Monday, December 13, 2010

RWH results - 2009

It is close to a year since I designed and got RWH installed at my residence and I felt it is a good time to look at the results (this was in 2009 - need to add 2010 figures)
Now the RWH itself is a storage sytem (not ground-water recharge) which had to be adapted to the constraints of the house and the experience of getting it done (design and implementation) is an interesting story which I will share in another post as I see many parallels to how we develop software…
I have taken the data from July to June for the last three years (somewhat aligns to the monsoon plus the fact that I got it done last August).
Total consumption (pre-installation) for 2006-07 was 1,71,000 litres
and for 2007-08 was 1,58,000 litres
while for 2008-09 (post installation) is 1,07,000 litres.
This implies a savings of 51,000 litres as compared to the previous year which is significant in my opinion considering that the consumption prior to RWH also is not very high (based on a norm of 135 litres/per person / per day which works out to 1,48,000 litres per year for a family of three).
Now translating this to money what does it imply?
Assuming a 5000 litre tanker costs Rs 500 the water savings translate to Rs 5100/year. The investment for the RWH was about Rs 25,000 - so it would need 5 years (with the kind of rains we received last year) to recover the costs. But if you consider BWSSB rates which do not even cover their costs it will be a long long time to recover the investment. This brings up an interesting topic - how does one measure the benefits of any such initiative? Should one go only by the economic value and miss on the bigger picture? Also it was easy in my case to measure since I had a storage system built but the same would not be possible if one sets up a groundwater recharge system.

Rain water harvesting - design

My primary motive is to give some ideas to others who might be considering RWH. It also has value in the similarities I see to our software projects where we invariably work with different constraints and choices we make during design having repercussions later down the line post deployment.
Background:The house is a 30+ year old construction which we purchased in 2001 and got it renovated. At that point of time we had not thought of RWH. Last year I started to seriously consider doing RWH within the constraints posed by the house without too many major changes.
First constraint: I could not do groundwater recharge as there is no existing well / borewell nor space to now dig one.
Second constraint: The simplest option available was to connect all the down-pipes (that bring down the rain water from the roof) together, add a pop-up filter (there is one readily available for Rs 2000 designed by a scientist at IISc Shivakumar) and then feed the water into the sump. The issue here was that we very rarely (almost never ) use the sump as the BWSSB supply directly fills the overhead tank (house is a single floor construction). Feeding the rain water into the sump meant that we would now be forced to use the pump and consume more electricity. It was a tradeoff between saving water and consuming electricity. I decided against this option. Looking back I feel now that it would have been lot simpler and possibly a cheaper option too but then I would not have had this opportunity to tell an interesting tale. I guess same goes for the design options and decisions we taken in our projects too. Hindsight is 20/20 !
So I had to figure out a RWH store and use solution which is based on gravity flow ….

The existing architecture itself provided opportunities to do so.
The car portico roof was about 2 feet below the main house roof. This gave me an idea to set up a tank here into which rain water from the main roof could flow. Now given the height difference between the two roofs this had to be a rectangular tank to maximize the storage volume. The first option thought of was to buy an outdoor loft tank. The maximum capacity available was 1000 litres. Couple of factors which made the decision against the PVC tank. One the roof space available was much more and two there was a danger of coconuts, fronds from the neighbors yard falling and breaking the tank. (A sidenote: The neighbor cut down all the coconut trees recently and replaced them with potted ornamental plants instead!) So I planned for a brick construction which utilized the space available to the maximum and provided a capacity of about 2000 litres. So far so good…
The main roof was sloped from the middle (on an east west axis) towards north and south. Given the position of the portico in the south east corner and the drain pipes being on the north and south walls of the house it would be a complex process to connect all of them to the tank on the portico (ref diagram 1). As a result only the three pipes on the south side were changed to connect to the tank. This however meant only half the water collecting on roof was being collected.
I kept thinking of the other half and finally hit upon another solution. The toilet inside the house at the north west corner had a large attic which was virtually empty. This again provided an opportunity to set up a storage to which the drain pipes on the north side of the house could be connected. In this case I went for a PVC loft tank. The space on the attic was sufficient to put up a 1000 litre tank. However as I later envisioned the process of getting the tank into the house and putting it up I realized that the narrow passage and the toilet door posed a constraint which could not be overcome. There was simply no space to move the tank in even though there was space on the attic. So deployment issues forced a change of design. Atleast I was lucky that this struck me before I had the tank brought home! As I result I had to settle for a 750 litre loft tank. A side note is that though originally I opted for Sintex but the delays the dealer had in procurement (loft tanks are not used so widely and it had to come all the way from Gujarat) made me to switch to Kaveri which was immediately available. One more constraint was that I did not want to drill big holes into the outer wall (being an old construction did not want to take chances) and had to figure out a way to get the rain water pipe in through the ventilator. Further since the tank was inside the house and overflow pipe had also to be arranged which would take the excess water outside. All the pipes running to the loft tank would not make a pretty sight but considering the utility aspect I decided to forego on the aesthetics (which anyways is not high on my priority list even otherwise!) So the design with a custom tank for the front on the portico, loft tank on the attic inside the toilet was ready and the plans for how the drain pipes would link upto them was in place. Now it was time for implementation which is another story in itself…!

