Last year, we talked about Cape Town, South Africa, and the words “Day Zero” were top of mind. This year, a similar story is being told of Chennai, India.
The Indian city is quickly running out of water. Due to the combination of a hot summer and a delayed monsoon season, its reservoirs are drying up, and the government can’t keep pace with the demand. As is the case in many water-scarce areas, the wealthy can purchase water, and the low-income population waits in lines, rations, fights and-as was the case for a man in Chennai-dies in brawls over water.
Different media outlets question who is to blame and what is the solution. According to NPR, in 2002, the city turned to rainwater harvesting as a proactive solution. When the city was hit with monsoon season after installation, the systems helped replenish the water table to ensure healthy water resources for more than a decade, reported NPR. This didn’t last long, however. The government did not maintain the rainwater harvesting systems, causing many to enter disrepair, said NPR. Now, residents are asking how they can leverage rainwater harvesting again in the wake of their own Day Zero.
Similarly, an overabundance of impermeable infrastructure has prevented the area from maximizing monsoon season when it occurs. Bloomberg reported that heavy flooding four years ago partially was due to the city paving over lakes and wetlands in the area. These impermeable surfaces made it difficult for storm water to infiltrate the aquifer and replenish needed water resources.
In the storm water industry, we often frame rainwater harvesting as a money-saving opportunity and green infrastructure as a means to reduce stress on the sewer system. The experience of Chennai is a reminder that these solutions also are sustainable; they allow users to proactively conserve water resources.