Wake Up and Act

No time for shortcuts

Acute thirst does not see quality of water & acute sleep does not wait for a cozy bed’  

Today the crisis of water scarcity is staring straight into our eyes and threatening the very existence of life on earth.

We all need to realize that water scarcity is no more a fashion topic for seminars and discussions followed by cocktails and dinners and media briefing at 5 star venues.

We must understand the gravity of the situation and act in all seriousness on the issue since water scarcity is a serious problem and calls for immediate intervention through hard & focused action at the ground level.

The web pages are filled with guidelines about roof top rain water harvesting ‘roof top harvesting’ is an incorrect terminology since roof top is only a catchment area and the collected water has still to be harvested. The web sites are filled with photos and pencil sketches of water being diverted from roof tops into collection barrels.

Rain water from roof top being collected in containers/drums.
Rain water from roof top being collected in containers and drums.

Can we or our livestock or our agriculture survive on rain water collected from roof top in PVC drums/barrels?

Falling rain drops are not selective and falls everywhere – on the roof as well as on the open roads and grounds. The total catchment area which is provided by all roofs added together is negligible as compared to the rest of the open areas.

It is in these open areas from where rain water gets an opportunity to runs off, leaving the land high and dry. The focus should be on stopping runoff and harvesting this huge quantity of available water.

As always some quantity of this rain water, percolates into the ground in the natural process and our efforts should be to facilitate the movement of additional quantity of rain water into the ground by artificially created rain water harvesting structures. The debate about legality and illegality of rain water harvesting becomes irrelevant by the very fact that no power on earth can control the natural recharge process of rain water or prevent rain water from harvesting into the ground in the natural process.

Further, ever since the existence of planet earth, the natural water cycle has resulted in rains and the rain water has been percolating into the ground since then and which stands even today as what we call ground water.

All this water has percolated down the soil in the natural process and filtered through the soil. We see no logic in first catching the rain water then filtering it /de-silting it and then harvesting it into the soil, when the soil itself is a very good filter.

We need to immediately start making wide spread rain water harvesting efforts on avery large scale, if we really want to stand up for not just facing but for solving the water scarcity problem for ever.

Waterlogging – Flooding – Water Harvesting

Any soil where the ground water table gets too high to permit any agricultural activity, can be classified as waterlogged soil.

Waterlogging is a result of excessive rainfall at a particular site:

  1. Where the soil is unable to store large quantity of water.
  2. Where the external drainage of rain water by way of runoff is poor.
  3. Where the internal drainage by way of movement of water within the soil is poor.

Waterlogging creates an ecological imbalance by adversely affecting the soil & plant relationship, since all plants require air, especially oxygen to a greater or lesser depth in the soil for growth.

The Waterlogged soil is nearly saturated with water most of the time such that the aeration is restricted and anaerobic conditions prevail. With this depletion of oxygen in root zone, the micro organisms which support plant growth are affected adversely and in turn the plant growth is restricted. Waterlogging reduces the temperature of the soil and increases dampness which disturbs the biological activity in the soil.

Waterlogging restricts all operations related to soil enrichment and soil development. In irrigated agricultural land, waterlogging is often accompanied by soil salinity as waterlogged soils prevent leaching of the salts imported by the irrigation water and the adverse effects are accelerated by the salts brought from lower parts of soil by the capillary water.

This increase in salinity not only interferes with the absorption of nutrients by the plant roots thereby damaging the plantation but also spoils the physical state of the soil by making it less permeable for water and more suited for runoff which in turn hurts the adjoining land and vegetation. Even fodder grown in such soil may cause diseases in live stock.

It will be interesting to note that in California farmers are working to restore groundwater by purposely flooding crops. This may be supported by the availability of soil which has good absorption capacity as well as proper external and internal drainage.

California farmers are pumping groundwater faster than it can be replenished. One farmer is spending millions of dollars trying to restore it by deliberately flooding his crops when there is water to spare. It’s caught the attention of other farmers, especially since new state laws could soon restrict groundwater use

Amy Quinton, NPR

We at Silveron would recommend development of small water harvesting structures as per Silveron design rather than flooding the entire field. It is our observation and experience which makes us to believe that flooding has its own negative impact on the soil. This may not be apparently visible in the initial years but in the long run flooding has a tendency to spoil the soil quality by consequently reducing the water absorption capacity of the soil.