Monday, December 6, 2010

36 hours - a real life drama

5:00 am Thursday Dairy Circle:
A bull calf is frolicking, enjoying the free open road which is unimaginable at any other time oblivious of what is in store…
On comes a bus, the driver too enjoying the freedom at this hour to drive recklessly…
The calf is thrown a few away and lies there, frozen in shock and pain of the multiple injuries.
5:30 am Thursday:
The security guards at KMF Dairy whose entrance is right there witness the accident and move the calf out of the road on to the narrow footpath (as a result of the BBMP axiom: widen the roads and narrow the footpaths – people on the road are more important than pedestrians). This move would at least avoid multiple runovers and instant death for the calf.
7:00 am:
“K” a worker at KMF comes out of the gate after completing his night shift. Notices the injured calf and something tugs his heart and he stays there and tries to get some help in vain. Though KMF has veterinary doctors they cannot be reached at this early hour.
7:30 am:
Some more passersby gather around. A few Christ College girls on their way to classes stop and decide to do something. Everyone trying various animal welfare organizations on their mobiles – BlueCross, CUPA, PFA, Animal Shelter but not getting through or an assured response to come and help. Most of the times it is a tag with one number giving another number to call…
The calf’s neck is outstretched and eyes are turning up but makes no sound at all. The girls feed him water.
8:00 am:
“J” is on his way to his office at Madivala. Notices the crowd on the footpath. “one more casualty to the traffic madness” he thinks in his mind as he passes by. But the thought still lingers in his mind “what if I stop for once and see if anything can be done”. Takes a U-turn and comes back to the spot.
More numbers being tried out but not getting the response. The girls getting frustrated and restless at this lack of empathy. A policeman on his way to his “duty” who evades the sight and walks away briskly. Meanwhile the traffic on the road is building up. Two wheeler riders in a rush to office or dropping children to school take advantage of the additional space available on footpath to beat the traffic. This adds insult to injury and the furious girls block the way and force a two wheeler rider with 3 kids on a TVS back on the road. Meanwhile “R” a BBMP supervisor known to “K” joins the group. A loaded BBMP garbage collection 3-wheeler comes along. The supervisor directs them to take the animal to the nearest Govt. Veterinary hospital. They promise to come after unloading the garbage. Looking at the traffic it seemed unlikely that they can make it before another half-an-hour atleast.
Finally the group spot an empty 3 wheeler truck in the crawling traffic and manage to get him to park. The animal is loaded onto it and they start for Adugodi Veterinary hospital about 3km away. The girls want to be there too despite of the fact that they had to skip classes. They try a couple of autos but they are not interested in coming there. “J” offers to take them in his car. Only problem was that being a Reva only 3 can squeeze in and there were 4 of them. Finally one of them goes along with “R” on a two wheeler and rest take the Reva.
9:30 am:
“J” crawls with the traffic and reaches Adugodi but comes to know that the Veterinary hospital has been demolished thanks to the road widening in progress on Hosur Road. However the other group along with the calf seems to have reached the place! After a few phone calls figures out where they are and manages to reach them on the wrong side of the road – thanks to the fact that while the road has been widened with stones it has not yet been paved! The veterinary hospital has been shifted temporarily to the first floor of the Traffic police station building. However there is no question of shifting the calf upstairs for any treatment. Worse nobody thinks of (this includes the hospital staff) any kind of first aid for the visible wounds too L. The “asst. surgeon” there advises the group to go to Wilson garden another 3 kms or so, where there is another Veterinary hospital. The girls feel that they should not trouble “J” who is working (on something obviously “important”). However on the contrary there was not anything particular that “J” was upto that morning and wanted to see this to the very end. So he took them to Wilson garden along with the other group with the calf in the truck.
