Breathing life into bore wells

WATER CRISIS

Breathing life into bore wells

GROUND REALITY: The solution doesn’t lie in sinking more bore wells, but in maintaining existing ones. File photo. Inset: D N Bhoje Gowda

Water shortage is an issue that causes quite a stir, particularly during the pre-monsoon months. When the situation becomes acute and the noise gets loud, the government adopts a knee jerk reaction and sanctions funds to sink a series of bore wells in public places.

This move is at best a first-aid and is never a long-term solution. For, quite often we find that even in places where a fairly good water source had been located, the wells, over a period of time, deteriorate in performance.

The output drops sharply and sometimes, even the quality of water shows a decline. When that happens the general conclusion is that the water table has been depleted and the bore well is no longer a source. Come another summer and yet another water shortage, funds get released for sinking a new set of bore wells.

Unfortunately, post monsoon, the topic of bore wells is removed from the government’s agenda and no official is interested in understanding the reality on the ground or taking pre-emptive action to prevent a repeat of the crisis.

Looking for an alternative
The Sri Jagadguru Chandrasekharanatha Swamiji Institute of Technology, Chikballapur, made a fortunate decision to experiment with an alternative. In the summer of 2004, the college campus faced an acute shortage of water as the yield from the multiple bore wells in the campus had fallen over the years. They approached D N Bhoje Gowda, a visiting NRI engineer to revive five of their bore wells.

As a service engineer with 34 years of experience in monitoring and maintaining bore wells in the USA, Gowda was confident that the operation would ensure improved water output.  But even he was not prepared for the result. The readings taken before and after the servicing showed that the outputs from the five bore wells had increased by 712%, 673%, 146%, 142% and 80%!

Lack of maintenance
The dramatic increase opened Gowda’s eyes to the fact that people here did not clean and maintain their bore wells. Since the bore well itself was under the ground and hence invisible, people did not even acknowledge that dirt gets collected in the region around the well and rendering it inefficient.

The experience made him decide to wind up his establishment in the USA and return to his water starved state with a mission to clean up the state’s innumerable, clogged bore wells.  He set up the Bore Tech Company in Bangalore which undertook the cleaning of bore wells on a non-profit basis.

But unfortunately, being armed with technology and good intentions was only half the battle won. It was an uphill task to convince people and the authorities of the need to have the bore wells cleaned, at least every four years. With video clips and power point presentations he showed people how, over a period of time, muck collects around the well thereby clogging the pores and reducing the inflow of water. Just as an open well is cleaned traditionally by physical methods, a bore well being at an inaccessible depth could be cleaned with the use of chemicals.

Gowda also emphasised an important health reason why bore wells must be cleaned and maintained. The stagnant water around the well, he pointed out, were a fertile breeding ground for bacteria. In the course of time these bacteria entered the stream and polluted the water. This could be all the more hazardous if the deadly e-coli bacteria from the sewage were to seep in and contaminate the water. The process of chemical cleaning not only dissolved the scales and muck clogging the pores, it also effectively killed all the bacteria.

Simple procedure
The procedure, done exactly on the lines followed in the USA, is simple, scientific and safe. As a first step, a sample is taken from the well and tested for bacterial, hardness and iron content. The pre-treatment yield is recorded and the signature of the customer is taken. Based on the lab results, a right mix of chemicals is formulated. A first set of chemicals is added to the bore well and allowed to sit for 24-36 hours. The water is then agitated and pumped out into the tank. The same water is recycled a couple of times more and the dirty water is finally discarded. A fresh mix of formulated chemicals is added and the process of resting, agitating, recycling and flushing out is repeated.

At each stage the Ph of the water is tested for acidity. The process is repeated until the tested water shows nil bacteria and a Ph of over 7. The water is now declared potable.
The chemicals used are certified 100% safe and leave no trace of smell or taste in the water. The entire process takes seven days. The post treatment yield reading is now recorded and the entire fact sheet is presented to the customer.

Based on the readings collected from the various projects undertaken, the company is so confident of the efficacy of its method that it has an ‘average 100% increase in output or no charge’ offer!   If, like rain water harvesting, this idea too gets adopted, the state stands to benefit enormously. But for a new idea to freely flow in, the prejudices and apathy clogging the mindset of the authorities must first go.  

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