Cost and price: Water


Dear friends, Water as our life giver is always in our mind, body and spirit. We discuss water everyday and use it as a consumable from our home taps to fancy bottles, which claims to give part of the proceeds to some underprivileged community in some remote corner of the world.But we as the consumers and owners of water, have ever thought of the cost , price and conflict over water. I would like to start a series over this priceless commodity. We would pick one topic on water and start discussing it. Take in as many points of views as possible and try to reach optimal solutions ( there may not be one and it would be prudent on our part too).Lets start with one developing country and its water distribution. India.India’s water distribution infrastructure is abysmally inadequate. Most of the villages and towns don’t have a proper distribution infrastructure. This is because there are no systems in place. Result: no safe drinking water even in the capital city of Delhi.

Pipelines run parallel to sewage pipes and most of them are very old, rusted and leaky. Lead content is high and mixing of sewage and drinking water ( whatever treatment is done ) is common, not rare. Diarrhoea, jaundice and other water borne diseases are common and take a huge toll of lives. As the population is young , loss of lives that means loss of creative, contributing manpower for the nation, let alone the emotional and social cost to the immediate community.Pipelines were laid before independence and systems were built according to demands of that period. If say in old Delhi it was built in 1940s, it is already 70 years old. Only parts of pipes which burst from time to time are replaced. Over all system is age old and no new channels and routes have been developed. Meanwhile in 70 years, population has grown by more than 25 times. On top of that, as the distributed water is for a privileged percentage, say a quarter ( might be an overestimate), others steal water from the bigger pipes, leading to massive leakages and wastage of water. Pollution created by pools of water is another menace.In a recent article in a magazine ” Down to Earth” ( ) Sunita Narain, pointed out that cost of water in an average Indian city is around INR 8-10/kilo-litres. If we add distribution losses this rises to INR 10-14/kilo litres, and if we add sewage costs it rises by 5 times to INR 40-50 (USD 0.8-1 )/kilo-litres ! What is the price municipalities/authorities charge ? INR 2-3 /kilo-litres. USD 0.04-0.06/kilo litres. What a colossal waste !The major cost involved in distribution inside cities/towns is electricity. It may rise to even 75 % of the total cost of water in some cases. Pumps have to be set all along the route and as in case of capital of an eastern state, Orissa can go up to 56% of the cost. Unplanned storage and distribution system in Bhubneshwar, the capital city, makes sure that water has to be pumped over 30 kms to enter the city from the nearest river, Mahanadi.So what are your views and perspectives on these issues and challenges. I am sure that though I have taken India and 1-2 cities in India as examples, the scenario resonates in most cities of many developing countries and underdeveloped parts of developed nations.Hoping to listen to your insightful sharing . Please participate in this debate and contribute, as water owns us and we have to own it !cheers pranay


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