inside the hedge to absorb the rain water and let it soak into the ground.  This proved a great boon during the copious rain that fell in August – October 2017.

 sunken main lawn

The sunken main lawn collects rain water and recharges bore wells.

 

shallow well

 

 shallowpitt

Rain water harvesting in the children’s park and the main lawn probably recharges an aquifer and has resulted in the water table rising by 300 feet, thus reviving 3 dry borewells.  300 feet is beyond our wildest expectations.  It is almost certainly a record in Bangalore.

borewall being tested

borewelllll
 

Borewell being tested after evival

 

borewell 2

Bore well being washed by blowing in compressed air

 

Further Reading

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/record-rainfall-fails-to-push-up-groundwater-table-in-bengaluru/articleshow/61522152.cms

Record rainfall fails to push up groundwater table in Bengaluru

 

Why continuous rain failed to raise groundwater level in Bengaluru

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/why-continuous-rain-failed-to-raise-groundwater-level-in-bengaluru/article20006721.ece

 

 

  1. Mekanapurath Mohandas says:

    Sir, Nice to see your efforts appreciated.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Rajashree Kori says:

    Thanks for sharing the link to the article…it is very enlightening!

    Also, as an owner it is very helpful to know some of JVT history and all the efforts put in by various residents.

    Maybe, one day I can go around JVT with you and get the lay of the land as far as underground tanks are concerned…there seem to be so many!

  3. Dr BV Prabhu says:

    Prabhu B.V.
    Sun, Dec 30, 10:26 PM (14 hours ago)
    to me

    Sir,

    thank you very much for the nice information & the need for rain water harvesting. Remembering your initiative in MDC before anyone thought about it.

    Wishing you & your family too a Very Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year 2019.

    Dr.BV Prabhu& Family

    • Maj Gen Surjit Singh says:

      Prabhu,
      Thanks.
      Do keep us informed about the progress made by your son.
      Regards for Mrs Prabhu. I am sanguine that her practice is helping the people around you. I have more faith in Ayurveda than Allopathy.
      Surjit

  4. Surjit says:

    Sir,
    I must compliment Wg Cdr Thomas on the quality of the pictures. They are eminently good.
    The article is well researched.
    Surjit

  5. BRIGADIER GANGADHARAN PT says:

    Dear Thomas Sir,

    I wish all housing societies all across the country resort to this low cost idea.It should be made compulsory for all future constructions in all places and strictly enforced.Great effort.

    • Joseph Thomas says:

      Thank you sir. Many states have made rain water harvesting compulsory. But implementation varies. Also, far too many projects are designed with a lot of masonry construction which is rarely required.

      More than 150 years ago, our ancestors — who were mostly illiterate — undertook this all over Central Kerala. Probably other areas also. There is no complicated science involved, just a few simple measures.

  6. George Poonen says:

    Thanks for the info. Yes, rainwater harvesting has become quite popular. There are a few Indian companies that have come up with clever and efficient mechanisms for generating water from air – worth looking into

    • J Thomas says:

      Thanks George.

      Generating water from air is a byproduct of air conditioning or
      refrigeration. Water is produced from air when it is cooled below its
      dew point. As a standalone system it is very inefficient, thanks to
      entropy and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. And it does not work when
      humidity is very low.

      Establishments like hotels and hospitals require air conditioning, hot
      water and drinking water. An integrated system where the air
      conditioner heats some water will be very efficient. During humid
      weather, clean water is available as a by product.

      Machines to produce water from air are commercially available. They
      are worthwhile as stand alone systems only where cost is not a
      consideration.

  7. soorkhan says:

    Joseph,

    Feel proud and elated with your vision & proactive achievements. .

    I feel blessed to have known you since your youth.

    Love you

    soorkhan

  8. A great initiative , conceptualised and executed with conviction for social good . The ” way to go ” for all housing societies. In a place like Bangalore , with many bad examples of pollution – Bellandur lake for example – this regenerative process has a special meaning.My congrats to the team who made this possible.
    We have many such initiatives at Secunderabad but not at such scale.!

    • Joseph Thomas says:

      Thanks sir. I was in the Advisory Committee when our project was under construction. The architect and the builders were always anxious to provide for adequate drainage of rainwater and send it outside. I believe it is drilled into them in engineering college. Makes sense in areas of high rainfall like Assam. But, where water is scarce, the first choice should be to utilise the rain water, or at least soak it into the ground.

