Water availability is an issue that has long persisted. Since the gap between demand and supply of safe drinking water is going to increase with rapid urbanisation, there is a need to evolve several water supply methods, schemes and processes. But that won't happen unless the water is handled responsibly from the individual to the level of corporations, avers Saravanan Panneer Selvam, Sales Director, Grundfos Pumps India Pvt. Ltd.
Although 18 per cent of the world's population lives in India, the country has only 4 per cent of the world's usable water resources. Over the years, per capita availability of water has decreased significantly. So, what are we up against?
I belong to Chennai and we have seen what happened in the city in August. At the peak of the crisis, Chennai was described as the second Cape Town in the making with water running out. We are mismanaging water by not handling, treating and reusing it properly. If we continue to do that, the entire country will face a water crisis. Therefore, it is important to understand total water management.
The provision of safe drinking water is another challenge since 21 per cent of communicable diseases in the country are caused by that. So, how important is safe transportation of water?
When water is being transported, there is every possibility of leakages. That doesn't only mean water getting drained out but also the likelihood of water getting contaminated through leakage since that is when pathogens get transported along with water. And that is what leads to water-borne diseases. Therefore, the water must be delivered at the right pressure to the utility point outside the city where it is required. And from there if that water is needed at a particular point, it must be available at the right pressure, time and volume. There is simply no point pressurising the entire pipeline for the entire period when there is no utilisation in that area. That is called demand-driven distribution and we specialise in the area. When there is no need at the end of a point the motor is made to sense the actual requirement to pump in only the right requirement of quantity and pressure. There are two advantages. Firstly, the pipe is not constantly under pressure and its life gets extended and the possibility of leakage is reduced. Secondly, the distribution of water at the right pressure helps in reducing the chances of leakage.
The widening demand-supply mismatch and treatment of wastewater are cited as major issues by some experts. Your comment!
The demand-supply gap is undeniably there. This year alone, during the monsoon season 365 districts were starved for water while 195 districts were flooded. That is the inequality which we see in the country. We have an issue when we don't have water and we have an issue when there is too much water! How do we balance that? One way of ensuring it is by managing the available resource properly. In 2015, Chennai faced serious flooding. Four years down the line, it is faced with a severe drought. Now that is because presently there is no proper storage and management of water. If you can improve management, the situation will improve very quickly.
Since the gap between demand and supply is going to increase with rapid urbanisation we need to evolve several water supply methods, schemes and processes. But that won't happen unless the water is handled responsibly from the individual to the level of corporations. Therefore, all stakeholders need to join hands and manage water properly. Probably, the problem with the gap that we foresee in 2025 can be pushed to 2030 and eventually it can be pushed further to 2050, by which time we are likely to have a sustainable solution in place.
From your own experience, how serious are various stakeholders in the government and industry about water management? The awareness has grown and the rate at which it is spreading is very encouraging. This is very interesting and we are happy to see that happening. There are places like government offices where tenders were finalised based on L1. But today that is no longer the case. They are going by the power loading factor, efficiency of the system, cost of ownership and lifecycle cost than just the retail price of the equipment. That's a welcome development. In our case, we have supplied flood control pumps in the cities of Mumbai and Kolkata as well as some of the sewage pumps in Chennai. All these are based on power-loading factors. As a premium product, Grundfos is perceived as one of the highest-priced products. But we were chosen for government projects due to the efficiency of our solutions.
There have been proposals to disincentivise the use of freshwater by the industry with more emphasis being given to the use of treated water. What is your opinion on the matter?
That is already happening. More than a decade ago, wastewater treatment plants were there to manage only the effluents being discharged. But that is no longer the norm. Today, every wastewater treatment plant in industry or large community functions within a proper framework of controls. The reasons are the tightening of regulations and improvement in public awareness. For instance, if the wastewater treatment plant in my community is down for even two hours, residents start raising an alarm. All these plants need to be well-incentivised to encourage companies to use increased levels of treated water. That is one more way Grundfos contributes. Generally, water is treated only once for reuse as people don't go for tertiary systems after primary and secondary treatments. But then the tertiary systems are also important because water can be recycled a second time. But that requires technologically advanced pumps capable of handling high inlet pressure. Otherwise not only will the product fail to deliver but also the output won't be good.
In India, water management is also about coordinating with different departments like power, agriculture, rural development, environment & forest, etc. Meanwhile, the Modi government announced in May the formation of the Jal Shakti Ministry after merging departments of water resources, river development & Ganga rejuvenation and drinking water and sanitation. So, how well-coordinated is the country's approach to water management?
That's a tricky question! In my opinion, it has to improve a bit. Yes, it is commendable that the government has decided to focus on this particular aspect with the formation of the new ministry. Now, it must be ensured that there is good coordination between various departments otherwise they could end up playing the blame game, which would delay the process of infrastructure development in the country. But we cannot afford that as it would only worsen the situation. Therefore, government departments need to coordinate better to ensure that the process is completed faster.
As India's economy has expanded and people's aspirations have grown, what new opportunities have emerged in the sector?
There is an increased level of awareness about energy and efficiency among users without compromising their comfort level. Recently, someone asked me if we had a booster pump that could turn off the shower once he finished bathing. That is where people are increasingly looking at intelligent solutions and Grundfos has already introduced a pump that can go off at a preset time. For example, if you set it at 30 minutes, it will cut off water flow after that duration. That kind of intelligence is being sought and built into products. We have also introduced the IE5 range of motors here. Just to give you a perspective, India still accepts IE2 motors while IE3 has just started gaining in popularity. The difference is that though IE2 and IE3 motors are designed for 100 per cent efficiency they mostly operate at a much lower capacity. When you are at the lower level of efficiency in terms of motors, the park load efficiency is also reduced. In IE5 motors the park load efficiency is equal to full load efficiency. That means there is a substantial saving in terms of energy especially for industries that are run 24x7 on park load. These kinds of energy-efficient products are in and are finding growing acceptance.
So, what role will companies like yours play in providing smarter and sustainable water solutions?
The private sector has a very important role. However, at this point, utilisation of such sustainable solutions like solar is very limited. The main reason being the amount of water being consumed by industries is quite high and that makes investing in solar pumps an expensive proposition. And that needs to be brought down through policy intervention. Once that happens, solar power will be used in even normal process applications.