Our best advice would always be to avoid flooding and instead create safe passage for water to get into the soil at various locations. There after give the water the freedom to move from particle to particle in direction of its choice with no fear of evaporation losses. Every drop which has been sent into the soil has to become a part of the ground water and has to benefit some one or the other.

We agree with every talk about climate change and reduction in rain/snowfall. One more aspect which is equally valid is that a decade ago the ground water table was at a much higher level and has now fallen down drastically due to over exploitation or any other reason. This clearly indicates that the soil had the capability and capacity to hold water so why not use this empty space and refill it with water. Even the soil will be happy to welcome and accommodate its long lost asset, water.

Standing water in a field
Natural performance of Rain Water Harvesting Shaft

The Silveron design of water harvesting provides absolute freedom to every available water molecule to recharges the soil from the root zone to the aquifer – where ever the soil welcomes it.

Water harvesting is the only solution to combat water scarcity be it anywhere in the world.  

RAM GARH LAKE – The Sad Story

Exhausting a renewable resource

 PART – 2  in continuation of PART – 1  

It was only when in 2011 the Honorable Rajasthan High Court took suo moto cognizance of the drying up of Ramgarh Lake, it was found that its catchment area, spread over 700 sq km, had about 405 anicuts and 800 encroachments ranging from farmhouses to education institutes. More than 800 encroachments were referred to the relevant departments but only half-hearted actions were taken against a handful of small encroachers while the big encroachers have been left undisturbed even though the Rajasthan High Court has given Jaipur Development Authority the permission to take strict action.

Action on anicuts is cheap and easy and can be taken within no time but instead, the authorities started looking at solutions like linking of Brahmani, a tributary of Chambal river, with Ramgarh Lake. We believe, a feasibility report is now being prepared for the same by the government.

The authorities with all the powers vested in them, can easily remove all deterrents and diversions and replicate the situation as it was in the year 1982 but it so appears that there is no will to revive… AND as we all know that drying of rivers and lakes is in the best interest of land grabbers and encroachers. Tremendous increase in the cost of land has led to the encroachment of most of the natural flows in the catchment area. As the land of the natural flows is flattened by the people for their agricultural activity, this is leading to the shrinkage in the volume of runoff.

There are several factors responsible for drying of the lake which can be attributed to less natural and more of man-made causes.

Factors Responsible of Drying of Dam

Natural Causes

  • Fluctuating trend of Rainfall.
  • A drastic fall in rainfall in some particular year results in drying of the surface and soil moisture to the extent that next year’s rainfall is not enough to generate the runoff in the streams. In the year 2002 there was minimal rainfall 314 mm recorded at Jamwa Ramgarh after which Dam never got filled enough to supply water
Annual Rainfall Data for Jamwa Ramgarh

Man-made Causes

  • The dam has been silted up to a depth of approximately 4.57m and resulting in reduction of its storage capacity.
  • There are many small rivers and drains in the area which supply water to the Ramgarh dam, but flow of the rivers was obstructed due to huge constructions/encroachments by educational institutions & Sprawling Entertainment Resorts with huge swimming pools
  • Rampant Mining and Stone Quarries, uncontrolled rampage and Disappearance of hills, resulting in low stream flow and runoff.
  • Increase in activities like Soil Conservation, Agriculture and Watershed Development. Soil conservation department, NGOs and individuals have covered majority of the areas by various activities of soil conservation, which has reduced the velocity of flow resulting in higher infiltration as well as high rate of evaporation.
  • There are around 415 water bodies like village ponds, anicuts, contour bundings etc. in the catchment area of Ramgarh dam. The height of these structures is in the range of 2 to 8 m, which is sufficient to retain runoff.
  • Water is also obstructed by construction of Ditches and bunding along the contours in foot hills.
  • It is also observed that several roads have been constructed by various agencies raised to 1-3 m high embankments in the catchment area and at some places the roads are constructed across the main river obstructing a significant volume of water.
  • Several authorized and unauthorized mining activities exist at number of places in the catchment area; such activities have caused obstruction in the natural flow of rain water.
  • In most of the catchment areas, farmers have constructed water harvesting structures in the forms of Dols or Mud–bundi (low height earthen dams) in their farms, which harvest water for their local purpose.

Change in Land use / Land cover

Land use and land cover changes in Jamwa Ramgarh (1996 and 2005-06)

Groundwater Trends & Augmentation

There is increase use of ground water utilization in the areas which is catchment of Ramgarh Dam. This is leading to increase in water draft than the net availability.