10:00 am:
Luckily for the rescuers and the calf, there is a veterinary doctor and two assistants at the hospital in Wilson garden though the building itself is dilapidated and being under renovation. The doctor administers a drip and medication for shock and the calf shows some signs of recovery. However the overall diagnosis is bad – one hind leg is fractured at the hip and there could be other internal injuries too. The doctor candidly says that such hip fractures are difficult to fix; needs an operation fixing a metal rod etc. – costs around Rs 4000 for which one can get another calf! Suggests that the calf be taken to the animal shelter as they have no facilities to keep animals at the hospital. If at all any operation has to be done it can be considered after a few days. Further such an operation could only be done at Hebbal Veterinary College. “K” from KMF seems to have developed a great attachment for the calf – is visibly in tears and openly declares that he is ready to bear the expenses of the operation. Considering the fact that he may not be a person of substantial financial means that is a remarkable statement. Finally the girls take leave after taking mobile numbers to get in touch later. Offer whatever amount they have with them which is denied by “K” considering that they were students.
Meanwhile there is a visitor to the hospital with a cat. One of the assistants say that he is a great cat lover – has around 150 cats virtually living all over him at home. On learning about the calf, the cat lover rains the choicest urdu abuses on the owner of the calf, the driver of the bus and leaves…
Somebody makes an interesting observation except in case of humans, males are considered worthless in all animal species!
“R” the BBMP supervisor calls up to arrange one of his vehicles for taking the calf to the animal shelter in Koramangala.
11:00 am:
“J” takes leave to get back to office, with “K” and “R” assuring him that they will take care of getting the calf into the animal shelter…
12:30 pm:
“J” gets a call from “K” that the calf has been admitted to the animal shelter. One veterinary doctor is supposed to make a daily visit and they will start any treatment post his visit.
7:00 pm:
One of the college girls call “J” to enquire. Gives her an update and thinks of making a visit to the shelter the next day….
11:00 am Friday Koramangala:
“J” visits the shelter – a vast open space ( a rare sight in the city these days!) next to the Games Village. One of the workers there leads “J” to the calf. It is lying in the same position as it was on the footpath the previous day. The worker says it has not eaten anything and was only drinking some water. His prediction was that it is not going to survive. “J” talks to the staff at the shelter and realizes that the veterinary doctor had not visited the previous day and may come in some time later that day. The shelter is primarily for rescued animals and not really a place for treating such injured animals.
“J” returns to office with many thoughts at the back of his mind – “should we give up now, should we be trying out something more”.. Talks to a friend who has some contacts in CUPA and gets in touch with them. CUPA is willing to transport the animal and take charge of treatment provided it is in a treatable condition. They understandably do not want to add to its pain by shifting it again if it is a hopeless case. However they do not have a doctor available who can travel over and check the animal and take the call. It becomes a Catch-22 situation.
After some more calls the CUPA doctor at the Koramangala dog pound agrees to come over and check the animal. “J” also goes to the animal shelter to see that he gets the access. On reaching the place the staff of the animal shelter inform him that the calf passed away about 30 minutes back. Finally it gained relief from all the pain and misery it must have endured for this long.

End of this story but questions remain…
Should we blame the owner of this calf to have let it free?
Should we blame the bus driver for his rash driving?
Or the govt. for the lack of adequate facilities at the veterinary hospitals?
Should we be happy that there still considerate souls like “K”, “R” or the college girls who felt the need to attend to this call of distress rather than their other commitments?