Jyoti Sharma, President FORCE posted this in Water Wisdom on June 15th, 2009

A couple of day’s back I received a very interesting little note from Mr. Kishore Nath, who lives in Canada and appears to be very water conscious. He stated and then asked, “We can educate the masses but not the rich. As one becomes rich, one wastes water to have tub baths, washes cars, washes white bed sheets and linen more frequently, builds big lawn and waters them. Please advise how to address the rich and corrupt?”


I am posting here the reply that I have sent to him because I think Mr. Nath has brought up a very interesting topic.


Sometime back, FORCE carried out a survey on water consumption patterns in different socio-economic areas within Delhi. The study covered samples from urban poor (slum cluster); urban village; middle class DDA flats; rich individual houses. We found that the average water consumption of a slum household having 5-6 members was 300 liters per day; of urban village with 5 members was 500 liters per day; of middle class DDA with average 4 members was 1000 liters /day; of rich houses with 3-4 members was 1500 liters per day. And the funny thing was – each section was equally dissatisfied with the supply!
It would at first glance seem that the richer you are, the more wasteful you become. However, let’s not condemn the middle class / rich as being more “consciously” wasteful than the poor. The basic amount of water that we use for cooking / drinking is more or less the same – approx 40 liters per person. It’s just that as income increases, the dwelling unit size and lifestyle improvement adds to the average water consumption per household. A jhuggi (house in a slum) will need barely 25-30 liters of water to keep itself and its surroundings clean but a 500 sq meter house in Greater Kailash in a dry dusty area like Delhi, needs 1000 liters for the same purpose. A poor man who goes to a community toilet for open defecation (which should be totally eradicated) uses 5-7 liters of water as against a rich person who uses 13-15 liters of water each time he uses the toilet. Rich or poor, we all like to live it up within our means.
There’s lots we can do to save water. Like follow the 5 Rs to become Water Wise:


R‘educe water wastage – through adoption of water saving products (aerator taps, dual flush cisterns, small head showers, auto switch off motors), water wise practices (swabbing floors / vehicles instead of washing, plugging leaks, withdrawing only as much water as we need).


R‘euse Used Water – using the same water twice or more before finally throwing it in a drain – wash vegetables and use same water for your kitchen garden, use last rinse water from washing machine for swabbing floors etc.


R‘echarge Groundwater – Rainwater Harvesting
R‘ecycle waste water – The only way we can actually ‘Generate’ water i.e. add to naturally available supply.


And MOST IMPORTANT ‘R’ESPECT water   – We have forgotten this totally. We treat it like a commodity – to be used and abused but never revered. It is time perhaps to revive traditions that taught us to respect water.
In terms of water wastage, it is sad but each segment seems to waste as much as is possible within their circumstances! The  rich over-water their  lawns, allow water overflows, wash roads / gates / vehicles unnecessarily etc while the poor throw away unused water of the day before, or leave community taps running or waste water madly when filling up from tankers. Both are equally callous – the rich think nothing before over-extracting groundwater, throwing chemical contaminants in open areas which then leach into groundwater or littering water bodies / green areas with plastics.
The poor too direct their sewage into storm water drains, throw garbage into drains, defecate in the open even if there is a community toilet available…..the list of the unthinking devastation we do to water and environment is endless!  The only exceptions are traditional village societies which are dependent upon internal catchment generated water sources such as ponds / shallow dug wells.
All the above sounds suspiciously like criticism of rich and poor alike – but I do not really think they are to blame. No-one is consciously ‘bad’. Our problem is simply that we have forgotten to value water – today it’s just something that flows out of a tap – we’ve forgotten to worship it, love it and care for it. When was the last time you felt the joy of getting happily drenched in the rain or experienced the wonder of God’s immense power when you saw thunder and lightening in black heavy monsoon clouds? Has it ever struck you that all religions treat water as the ultimate purifier – baptism is in water, a Hindu Pooja begins and ends with purification with water…..
Therefore, to sum up – change will start when we remind people to love and respect water as a gift from God and when we educate them about products / practices that can help them conserve water WITHOUT significantly impacting their lifestyle / standards of hygiene.

Can I also invite you to join us as a ‘JAL RAKSHAK’ – a community of Water Saviors that we are creating? This community will enable others to learn more about and actually implement water conservation methods.

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