  9. COLLS says:

    Once I discussed with a MUNICIPAL GUY/politician …Why don’t you make a slip road at PRAGATI MAIDAAN NEW DELHI, to avoid long queues and road blocks and traffic jams to ease congestion
    he said
    Sir
    we know what to do when
    let there be a ”crisis”
    we will then act.

    Well if that be as it may
    you have now come to a WATER crisis
    Hope someone will listen to you.

    But now I stay in Canada …since last 15 years
    AND there is no shortage of
    water— electricity or paper
    yet all wash off with toilet paper

    AND PRAISE LOWER POPULATION

    Start with it till pollution sets in —in south cut trees
    in in the mean time

    make ponds and cemented water tanks
    to arrest RAIN WATER CENTRALLY
    and CANALS and water streams
    arrest the small Qtys of rain water in small quantities in BLRU.. so it seems
    Just make a beginning

    Teach younger kids in schools and newly married young mom’s education
    and in hospitals etc to use TOILET PAPER AND IN HOTELS TISSUE..
    You can even IMPORT it ….

    Oldies may abhor TOILET PAPER .excuse them

    TRY AND PHASE OUT THE CRISIS
    REDUCE POPULATION IN BLRU PLEASE.

    • Joseph Thomas says:

      Thank you sir. Instead of reducing the population in Bangalore, the government keeps on sanctioning new projects. The Bangalore water authority does not provide water for construction. So the builder digs a borewell. In many cases, there is no water even 1500 feet below the surface. In such cases, small projects are built using tanker water. Many large projects have to be abandoned. Yet, more and more buildings are constructed.

      Many residential areas are permanently dependent on tanker water. Such water is dirty and expensive. Rain water is the purest water available in nature. Yet, city-bred people are reluctant to drink it.

      • COLLS says:

        Yes I know
        water was scarce when I was in BLR in 1982 to 1985
        when KORAMANGALAM… If I recall correctly
        was being constructed
        then too there was no water
        I wondered……

        Glad you have applied your mind
        and rain water will be suitably refined
        ASK them to buy bottled drinking water
        My family here does often
        even though I have an installed filtering system
        local water has more sand

        All the best
        my bro in Upper Palace Orchards had also made a water tank
        to lift up water —first floor

        now you must be having at least 14 to 17 floors!!!!!

        Kindness for such an instant reply
        ALL THE BEST

        • Joseph Thomas says:

          Thanks again sir. Yes, there’s a huge business in bottled water. Some of it is good. Some bottled water is merely tap water. It’s better to have a Reverse Osmosis (RO) gadget at home. I’ve been using one for the past 15 years.

          A 20 liter jar of bottled water costs Rs 40 or Rs 2000 per kiloliter. Smaller sizes (5, 2 and 1 liter) are much costlier. People happily pay Rs 2000 / KL for bottled water but complain bitterly about paying Rs 30 / KL for piped water. That piped water costs almost Rs 100 to produce, purify and transport. So there is a major subsidy involved. The subsidy encourages people to waste water.

  10. Dave Sood says:

    In 1976 I became a civilian. I met a couple at the club who had returned from USA. The husband Kanwarjit had done post graduation in Water Management from Stanford University USA. I was wondering where will this lead him to?

    After having many meetings with the Government he decided to chuck up the idea of managing water and joined his father’s large construction company. A well trained mind went to waste.

    We have always taken water for granted and never paid any attention to saving water. On the other hand you go to Rajajsthan Havelis and they have planned water management in each Haveli. Roofs of the Haveli are pristine white and clean. Just before monsoon the roofs and basements are cleaned by crew. All the water goes straight to basement and is used for the house for next six months.

    We have to educate every village and create their ponds once again to fight this battle of water.

    I am happy for Joe to have applied his knowledge in the betterment of society. We have all the knowledge but Government fails us every time.

    • Joseph Thomas says:

      Thanks Dave. I don’t blame the government. Most states have made it compulsory. It is the public that needs to be aware. One reason is that we continue to subsidise water for everyone. It should be subsidised only for the poor. When the subsidy is removed, people will be more aware.

      The second problem is the supply of free power to farmers. Many of them keep their water pump switches on all the time and extract all the ground water that they can. If they utilise the rain water that falls on their farm, it will be better for everyone.

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