World Water Day 2023: Junagadh villages do a mix-and-match with ground and surface supplies

Surface and ground water are used in a manner that can ensure the balance of ecology

By Sushmita Sengupta, Swati Bhatia, Vivek Kumar Sah
Published: Wednesday 22 March 2023
Junagadh, Gujarat: Aemi-arid regions

This was first published in Big change is possible: Best practices in water supply and sanitation in India 

Junagadh district is located in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. The region has a semi-arid climate characterised by extreme temperature, erratic rainfall and a high rate of evaporation.

The district initially depended on perennial streams flowing through most of its villages. Drinking water directly from the streams exposed the community, especially children, to diseases like dysentery and jaundice.

In the peak summers, when the temperature soared to 44°C, streams dried up and communities walked for miles to neighbouring villages that had open ‘British wells’ more than 30 metre deep and drilled some 70 years ago.

Sometimes, the villagers collected water from government-owned or private open wells, which were even deeper. The womenfolk especially were involved in fetching water in dry seasons and had to walk in the heat with pots on their heads.

The change

In 2002, the Water and Sanitation Management Organization (WASMO), the Gujarat government’s Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), took up the responsibility of supplying drinking water to villages and introduced borewells in this region.

But as groundwater plunged in peak summers, the villages used the backup supply from the Gujarat Water Supply and Sanitation Board (GWSSB); GWSSB has been in operation in the district since 2000.

Aided by WASMO and GWSSB, villages in Junagadh’s Bhesan taluka have effectively implemented a conjunctive system where a combination of surface water and groundwater sources are used.

Village Ranpur, for instance, uses both sources. Except in peak summers, the water supply of the village depends mainly on the groundwater source. Water pumped from the underground source is stored in a 50,000-litre overhead tank. From here, the water is supplied to 1,313 households.

To maintain the flow of groundwater from borewells, WASMO strategically constructed borewells near the water channels. This helps in recharge of the groundwater whenever rainfall is sufficient. There is thus an improvement in groundwater levels whenever the rainfall is high in the district.

Source: https://indiawris.gov.in/wris/#/groundWater (viewed on April 8, 2022)

To supply water during peak summers, GWSSB has constructed a block-level water-treatment plant. Water from the Narmada river and Willingdon dam, Hasanpur dam and Anandpur weir are pumped to the water-treatment plant.

For Bhesan taluka, water is extracted from the Narmada and treated in a plant with a capacity of 10.20 million litre per day (MLD). Treated water is supplied to villages such as Ranpur and stored in a 150,000-litre overground sump (for storing surface water) near the overhead tank (for storing groundwater) in the village. Whenever there is a scarcity, water from the overground sump is connected to the same water-distribution pipeline.

(Left) A 150,000-litre sump in village Ranpur, block Bhesan, Junagadh district (Right) A borewell used as a water source in village Ranpur (Vivek Kumar Sah, CSE)

Villages such as Chanaka, Chhodvadi and Khambaliya in Bhesan taluka demonstrate the conjunctive use of surface and groundwater. If the rainfall is above average, groundwater reserves increase and can be used for a longer duration. Surface water is then distributed only March to June.

But if the rainfall is below average, surface water is supplied between January to June. The Gram Panchayat needs to formally inform GWSSB about the village’s requirement for water. Water supply from GWSSB will start as soon as five to 10 adjacent villages send this request.

A 10.20 million litre per day water-treatment plant at Bhesan block, Junagadh district (Vivek Kumar Sah,  CSE)

Operation and maintenance

The Village Water and Sanitation Committee (VWSC), established in 2019 under the Jal Jeevan Mission programme, undertakes operation and maintenance of the water supply system at the village level. Around 60 per cent of the members in the committee are women.

VWSC charges Rs 500 per year for maintenance of each household tap connection. It has appointed an operator for regular monitoring of pipelines. VWSC members visits the households twice a month for feedback regarding water supply. The GWSSB charges the VWSC Rs 2 for every 1,000 litre supplied to the village. GWSSB does maintenance of the GWSSB scheme itself.

A functional household tap connection in village Bhalchhel, Mendarda block, Junagadh district (Vivek Kumar Sah, CSE)

WASMO has established a district-level laboratory in Junagadh district. The laboratory regularly monitors the quality of supplied water. A chemist visits the villages twice a month to ensure that clean water is supplied to all the households.

Water samples are collected from households to check the potability of the water supplied. On the basis of reports generated, they mark the groundwater source fit or unfit for drinking.

The reports are shared regularly with the Gram Panchayats. Field testing kits are also provided to the VWSC for regular testing. Around five from each village are trained for using the field testing kits.

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