Decentralized Water Supply Schemes – Om Prakash Sharma

DECENTRALIZED WATER SUPPLY SCHEMES
A sustainable solution to water short semi arid and arid regions of India.
O P Sharma, Country Director, Wells for India – India Office, email: [email protected]

ABSTRACT
Supplying water through pipes from longer distances seemed to be one of the most suitable and sustainable solutions to
eradicate the problem of water scarcity in many parts of the Semi arid and arid regions of Rajasthan. Experiences of large
water supply schemes show that they not only require large management structures but their operational cost is also very
high. Many of the large centralized water supply schemes have been abandoned due to lack of fresh sweet water at the
source, inter-village conflict etc.
Decentralization i.e. people participation in planning, designing, implementation and later operating the scheme seems to the
sustainable solution. This not lead self reliance with in village and increases the local villagers control over the water
resource.

KEY WORDS
Decentraization, Self Reliance, People participation, cost sharing

PRELUDE
Water is a prime natural resource, a basic human need for all living beings on our planet, in the absence of which no socio
economic developmental activities are sustainable.  It is the most precious and valuable natural asset in Semi arid and Arid
parts of India, where rainfall is erratic and drought is a cyclic phenomenon. , Since independence the main principle guiding
the water resources development in this part of India has been to ensure adequate supplies of water for various uses such as
irrigation, urban and rural drinking water, sanitation, industrial water etc, whilst still preserving the fragile eco-system of this
region using water supply schemes, wells ponds and lakes.
Dudu block of Jaipur district is located 65 Km West of the Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan. Being located on the fringe of Arid
and Semi Arid ( ASA ) region of the Rajasthan. Here the environmental degradation is rapid, leading  to severe  water, food
and fodder scarcity for human beings as well as for the livestock. These problems of water, food and fodder availability are
aggravated during drought periods, leading to mass migration of the people to near by states / cities/ towns. Drought is
recurrent phenomenon in Dudu block. Fresh sweet potable water is also inherently a scarce resource in most of the villages of
the Dudu block, due to the underground formations. The inbuilt geological formation causes salinity / brackishness in the
fresh rainwater, when it percolates down. Many parts of the block also suffer from a high fluoride content. The excess
fluoride content causes various types of health problems. With these typical natural conditions 200,000 people of the area
faces severe water crisis from time to time. This has resulted in various socio – economic and environmental impacts in the
area. The out migration in search of labor is a common feature of the area. The agriculture is mainly dependent on the rains.
With limited fresh water zones, the irrigated agriculture in the area is very meager and fragile. In particular, women folk of
the area suffer a lot due to water scarcity. They have to walk 8-10 Km daily to fetch the sweet potable water for their family
members.
Government and other social institutions have been implementing short term relief efforts and  long term programmes
ranging from water harvesting to improving water quality standard in the Dudu block.  Supplying water through pipes from
longer distances seemed to be one of the most suitable and sustainable solutions perceived by government and people to
eradicate the problem of water scarcity in some parts of the block. Experiences of large water supply schemes show that they
not only require large management structures but their operational cost is also very high. Many of the large centralized water
supply schemes have been abandoned in the area due to lack of fresh sweet water at the source, inter-village conflict etc. It is
also being observed that these water supply schemes have not being considered by the villagers as being their own scheme as
they are being operated and maintained by outside agencies.
As a result of examining these problems, a programme was developed in collaboration by Rotary International, Local
governments Public health and Engineering Departments, Wells for India, UK  and a community based organization – Gram
Seva Mandal Idankas (GSMI ), Dudu ( a Non governmental voluntary organization operating in the Dudu block for last 15
years ).
THE DECENTRALIZED WATER SUPPLY SCHME
This tripartite programme on water supply scheme was started in 1994. This scheme is based on the principles of self-reliance
and decentralization, in which the people of the village are not only the beneficiaries of the scheme, but also play a key role
in decision making, operation, maintenance etc. The whole scheme is divided in to two parts – Hardware and Software. The
hardware part consists of Source well, a pump house, pipeline and a storage tank ( called as Ground Level Reservoir – GLR
). The storage tank is normally located at the center place of the village. Water is pumped from the source well to the storage
tank. Utmost importance is given to selecting the source well so that it is situated  near to a pond or small dam or close to
river / stream course.
The Software part of the scheme consist of community organization, making village level user groups. The user groups have
the responsibility to operate and maintain the scheme.  50 such small water supply schemes are laid in 83 villages of the
Dudu block, covering a total pipe line length of 140 Km. Approximately 60,000 population were affected from these water
supply schemes. Some scheme serve one village whilst others serve a number of villages either by branching of pipe line or more than one line from one well.
PEOPLE PARTICPATION AND COST SHARING
These water supply schemes are being implemented with the active community support. Wells for India put special efforts
on locating the water source with the help of local knowledge building and developing the well and in parallel on the water
harvesting to ensure sustainable supply of water even in drought years.
People of the villages have participated fully in SHARING OF THE COST – supplying the labour to lay the pipelines, free of
charge, planning of the route of the pipeline and by supervising the laying of pipelines and the well development work.
During implementation a committee is formed to operate and maintain the water supply scheme on sustainable basis. The
government have played a key part in provision of electricity to the wells and in some cases supply of the pipelines.
IMPACTS
The PRIME BENEFICIARIES OF THE WATER PROGRAMME ARE THE WOMAN OF THE FAMILY. Before the
implementation of the schemes they had to walk 8-10 Km to fetch water. Now the water is available to their doorsteps.
Therefore, the major benefits from the water supply scheme is CONVENIENCE.  The programme as a whole SAVED TIME
of the people of the villages. Especially women and girls who spent many hours to collect the water from distant sources,
now have more time to take care of children,   animals etc. In some of the villages it also observed that after water availability in the villages girls have started attending the school, which was not possible earlier.
Buying of water during lean period is a common feature of the Dudu area. During acute shortage period water is being
purchased at an exorbitant rates from the water vendors. This causes a heavy economic burden, especially on the poor and
marginal families of the villages. it is also observed that water supply scheme has helped to SAVE MONEY, especially to the
poor and disadvantage groups of the village.
The Sweet and good quality of water also IMPROVED THE HEALTH CONDITION. Earlier people were drinking water
directly from wells / ponds, which was not only turbid but also of not good quality. The diarrhea, vomiting and other stomach
related diseases were common in many families. There is a considerable decrease in such type of problems after drinking
water from water supply scheme.
The relief for women in terms of better health, increased time is only the beginning of women being empowered.

