News & Notes 742:A Water Strategy Plan for Auroville

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742 icon.jpg   News & Notes 742
24 March 2018

A Water Strategy Plan for Auroville

The Water Group is drafting an Auroville water plan. As a first step we would like to share a summary of the challenges and options which the entire community will have to take up in order to achieve water security.

A Water Strategy Plan for Auroville

Summary: the aim of an Auroville water plan is to acknowledge the existing water situation, to propose a roadmap for creating water security through a plan of action.

Challenges: Our present water resources management policy is neither coordinated nor has it a future back-up plan when water scarcity would become a reality.

All our fresh water needs are sourced from ground water reserves. Decades of monitoring and scientific studies have provided sufficient knowledge on the lay-out of the underlying aquifers and their ability to provide the community with groundwater.

It is established beyond doubt that the ground water reserves in the Auroville aquifers are declining rapidly: in some places the water levels have dropped more than 30 meters over one decade. Extraction rates are 30 % to 40 % higher than annual water replenishment through infiltration by rain.

This is called over-exploitation of the groundwater sources.

In addition to the problem of declining ground water reserves, there is also the threat of saline water intrusion due to the diminishing fresh water buffer in the coastal areas. Another danger is groundwater pollution through unrestricted dumping of chemicals and other toxic materials.

The message is clear, in the coming years we will not be able to rely exclusively on ground water extraction for daily use and future developments. We have to start with exploring and developing other water sources for guaranteeing a continuous supply.

This exercise is called multisourcing.

Establishing long term water security will require a multisourcing strategy using rainwater, recycled waste water, groundwater, desalinated water and other local available water sources combined with water saving practices.

There is a need to evolve a Water framework plan for Auroville. This will require an ongoing process that, amongst other things:

  • creates an accurate and reliable standardized Base Map representing all topographic physical features now existing on Auroville plateau;
  • considers the population growth patterns;
  • promotes awareness for using water efficiently;
  • considers the outcropping geology for either infiltrating or storing rainwater;
  • initiates pilot projects for storing harvested rain water in various locations;
  • initiates new projects for waste water treatment systems, repairs or decommissions non-functional systems;
  • defines and protects areas were ground water resources are stable and of excellent quality;
  • ensures that groundwater recharge zones are being protected;
  • manages efficiently existent water-related infrastructure, e.g. replacing old or collapsed wells with new ones;
  • initiates infrastructure developments for efficient distribution of fresh water;
  • integrates available new water sources.

First steps towards a multi-sourcing strategy:

  • Identifying natural drainage patterns within the Residential zone, through analysis of topographical data generated by detailed field survey;
  • Adding two new wells for supplementing the water supply to the AWS distribution system;
  • Establishing and running the residential waste water treatment system and treated wastewater storage pond near Mahalakshmi Park;
  • Efficiently managing existing water-related infrastructure, e.g. replacing old or collapsed wells with new ones; replacing old PVC distribution lines with HDPE pipes;
  • Setup of automatic monitoring stations of selected wells water levels;
  • Setup of automatic weather stations in Auroville area;
  • Survey of existing wastewater treatment plants:
  • Publication of all collected data on an open-source internet platform;
  • Addressing water governance through creation of a water users organization;
  • Designing and planning Matrimandir test pond;
  • International Zone planning of DDP (Detailed Development Plan) involving a multi-sourcing water management strategy, a collaboration between L’Avenir and Prof Andrea Cammarata from Milan - Italy.

The Water Group
(Aditi, Christian, Dorle, Giulio, Ing-Marie, Pavneet, Tency, Tom)