Patkhori’s Water Solutions

Water is the engine that drives all other functions. In a village with little water, girls are less likely to go to school, as they must spend time fetching water from far away. Furthermore, over 80% of infectious diseases in India are waterborne. Proper water management is a critical public health and development tool.

Patkhori village is located in the district of Mewat, Haryana, India. The village has 646 households and a population of 4000 (Sehgal Foundation Demographic Survey 2009). The village is fortunate to have underground pockets of fresh water. Only 61 villages out of 503 in Mewat have access to underground fresh water, as saline water is common. Unfortunately, however, the water table in Patkhori is 120 meters below the surface, making it very difficult to access.

The local high school had no access to water, and villagers’ depended on one public water supply outlet. The public water supply depended on an electric pump, but power supply to the village was erratic. Agricultural activities greatly suffered due to a lack of regular water supply. Villages were desperate for water interventions that would improve their dire living circumstances. Sehgal Foundation came to Patkhori village and provided several water infrastructure development interventions.

1. Community Water Tank

A typical day for village women used to involve waking at the crack of dawn in order to rush to the nearest water pump to wait in line. Women carried as many pots to the pump as possible, and prayed to be able to fill three. Often, they had to fight with their neighbors over the limited water supply, and hoped that it did not run out before they got a chance to fill their pots.

The public water supply ran for only a few hours each day, and villagers were lucky if they got an opportunity to collect water. Asgari, a local woman, said, “Electricity is a problem in our village. The power cuts span hours and sometimes even days. This means that we go without water. There have been times when we have queued up in front of the tube well in the wee hours in the hope of drawing water.”

Sehgal Foundation partnered with the local Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) and villagers in order to build a water tank for the village of Patkhori. Meena, an old villager, donated a part of his land for the tank, the PHED donated pipeline, and the Sarpanch (village council head) mobilized the community.

The new water tank has had an enormous impact on the village. Sehgal Foundation’s Water Management Leader, Salahuddin Saiphy, said “Before the tank was established, people used to collect water directly from the tube well. In the process of filling up, fights would ensue, and huge amounts of potable water and power were wasted. This contributed to making the surroundings filthy with dirty water.”

In Patkhori today, women gather in a disciplined line by the community water tank. The tank has a 25,000 litre capacity, and is connected to the original bore well. The tank collects and stores water whenever the power is on. It also has five outlets for villagers to draw water from. Villagers have a more reliable supply of water, and much easier access.

The community tank serves approximately 200 households from Patkhori village and a few neighboring hamlets. The water wastage has been reduced considerably. Women are particularly appreciative of the intervention, as it guarantees water supply round the clock and reduces dependency on erratic electricity “The water tank structure in the neighborhood has made my life much more relaxing. Now, not only do we store drinking water for the whole day, but every member of my family can bathe regularly and wear clean clothes,” said Amroodi, a village woman.

2. Patkhori School Roof Water Harvesting

Collecting water from a long distance is a time-consuming task. Young girls are often expected to take on this responsibility for their families and as a result, do not have time to attend school. According to a WaterAid report, more than 1 out of 5 girls of primary school age are not in school around the world and water fetching is the primary reason.

Patkhori village’s high school underwent several infrastructure developments over the years. This year, it welcomed a water infrastructure improvement. Sehgal Foundation helped provide the school with a custom roof-water harvesting (RWH) system. The system would collect and store rainwater for drinking purposes. Salahuddin Saiphy, Sehgal Foundation’s Water Management Program Leader, said, “The RWH system at Patkhori School is a model project. It comes to the rescue of schools that do not have any water sources at all. When we proposed the project to the school authorities, we found that they were excited and agreed to offer their support.”

Before the RWH system was installed, the school had water delivered to an 8000-litre water tank. Each tank cost Rs. 500-600, but the cleanliness of the water was not confirmed. The tank was open and vulnerable to contamination and bacterial growth, and lacked a filtration system. The water tank was also shared with local farmers, and would often run dry during peak vegetable growing season. This tank did not meet the drinking water requirements of the school. The new RWH system is a great boon to the high school.

Sanjeeda, a grade 10 student, recalls, “A few years back, the high school wasn’t how it is today. Our school didn’t have any water source; there were no separate toilet blocks for girls and boys, and no boundary wall. In the absence of potable water, students used to go back home and not return. Whatever water was stored in the old tank was unclean for drinking. It caused many waterborne diseases and itching, diarrhea, and malaria were not uncommon.” Manoj Kumar, a Hindi teacher at the school, speaks highly of the school’s good academic record and improved attendance since the RWH system was installed.

