CHENNAI: For 64-year-old Ramanathan, a resident of Virugambakkam, having a bath thrice a day is a must-do summer ritual. But the water crisis has made it a luxurious habit that he can’t afford.
He has now found a rather feasible alternative to keep him cool — using waste water from the air conditioner for his ablutions. With the city reeling under one of its worst drought situations, residents like Ramanathan have devised new and ingenious methods to keep water wastage at a bare minimum and at the same time, recycle and reuse this elixir of life to the maximum extent.
Small yet effective ways
Many apartments have started recycling grey water and some others have opted for smaller yet effective ways to tackle the ongoing water crisis. Some residents have resorted to extreme measures like taking bath with reject water from air conditioners while some are giving their pets a bath with reject water from the RO machine.
“Washing utensils, clothes, mopping the house and flushing are the four main activities for which water is used to a large extent. About 300-400 litres is used for these chores on an everyday basis. So, instead of using fresh water, we use reject water from the air conditioner or the RO machine,” says Lalitha Rajan, a resident of Mugalivakkam.
Resident bodies step in
Resident associations across the city have started circulating letters with strict instructions to all its members to decrease consumption. One such association in Velachery has collected suggestions from 100- odd families and put together multiple guidelines under different categories to conserve water in the bathroom, utility area, kitchen and garden.
“A leakage of one drop per second amounts to wastage of four litres of water. Hence, we have requested all residents to check for leakage in taps, faucets and toilet flush. Some have also installed aerators in faucets to reduce the inflow of water. We have asked residents to stop using overhead showers and instead use water from buckets for a bath,” shares Sakthi Rekha, a resident.
A feasible alternative
As air conditioners are rarely switched off at this time of the year, an ample amount of wastewater generated from it have become the popular alternative for fresh water in most homes. Also, residents who don’t have timers on their motors are being careful to not let water overflow from overhead tanks.
“My father-in-law and I take turns to keep an eye on the tank when the motor is turned on. Even if it takes half an hour, I stand looking at the tank to make sure even one drop doesn’t get wasted,” says Geetha Ganesh, a resident of AGS Colony in West Velachery.
Going the organic way
To reuse water after mopping and washing utensils, many have switched to organic soaps and detergents. “Rock salt and turmeric are a popular choice among residents to clean floors and vessels instead of liquid chemical detergents. So, this water can be used to water plants or left in the ground into a pit to recharge the aquifer,” says Haris Sultan, a resident of Korattur.
Recycling grey water
Large-scale gated communities are using recycled wastewater from sewage treatment plants for gardening, flushing and washing vehicles. Individual apartments are employing similar methods on a smaller scale to recycle water. Residents of an apartment complex in Mandaveli are installing pipes to divert grey water into a separate overhead tank to reuse it for flushing.
“Like how the government made rainwater harvesting compulsory in all buildings, recycling of grey water should be made mandatory too. Many residents have approached me to adopt this method in their apartments. It is very effective in saving water and a simple technique.
Before grey water drains off, it is diverted through pipes to a tank where it is filtered based on basic sedimentation. This is used again by directing it to the flushing system in toilets. We are in the process of setting it up, once it is ready we will water the plants with this too,” explains KL Bala, a resident and active member of Thiruveedhi Amman Kovil Street Residents Association.
Below are a few tips that can help residents use waste water
1. In the bathroom
- Use water from a mug for washing face, hands and brushing teeth instead of water from running tap.
- Save residual water if having a hot water bath.
- Avoid using hand gels that are very soapy.
- Reduce shower time, avoid having baths from shower heads.
- Check for leaks after flushing, turn off the main inlet if a leak is spotted.
2. For household chores
- Use RO reject water if TDS is low. Up to 75 per cent comes out as reject which can be used again.
- Reuse towels, run full loads in the washing machine and hand wash smaller clothes if possible.
- Wash vessels with reject water from RO machine and air conditioners.
- Use organic soaps to clean floors so that water can be used again.
- Use right-sized vessel for cooking to ensure less water is used while washing it.
- Switch to mopping the floor on alternate days.
3. Other activities
- Use less water for plants if you see water dripping from pots.
- Mix coco peat with soil for more water retention.
- Avoid washing vehicles or use recycled water.
- Collect reject water from air conditioners, this can be used for various purposes including bathing.