Urban Water Accounting – An Easy DIY

In the cities and towns of urban India, the gap between water available (water supply) and water demand is continuously widening. Water accounting is therefore a powerful tool that lets the water users track their consumption & become water efficient.

Why How What

Introduction

This article introduces the concept of Water Accounting as a powerful tool that can contribute to solving the water crisis. 

The article is structured as below

  • WHY: this section provides the context and the reasons why Water Accounting is necessary for solving the water crisis
  • HOW: this section introduces and describes a practical Family Water Accounting tool developed by Urban Water Doctor for family and households to help identify the water-saving actions that are relevant to their family water usage practices
  • WHAT: this section shares the results & insights from applying the Family Water Accounting tool to 21 households.

WHY Water Accounting

It is estimated that almost 54% of India faces high to extremely high-water stress with more than 100 million people living in areas of poor water quality.  It is also estimated that by 2050, 5.7 billion people will be living in water stress areas. 

Water stress is caused when the quantity of water available is far less than it is required to meet various demands of the human population and the environment. Given the water stress challenge that we are already facing and getting worse by the day,  it becomes important to understand why it happened and what we can do to solve the problem. 

In the cities and towns of urban India, the gap between water available (water supply) and water demand is continuously widening. This is because of the rapid urbanization as a result of the increasing rate of population growth in the cities. It is estimated that the urban population is expected to grow from 410 million in 2014 to 814 million by 2050. With this growth, the water infrastructure will not be able to cope up with the demand that would be coming with the growing population.

Bar graph representing Water Demand & Supply Gap in Urban Cities

Figure 1: Water Demand & Supply Gap in Urban Cities

To solve the problem of growing water demand and supply gap, the current approach adopted by agencies responsible for water services focus on taking a supply-side approach where the objective is to find new sources of water to increase the availability of water. Examples of such supply-side solutions and measures typically include – building new dams to expand the current water supply, drilling new borewells and finding new water sources. 

It is true that by increasing supply, the gap between water available to supply and water demand will decrease. However, this gap can also be reduced by focusing on reducing the demand through improvement in water use efficiency. Let me explain this by taking the example of money, when we face severe money shortage, before going and seeking a new source of income, one of the first & easiest things to do is to look at reviewing how we are spending our money and identify expenses that were not so necessary or simply wasteful and make sure these expenses are eliminated or minimised to reduce the need for money.

Same is true for water. Apart from looking to expand and find new water supply sources, it is equally important to review the water demand by various water users in residential areas. commercial, industrial and institutional sectors so that all inefficient use of water that happens from wasteful practices can be eliminated and replaced with efficient water use practices. Thus, water efficiency can play a significant role in reducing the gap between water supply and demand. 

However, just like we cannot find out about our wasteful money expenses without keeping account of our expenses and income, we cannot find out about our water inefficiencies and areas where water demand can be reduced without the accounting of water consumption by water users

Water accounting and accountability is, therefore, a powerful tool that lets the water users track their consumption and determine how water-efficient they are and what are the end uses that can be made more water-efficient.

HOW of Water Accounting

Urban Water Doctor is a water impact initiative based in Bangalore. Their mission is to help water users count water like money through developing Water Accounting tools for Families, Apartment Buildings & Education Campuses. 

Family Water Accounting App requires householders to fill in a survey form that contains

  • Questions about their water use practices
  • Instructions to measure & note the flow rates of taps & showerheads
  • Questions about the Washing Machine usage and volumes of Flush Tank

Once a family has responded to all the questions in the survey form  they submit it and within 2 days of submission of their form, Urban Water Doctor emails to  a short & succinct family a Family Water Accounting Report which contains

  • Current – Water Consumption (Litres per day), Level of Water Efficiency, Breakdown of  Water Use by different end uses such as – cooking, drinking, dishwashing, handwashing, bathing, toilet flushing, hand jet, clothes washing, floor cleaning and indoor plants
Smart art showing the water usage at household
  • Water-Saving Potential – how much water is possible to save by making what improvements and retrofitting
  • Customised Water Saving Actions – list of water-saving actions (using hardware items as well as simple hacks that can save water)

The family who participates in such a survey is emailed a Water-Saving Report that looks like this

Page 1 of the Water Saving Report

Figure 2: Page 1 of the Water Saving Report (Source: Urban Water Doctor)

Page 2 of the Water Saving Report

Figure 3: Page 2  of the Water Saving Report (Source: Urban Water Doctor)

WHAT – Insights from Survey of 21 Households (HHs) 

Twenty-One families from various cities in India responded to the survey. This section shares the key findings from the analysis of the survey filled out by the 21 households.

Pie Chart showing Water consumption in Liters of water per person per day for 21 houses

Figure 4: Water consumption in Liters of water per person per day for 21 houses

Pie chart representing Water Saving Potential in litres per day for 21 houses

Figure 2: Water Saving Potential in litres per day for 21 houses

Bar chart representing Distribution of Water Saving action as per end use

Figure 5: Distribution of Water Saving action as per end use

“Water Saved is Water Gained”

Let’s Account to become Water Sustainable….

This blog is the outcome of my internship at Urban Water Doctor.

Check out other blog written by the same author on Multi-Layered Packaging – Vital yet a Menace?. It speaks about the issue of MLP’s with respect to recycling, ways in which industry is trying to tackle the issue and what can individuals do to reduce the waste.

Reference:

  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/271312/urbanization-in-india/
  2. https://www.teriin.org/resilient-cities/urbanisation.php
  3. https://www-bloomberg-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2020-08-07/covid-s-spreading-fast-because-billions-don-t-have-water-to-wash
  4. Water Efficiently Guide, CSE (Available here)
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