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Safe Rural Drinking Water Supply

What is the role of Gram Panchayats in providing safe drinking water?

1. Drinking water is a basic service that the Gram Panchayats are expected to deliver.

2. They have decided to set up technology such as RO.

3. To handle operations of these ROs, Gram Panchayats are inviting private players, NGOs/CSRs often on commercial terms.

4. However, the Panchayats need to have the powers to control and regulate issues such as quality of treated water, plant hygiene, pricing and the reuse of reject water for acceptable purposes.

Which are the standards set for safe water?

1. It should be free from bacteriological contamination, chemical contamination and the physical characteristics such as colour, smell and taste are acceptable.

2. According to WHO, humans get between 10-20% of minerals from drinking water.

3. So, BIS has specified drinking water quality standards in India to provide safe drinking water to the people.

4. It is necessary that drinking water sources should be tested regularly to know whether water is meeting the prescribed standards for drinking or not.

5. The revised edition of IS 10500:2012 standard specified by the BIS is followed in Uniform Drinking Water Quality Monitoring Protocol.

6. This standard has two limits i.e. desirable limits and maximum permissible or cause for rejection limit. If any parameter exceeds the cause for rejection limit, that water is considered unfit for human consumption.

Why is water getting contaminated?

1. Over dependence on ground water leads to drastic changes in physical and chemical properties of drinking water sources.

2. The guidelines on National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP-2013) warns against India’s over-dependence on groundwater sources and suggests that there should be a move from groundwater to the conjunctive use from several sources.

How is Reverse Osmosis (RO) useful?

1. RO technology is used to remove excessive minerals from drinking water such as fluorides, arsenic, hardness etc.

2. It addresses the problem of physio-chemical contaminants in drinking water.

3. This practice has started in rural areas as a gift or give away from some NGOs and CSR projects.

Where is the way forward?

1. In most villages, people pay for water between Rs.50 to Rs.150 per month, depending upon how much water they use.

2. The new culture of swiping ATW (Any Time Water) card for water, coin operated system and coupon system is bringing about a new culture of paying for water, which the state governments wanted to put in place.

3. This will reduce the operation and maintenance cost of water supply.

4. RO system ejects a huge quantity of water (25-30%) in the process of purification with high mineral content.

5. This reject water can be channeled for use in local school toilets as it is done in some villages of Rajasthan.

RO Plants should be set up only in places that have water quality problems, as certified by water quality laboratories. It should not be allowed to become a fashionable infrastructure.