Rainfall Trend – Amber

Rainfall Trend – Jamwa Ramgarh

Need for the Scientific Assessment
• The variation can be observed in the two examples of the block Amber and Jamwa Ramgarh
• The rise of rainfall in amber and corresponding fall of ground water level in the block indicating the severity of depletion in the block.
• Similarly the Jamwa Ramgarh is seen with fluctuating trend since it is nearest to dam showing the effect
• Need for Water Balance study in the Catchment Area of Ramgarh Lake
• Use of GIS and Remote Sensing for Impact Analysis.
• Prioritizing the work according to Hydrological Response parameters of sub-basins within Catchment
• There is need for the immediate assessment of the all the catchment contributing to Ramgarh Dam, in terms of Geomorphological characteristic of basin, rainfall and factor affecting the drastic variability. e.g., Increase in agriculture, Industry water, Mining, Encroachments etc., Assessment Basin-wise in order to analyze the severity of Basin Priority treatments for revival of the Ramgarh dam.

Restoration – possible efforts

• As a first step, the removal of all vegetation and SEDIMENTATION within the area of the Lake to achieve the original depth of the Ramgarh lake. This effort will make the basic lake take its original form and this is likely to help filling the lake both by the direct rain fall as well as by the under the ground surface streams. (See PART I)
• Thereafter, Clearing all the encroachment and illegal construction obstructing the flow of stream. All activities in the catchment area of the lake being done by different agencies/departments/individuals must be immediately stopped or strictly monitored.
• Banning mining activity completely, and all the hills should be brought under green zone and steps should be taken for ecological restoration of mining area which is already destroyed.
• The concerned departments must be asked to modify their structures and to remove obstructions from local nallah, drain etc. which are responsible for impending flow into main river course.
• Water bodies having high structures can be gated and water bodies of low height can be modified by constructing spillway/overflow structures in such a way that the water column retained in any water-body may be restricted to 0.75 m only which will serve the purpose of local needs and surplus water will be allowed into main reservoir.
• Modern agriculture management techniques have to be adopted and optimum utilization of the water resource and banning all higher water requirement crops

RAM GARH LAKE – The Sad Story

Exhausting a renewable resource  

PART – 1

Ramgarh Lake is situated about 30 km away from Jaipur city at Jamwa Ramgarh. The dam was commissioned by the Maharaja of Jaipur Sawai Madho Singh II and was completed in 1903.

It was developed as a multi-purpose project aiming to provide the irrigation facilities to nearby area and the water supply for Jaipur city. It started supplying water to the city in 1931.

In 1961, it was reserved only for water supply to Jaipur city and till year 2000, the lake had been a source of water for the Pink City.

The dam was constructed on Banganga River near Jaipur in 1903 having a catchment area of about 769.20 sq. km. spread over four Tehsils and capacity of 75.0 MCM

The Ramgarh Lake is a man-made water body covering an area of 15.5 sq. km. During monsoon, the lake once presented the most alluring scenic beauty for visitors. It was an interesting place for bird watchers as they got to see flocks of birds including migratory birds around this artificial lake.

The thick forest near Ramgarh Lake was home to many wildlife species such as Neelgai, Chital and lions and was once a hunting ground for the Maharajas of Jaipur. Ramgarh was pronounced a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1982, by the Government of India.

Ramgarh Lake became famous during the 1982 Asian Games when the clean and beautiful waters of this lake were the host for the rowing competitions.

In the present time, the four rivers, Roda, Banganga, Tala and Madhoveni, which used to bring water to the lake, have gone dry due to the deforestation and mining activity carried out in the catchment area.  The dam which was once the home of reptiles and other aquatic wild life is dry since 2006, leaving no food like little fish to feed on and has resulted in disappearance of all aquatic life.

Ramgarh Lake in 1997 and in 2018

We shall discuss the factors responsible for drying of Ramgarh dam and about the possibility of restoration this lake in part 2 of this blog.

At the moment we are picking up one very specific aspect of Dam management in relation to Ramgarh lake i.e. RESERVOIR SEDIMENTATION, especially because this is a man made reservoir and such dams and reservoirs are made to ensure availability of water & energy and to reduce risk of flood.

The questions which arise are:

1. Whether Ramgarh lake was designed to be renewable or exhaustible resources?

2. Whether Ramgarh lake was maintained and operated as a renewable or exhaustible resource?

There is an engineering thought process where the structure is designed to have a certain life span, which could range from 10 years to 100 years. In such dam or reservoir design it was only targeted to remain operational till its desired life/age and there after it was nobody’s concern if it did not remain a reservoir at all due to continued sedimentation.

