Triumph of 32 Water Meters!

The first step to manage is to measure. When it comes to the water crisis, and controlling consumption in our Apartment Complexes, installing Water Meters can surely help. But then we are stumped by the Engineering & People Challenges of a Water Meter installation project.Here is a story of Kannan Venkitachalam and his neighbours in Mana Sarovar Apartments in Marathalli –  who took these challenges up and came up winners!Champions in their own right, Mana Sarovar Apartments inaugurates this ADDA Champions Blog!

Water-Meter-Kannan

My name is Kannan Venkitachalam. I live in a 32 flat apartment occupied it on May 2007. For the initial 2.5 years everything went smoothly. It was in September 2009, the apartment’s common electricity bill went up 100% more than the usual amount. After a little investigation it was found that the automatic water pumping system installed in the over head tank of the apartment was not functioning properly. While the sensor in the system ensured that water level in the tank were accurate, it did not sense/count the amount of water being pumped. Also long hours of pumping almost dried up the bore well and water problem started. We have only one bore well of 650ft depth. We started depending on tankers ever after with 2 tankers per day. In next month end we received a little rain. Our bore well began to give yield after then.

PROBLEM GETS BIGGER

Unfortunately in November 2009 the BBMP dug a bore of 1500ft deep opposite to our bore on the other side of road to supply to all near by independent houses. Thereafter we started losing the yield in our bore. We started to buy water in tankers again. Tankers supplied 4000 liters of water 2 times a day at the cost of Rs.230/- per load. Monthly maintenance increased by Rs.200/- for the tanker water. All residents worried about the water availability and started buying big plastic drums and started storing. Again the consumption increased to 3 tankers per day and monthly maintenance increased by another Rs.200/-. So total Rs.400 more than our initial monthly maintenance which is common for all 32 flats. This went from Feb 2010 to Apr 2010. Whenever water level goes down from regular level due to delay in Tanker delivery than the scheduled time, the top most floor residents started complaining about less pressure and volume of water from their taps. Then certain residents who were working couples started complaining about empty tap when they return from work in the night. We called for an urgent association meeting and concluded to have controlled and limited supply of water as per prescribed time frames. Like, in the mornings 6.30am to 8.00am, noon 12:00 to 1:00pm and night 7:30pm to 9:00pm so that all the residents will get an opportunity to be available at home. It was like only 4 hrs a day water supply. The residents continued storing the water in all possible ways and in all possible containers more than the requirement due to the worry of in case water tanker delivery failure. The next time when the water is supplied, they tend to dispose the already stored/unused water and refill again. This lead to increased consumption of water 4 tankers per day and residents were asked to pay more. From May 2010 another increase of Rs.300/- came into effect. So it becomes a total of Rs.700/- from our regular monthly maintenance only for water.

THE SOLUTION IS EVIDENT – BUT PROOF OF CONCEPT?

Then started the resistance from small families; saying that their consumption was less; some said they working on shifts and not able to collect water at the particular time and they will not pay more. Another problem was leaving the taps open. Since the water is not available during other times of the day, people forget and tend to leave the taps open. And when the water is supplied the next time and if they are not available at home, the water goes down the drain from the open tap. These two issues caused excess usage/wastage. Residents of top floors complained of inadequate supply of water due to low pressure. This resulted in misunderstanding among the residents. Different opinions started like the maintenance as per numbers of occupants per flat, maintenance as per flat total square feet area etc. I proposed going for water meter and pay the monthly maintenance as per water usage. But I was not having enough data to support and educate all residents because without proper justification nobody will be interested to invest anything. My wife Anitha felt very painful to clean kitchen utensils from bucket stored water; since the timing of water supply was not suitable for her. She was behind me continuously to find a permanent solution for the water supply. She even proposed to shift to any other rented home where sufficient water is available leaving our own house from this apartment. In my mind I was telling how long can we run away from problems, what is the guarantee that the new home where we go will have enough water? Once I thought of buying a small PVC tank and keep it in balcony with floating ball valve and will take new connection from that to kitchen sink which will store the water whenever the supply is there and we are not at home (like flush tank in toilet). But still we could not justify our self with that idea. In future if no water scarcity, then that extra tank will become a waste of investment.