The RWH unit is equipped with four storage tanks, two on each side of the school. When the units are filled to capacity, the storage tanks collectively hold 1.08 lakh (108,000) litres. This is enough to meet the drinking water requirements of approximately 325 students and teachers for approximately 8 months. Rainwater is collected from an area of 606 sq. miles, with a total rainwater harvesting potential of 3.60 lakh (360,000) litres per year, based on the average annual rainfall of 594 mm. After the monsoon period, the tank can hold enough water to serve students for the rest of the year. The old water tank lasted only a month before it needed refilling.

The new RWH system has several stages of filtration to remove all suspended impurities and it also includes bio-sand filters that remove all bacteriological contamination from the rainwater. Laboratory test results confirm that the water from the RWH unit is fit for drinking.

Today, school children, teachers and villagers take pride in this project. Senior government officials, local governance representatives, and numerous people from surrounding villages have been visiting this project and are keen to replicate it in other schools.

3. Khursheed’s Farm Pond

In semiarid Mewat, availability and quality of water are primary concerns. The district has little rain and an extended hot and dry season. Agriculture is mainly rain-fed, as surface water is sparse and groundwater is mostly saline. The situation is worsening as groundwater is depleting at approximately 25 cm per year and salinity is increasing. This is greatly affecting crop yield. Very few crops can be grown in these conditions, making it harder and harder for villagers in the region to break the vicious circle of poverty.

Most farmers in Mewat grow only one single crop, largely due to the poor quality g of groundwater (almost 60% is brackish). Areas that have fresh groundwater tend to have very deep water tables, which make it very difficult to retrieve the water.

The productivity of field crops (mustard, wheat, and pearl millet), vegetable crops and livestock is considerably low due to limited resources and ineffective resource management. There are, however, some exceptions. Local farmer, Khursheed, came from the neighboring village of Satakpuri to Patkhori after marriage, where his in-laws gifted all their property to their two daughters. Khursheed manages the vast plot of land well, and is taking innovative steps to increase his family’s prosperity. Khursheed decided to create a farm pond. The pond had a huge impact on his farming and is an example for other farmers to follow.

In rural areas, farm ponds are a great way of harvesting rainwater. They can be used to collect water for use, or to recharge it back into the ground. Khursheed earns a decent living by cultivating his family’s land. He chose to use the pond intervention in order to manage the problem of water scarcity in the area. Khursheed already has a tube well with fresh water, but without the pond, his cash crops tended to go dry, as the well water supply was erratic due to infrequent electricity supply. The farm pond also served to supply water in the case of emergencies.

“My farm pond collects two lakh [200,000] litres of water, which supports my orchard of lemon, kinnu [a type of orange], pomegranate, and other trees. The farm pond has reduced my dependence on tube-well water and the poor voltage supply, which is a common problem in villages. I don’t experience woeful summers any more,” said an elated Khursheed.

4. Recharging of Dug Wells

Many areas of India are semiarid regions, characterized by low rainfall and limited water resources (both underground and on the surface). Many of the water sources are saline and do not meet the desired standards for drinking and agricultural purposes. Indiscriminate extraction of groundwater has caused water tables to lower and millions of wells to dry across the country. The Government of India has initiated a “Dug Well Recharge Scheme” to revive abandoned wells and replenish groundwater.

Dugwell recharging is an effective, low-cost technique to recharge groundwater, and it does not require highly technical inputs. It also helps to reducing surface water runoff that erodes fertile topsoil and limits the depth and duration of water logging, two problems that have an adverse impact on crops.

The dug well recharging scheme has been allotted Rs. 1800 crores (Rs 18 billion, or approx. USD 4 million) and is targeting 4.45 million irrigation dug wells in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. The scheme provides eligible farmers with funds in order to construct structures that collect rainwater and divert it into their wells. Unfortunately, the program has had little success, as very few farmers have signed up for construction of water recharging structures in their fields. The government is now stepping up its efforts to promote the scheme.

The Dug Well Recharge Scheme does not include Haryana, but this state would greatly benefit as a large number of wells have gone dry. In Patkhori village in Mewat, eleven water-recharging structures have been constructed and connected to dug wells to collect the huge rainwater runoff from the Aravalli Hills and adjacent fields. In each structure, the runoff is filtered through a 4-foot deep, 4-foot diameter chamber filled with boulders, pebbles and sand (to arrest suspended particles, silt, leaves, etc.) and then diverted to a dug well, where it percolates into the ground from both the sides and bottom. As a result, farmers have noticed a rise in underground water levels ranging from 20 to 50 feet at certain locations. They have also noticed that dug wells placed in natural runoff areas enable water to percolate back into the ground at a faster pace.

The most encouraging part of this intervention in Patkhori is that farmers came forward to contribute labor for this groundwater recharging method. Inspired by the results, ever more farmers are interested in converting their dug wells into recharge wells before the next monsoon. Similar to Patkhori, many villages around Mewat have immense potential for dug well recharging as there are many dry wells across the district.

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Email: communications@smsfoundation.org