CASE STUDY –1

Atalpura is a small village of 54 household, located 25 Km North of . Total Population of the village is 400, out of this most of the families
are of Gurjars caste groups. Gurjars are traditionally involved in agriculture and livestock rearing activities. Village is located near to the
Sambhar salt lake . Most of the wells in the village are yielding saline water. Being located in saline zone of the Dudu block, people of the
area had develop a system to harvest the rain water and using it for drinking purposes. Constructing a pond is doing water harvesting, along
with the pond a well is also deepened up to collect the sweet rainwater through put the year. Thus they were not only getting the sweet
water through out the year but also with minimum of contamination.

The water supply scheme was installed in 1998, when people were facing acute shortage of water. Earlier to the scheme situation was very
grim, told Prem devi, a 40-year-old woman. She has to walk 4 Km to fetch the water. Under ground water in wells, near to villages are
having saline water. Only one well at Sapo ki Dhani, which is 4 Km away from village was the source of sweet potable water.

Radaha devi, 35-year-old woman recalls “Availability of water also depends on how early you reach at well, during acute period, i.e. in
summer, we have to reach at well around 5-6 o clock in the morning. If we are not lucky then we have to drink slightly saline water.

Now after installation of Water Supply Scheme water is being pumped in the village from a well in chandoliya pond. A pump house with
diesel pump is also fitted in it was also constructed along the well. Water is pumped through 2 Km PVC pipeline to a common place in the
village. No water storage tank or GLR is being constructed. Villager contributed as a labor towards digging of pipe line. After installation
villagers were operating the scheme. Rs. 30 per house was collected for running of the scheme. Expenses like diesel and minor repair was
bear by the villagers.  GSMI also undertook the deepening of the same well which supplying water to the village in the year 2000 and
2001. Well deepening was done with an objective to provide immediate relief to the people from drought. Simultaneously Well deepening
has also increased  the capacity of the well.

Radha Devi told  “ Now after Water Supply Scheme  we have water in our own village and can use the time saved for other useful
activities.”   The benefits include better health , more time to spend on farming chores and increased milk yield due to the availability of
sweet , and drinking water .