HUNT FOR INFORMATION

Finally through internet I could find some blogs where people written about the success stories of metered water system in apartment from Chennai, Mumbai and some other cities in 2002 – 2006 time period with very good feedback/response from those who residing there. This information was my turning point. Water Scarcity and Water Meters By GVB May 24th, 2006 @ 12:34 AM Chennai, Daily Living, South Chennai http://chennai.metblogs.com/2006/05/24/water-scarcity-and-water-meters/ Individual meters in apartments – Addressing equity and economic issues of water Submitted by arun on March 22, 2010 – 10:42 http://www.indiawaterportal.org/topic/10071 Water Meter Installation in flats / Calculating Charges – Consultant Required: Bangalore Submitted by rejeeb on March 22, 2010 – 15:44 http://www.indiawaterportal.org/ask/10077 When water meters lose pace… The Hindu Online edition of India’s National Newspaper Saturday, Jul 08, 2006 http://hindu.com/pp/2006/07/08/stories/2006070800500100.htm Immediately after collecting the above details on water metering from different websites I started studying the plumbing layout in our apartment. It took 2 weeks to conclude myself for the confidence of going for it. Since each flat in our apartment is having 3-4 inlets from the overhead tank. So for the location of water meters placement on the terrace is very important to have minimum alteration of exiting plumbing line which will have less cost for new piping materials. Then I called a plumber who did the initial laying of plumbing in our apartment. I explained my plan for the meter installation and asked for his quote in an agreement of I will procure the material and he will take only the labor charge for installation. With that agreement he gave me the total estimate including material roughly Rs. 2.91 lakhs. Just to validate this plumber’s quote I have invited another professional plumbing agency and told my plan and asked for his estimate & quote. He did the rough measurement and gave me the quote of Rs. 4.96 Lakhs. This quote was drafted as per square feet rate including labor and material which he will buy and install. Quality & Make of the materials he did not disclose. Below you can see copy of both quotes. Roughly Rs.9000/- per flat from 32 flats for the first plumbers Rs. 2.91 lakhs quote I have concluded. With these 2 quotes and all the internet blogs on metered water success stories I called the association meeting and proposed the same to go for the project. It was also decided that the residents should pay the amount in 2 installments, Like Rs.5000/- in October month and Rs.4000/- in the November month and majority accepted it in the meeting. Later on after the meeting; few of the residents disagreed stating that we do not even have continuous water for few hours, then how can we get 24 hours of water with just installing water meter. After some time again a chain of e-mails were circulated for nearly 10 days, but no action was taken to collect the stipulated amount of Rs.9000/- per house for the project.

AND… BINGO!

Finally I have made a survey questionnaire in an A4 sheet and went to each door step personally and asked the residents to fill & sign the survey form in front of me. The survey questions where like below: 1. Do you want to install water meter and pay monthly maintenance charges as per water usage? Yes / No 2. If your answer to question 1 is “No”, then do you know how to save water? Yes / No 3. Do you know anybody else is going to do something to save water? If “Yes” please specify the name. 4. If your answer to question 1 is “Yes”, can you please pay the amount which I specified for the water meter installation project contribution? Yes / No

With the above survey questionnaire I got immediate majority of 30 flat residents. Other 2 flat residents ultimately joined with majority and paid the contribution. I have collected the Rs.9000/- in 2 installments. Like Rs.5000/- first month and Rs.4000/- in second month. I am very much thankful to all my apartment co-residents for their acceptance to install water meter. One of our association T party get-together group photo you can see below

Enquired the plumbing material cost in City market as well nearby a small plumbing hardware shop. Found little difference, I mean the cost of pipe was little less in City Market. But considering the transportation cost, I found buying nearby shop is better. Also I could get this nearby shop with a credit option also. Because I could not get all the fund money collected it once. All residents were given their contributions in several time frames in 2 months. Every day after I return from office; used to go to the nearby shop with plumber and buy the plumbing materials for the next day’s work. Like that we continued for the complete one month. I should really appreciate the shop owner for accepting my credit option for large amount. Only the Water Meters & Strainers I bought from City market. All other plumbing materials I bought from nearby shop. The shop had another favor for me; all the extra materials remained unused and without damage after the project had taken back and refunded the money. Here is the detail of the Implementation, including pictures of the Water Metering and the first few readings: http://apartmentadda.com/blog/installation-of-water-meters-in-a-complex/

AFTER THE IMPLEMENTATION

The water bill was ranged from Rs.60/- to Rs.1000/- as per the consumption with different flats. Several water saving tips & techniques were discussed and shared to reduce the water bill amount. It was found that once a commodity is billed people try to keep its usage to a minimum. Under this system residents are paying Rs.0.06 per litre. Per litre charge varies according to the total volume of water consumed per month for the whole apartment. Per litre charge can be calculated from dividing total water tanker cost for the month by the sum of all the water meter readings. We used to depend on 4 tankers of 4000 litre per day with only 4 hrs per day supply. After installation of meter, it drastically reduced to 2 tankers per day with 24 hrs round the clock water supply. Water consumption has come down by almost 50%. It was also found that about 30% to 40% of the residents were consuming more water for which others were paying for their misuse or over usage.