Was such the thought behind the designing of Ramgarh Lake?

Interestingly, life cycle approach is in conflict with the sustainable development goals which were aimed at creating assets which could be used by generations to come hence this concept would not have been followed while designing Ramgarh lake.

Most projects like construction of tankas, step wells, or dams or reservoirs undertaken by the Kings/rulers of ancient India were sustainably developed and cared as a renewable resource so that it could satisfy the need of the current as well as future generations.

The then king of Jaipur would not have wanted or allowed the reservoir to fill with sediment, meaning hereby that he must not have thought of Ramgarh Lake to be an exhaustible resource. However, it became an exhaustible resource because those who were entrusted to look after the lake did not care to implement reservoir sedimentation management approach to save the storage space or reduce the storage loss due to sedimentation.

We wish that those responsible for maintaining Ramgarh dam had maintained the storage volume till eternity. This would have benefited both present and future generations and would have prevented a renewable resource from becoming an exhaustible resource.

In India we make fresh ponds, lakes and reservoirs somewhere or the other everyday to increase the water holding capacity of these structures but tend to neglect the fact that in the absence of our attention the existing structures are becoming shallower due to deposit of sediment and one should not be surprised if serious analysis indicates that despite of building of new structures each year, the total holding capacity of all structures combined together is reducing each year.

Interestingly the average global storage loss due to reservoir sedimentation is estimated to be on the order of 0.8% to 1% per year globally. The reservoir benefits are lost if the reservoir is allowed to get filled with sediment and thereafter it becomes very difficult to restore the reservoir.

In our opinion when designing/operating a dam or a pond or a reservoir for the purpose of maintaining water storage keeping the aspect of sedimentation management in mind will make the reservoir a renewable resource.

There are more than a dozen methods which can be adopted to Manage/reduce Reservoir Sedimentation. It will be interesting to note that SILVERON while constructing two small ponds at Dhundhariya and Bighana for SABMiller India, still took care to  design an extremely simple structure in the flow path of rain water to reduce the quantity of sediments entering the pond.

Sedimentation Chamber                                            Water flows through openings into the pond

During monsoon the rain water flows in from higher level and falls in the sedimentation chamber and settles in the pit while water with less sediments flows through the openings down a stone pitched ramp into the pond.

To be continued …

Silveron’s Exceptional Approach Towards Rain Water Harvesting

Rain water harvesting is an interesting field for people who have passion for water, who are inquisitive, who have imagination, who are keen observers, who like to learn, who love experimentation, who are not afraid of failure, who have perseverance and who have innovative minds.

Rain water harvesting is different from other disciplines of science and engineering because it is not a standard formula based subject. Every factor involved is a variable, like for example the rain fall quantum, its intensity and days are unpredictable while an important factor like soil formation is variable from location to location.

Interestingly, we at Silveron have come across situations where the results of the same rain water harvesting efforts differ astonishingly at different locations even though all factors and conditions seem identical at both locations. This is what makes rain water harvesting so challenging.

At Silveron, we value the wisdom of the old residents of any village where we plan to work and to begin with our experienced team interacts with the village elders and tries to evaluate what the situation was like in that area, may be a decade ago and what the situation is in the present time and their opinion about the factors which have resulted in the difference.

Team Silveron, thereafter uses regular tools and data to draw their own inferences but at no stage ever we ignore the experience and wisdom of the local village elders. There have been occasions where we ignored the instrumental data & inferences and in favor of  the observations and advise of the local elders and we never had reason to regret.

Study of the strata deep below
Study of the strata deep below

Like every child is different for the parents, every shaft is different for us. Even today, every Silveron recharge shaft constructed is treated as the first shaft. Every aspect is examined including intake capacity and speed. Nothing is taken for granted on the basis of our years of experience in the field of water conservation.

Test and Trial of Shaft
Test and Trial of Shaft

Where ever possible, especially where the roof top water is diverted through pipe towards the recharge shaft, Silveron places meter in the flow path of water to measure the quantum of water actually recharged by the structure during the monsoon/year.

Field trials for Rainwater Harvesting Systems
Field trials for Rainwater Harvesting Systems

Very often team Silveron can be seen conducting field trials in order to create rain water harvesting designs which are easy to built and maintain while being of top grade in performance and cost effective so that the rain water ‘harvesting movement’ can be sped up with the participation of more and more people and our planet be saved from water starvation.