CASE STUDY – 2

Morsar – Chainpura and Charanwas are located only 10 Km  away from Naraina ( 13 Km west of Dudu, In these villages GSMI installed
the first water supply scheme during 1988 when the  water situation in the village Morsar, Chainpura and Charanwas was very serious.
Being located in saline zone of the Dudu block, these villages faces acute shortage of drinking water for cattle as well as human beings.
The problem of drinking water become acute during drought period.  Ladies had to walk 5 – 6  Km daily to fetch water. Everywhere there
was sewer problem of water during 1988 drought period . Morsar having population of 450, Chainpura 700 and Charanwas 200 was facing
serious water problem and were drinking saline water that was not good for health. Ramniwas and Jeevan Ram told “ It was very hard time
for all of us,

GSMI begin to start  well deepening  and construction of new well with the financial support of wells for India. After hydrological survey
conducted by AFPRO,  GSMI constructed a new well near Charanwas and by the god’s Mercy sweet water came.  After having sweet
water in their villages they requested GSMI to implement Water supply scheme. GSMI connected all these three villages through pipe line
from the well in Charanwas village  Diesel pump was also installed to lift and supply water to villages, with an objective of self reliance
where people have access and control over their resources, viz. water.

The village committee was also constituted to operate and maintain the scheme. The distance of village Morsar from the well was more
then 3 km. During initial period a diesel pump was installed but was not capable to pump water to the village. The village committee
requested GSMI to install an electric pump. In 1995 electric pump was installed and GLR was constructed in morsar and chainpura. After
two years there was shortage of water in the well The Govt. of Rajasthan connected Morsar with a separate water supply scheme from
Kachanar.Last year because of drought the well was again dried and by the motivation of GSMI and active involvement Village committee,
the village committee spent 25 thousand rupees to deepen the well and side bore. The scheme is well maintained and being operational
after 14 years of its installation.

CASE STUDY –3

Gudha Sahaipura is a village of 300 populations, located 10 Km west of Dudu town . The wells and ponds were the main source of
drinking water for the people before the implementation of Water Supply Scheme and well deepening programme by GSMI. Villagers were
forced to drink contaminated water direct from pond. Fetching water for drinking purpose was very tough job, said one of the women
during visit to village. She told “ Walking 2-3 Km to fetch the water causes back and stomach pain. “

GSMI started water programme in 1994 – 95 by deepening of well and in later years by installing the Water Supply Scheme. Pipes were
laid to connect all the houses.  It was observed that prime benefits of water supply schemes are convenience. Everybody wants that water
should be as close as possible to their home / village. Water supply schemes had increased the convenience of the people. Few of the
women also told that due to closer availability of water in their village, now they feel more secure. Now they do not have to worry about
being assaulted or abduction. The water supply scheme as a whole saved lot of time of the people of the villages. Especially women and
girls who spent many hours to collect the water from distant sources, now have time for caring children, taking care of animals etc. In some
of the villages team also observed that after water availability in the villages girls are going frequently to the schools. During acute shortage
period water is being purchased at an exorbitant rates from the water vendors. This causes a heavy economic burden, especially on the poor
and marginal families of the villages.

The critical impact of the water supply scheme observed is the psychological impact. When women traveled long distance anxiety and
stress was high. One of the women told that during lean period they have to wake up early in the morning and rush to the well / water
source point. If she got late then they have no choice to drink the saline water. This creates mental tension and become high in summer
period. Apart from the water supply scheme benefiting the human beings, it had also benefiting the number of animals in each village.
LESSONS LEARNT
The major lesson learned from these 50 decentralized water supply schemes is that  COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION AND
OWNERSHIP plays a key role in success for any water supply scheme and if the communities are given power and chance to
manage their resources, they not only ensures qualitative and quantitative augmentation but its sustainability too . ROLE OF
WOMEN, PROJECT PLANNING, PROJECT MONITORING AND SUPERVISION, COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTION
AND  SHARING OF OPERATIONAL AND MAINTENANCE COST ARE THE KEY FACTORS FOR ANY WATER
SUPPLY SCHEME.
In addition, it also observed that the operation and maintenance of the schemes by VILLAGE INSTITUTIONS gives a
platform for the villagers to come together discuss and find  solutions to their various daily problems.
After implementation of such water supply schemes government has also initiated community lead decentralized scheme in
many parts of the block and Jaipur district of the Rajasthan state.