 

Response / Feed Back from my co-residetns for the Water Meter Installation

• “Thanks Kannan for providing 24hrs water ” – Sapthagiri • “It is good to see the response from everyone, congratulating Mr Kannan for the task he has done. He really deserves it and no doubt about it.” – Bhapindar • “Just moved to the apartment 3 weeks back and I can’t thank you enough for working this hard to rectify the water crisis , this was a perfect timing , wish you a very Happy new Year” – Samarth • “You and the team have been delivering time and again so many important and wonderful initiatives to make life easier in Mana. I wish you all a thunderous applause and a wonderful year ahead!” – Vaishak • “I like to take my chance to appreciate and sincere thanks to Kannan for his time and effort to complete the task” – Vijay • “Since the time we purchased this flat, it was our dream to see 24 hours water in our tap. Your efforts made this dream to come true. I am personally very thankful and grateful to you to make my dream to come true. This is a New Year gift to the residence of Mana Sarovar by you. Thanks a lot for manage your personal time to complete this project on time. We all are thankful to you” – Rakesh • “This is really great effort. In spite of busy schedule, you have spent & sacrificed personal time to make this happen. Appreciate your commitment. I take this opportunity to thank and congratulate you on this accomplishment” – Satish • “Appreciate your great efforts in installing water meter in Mana Sarovar Apartments” – Ashok • “It was a great effort to install water meter for all apartments. Thanks for personal time and efforts to achieve this target. Everybody should be happy to pay maintenance charges only for their usage _” – Saju • “Thank you Kannan!!! Salute your efforts and sacrifice of your personal time to make life better for residents of Mana Sarovar!!! THANK YOU !!!!!” – Anoop • “Thanks a ton Kannan for leading the greatest initiative since Mana Sarovar was handed over to the Association. I would like to echo Joshi’s words… This is simply awesome :)” – Anoop • “Finally THANKS for the big initiative (I think it’s the biggest after we have taken the flat). Everyone was able to see the enthu in getting this work done” – Yogesh

Water saving techniques implemented in my flat F7 to save water

I have implemented simple water saving techniques in my flat no. F7, which has reduced my water consumption when compared to other flats in my apartment complex.

RO Water for washing machine

I am using Aqua Guard Reverse Osmosis System for the last 3 years. I have placed the system such way that my washing machine is next to the adjacent wall. I drilled a hole and put the drain pipe from RO to the washing machine (it is not fully automatic, only semi & twin tub type machine). Once the machine wash tub fills I will take clothes for wash. If extra RO runs I will store it in a bucket near the washing Machine. You know this rejected water from RO is much cleaner than direct tap water, only thing it is a little hard. So I am not wasting any water from my RO.

Kitchen Sink

I have replaced the kitchen sink tap to a shower, which will consume less for cleaning utensils. Since we need more area coverage or spread for utensils cleaning, not volume, so a shower dispensing less water works very well.

This can save a lot of water, this cost me roughly Rs.500/- only. No plumber required for this, you can fit yourself if you have a pipe wrench & Teflon tape. I did it myself. It is not a standard readymade one available in market; need to buy separately all plumbing fittings and the shower.

Toilet Flush Tank

There is some adjustment in the toilet flush tank also which controls the volume of water filling. Beneath the floating ball put a thick thermocol block of size which you need the less volume of water in the tank. Put the thermocol block such a way that 50% water only filled in the tank that is more than sufficient to flush even solid waste also.

Washbasin

Under the washbasin, there is a control valve; I have kept that valve half closed so the water flow from the tap reduces. That is more than sufficient to clean your hand and face.

Cleaning water

The water used for cleaning vegetables, I store it and use it for watering the plants.I keep the biggest bowl or utensils at the base or bottom of kitchen sink and start collecting the other small utensils washed water in that. This can be used for initial cleaning of other unclean utensils. If you look at any tea shop, they will have a bowl of water and dip the used tea cup first into it and then wash it on fresh water

Head Bath

For bath I use a 16 litre bucket. That is more than sufficient for an adult to bathe. Today in our apartment we have 24 hours of water supply. For those who are living in apartment complexes, if you have not installed a water meter, please install water meters. Water wastage can be reduced by individual accountability for their water usage. It is as simple as any telephone or electricity usage. “Without measure, there is no control”. Let everyone “Use & Pay” for the water. That is the only way to save water.

 

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About the Author: Paul Maliakel

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