Every drop counts: A village that is water wise

The model of a madaka in the miniature replica of Idkidu Gram Panchayat in the premises of Shanmukha SubrahmanyaTemple. Photos by Govindraj Javli

With a clear intention to reduce the dependency on water and electricity from external sources, B Gopalkrishna, a progressive farmer, began construction of his two-storied house near Mitthur in Idkidu in December 2018.

Today, with the help of roof-top solar panels, the electricity bill earlier running into thousands of rupees has reduced substantially to around Rs 300. Gopalkrishna and his family are not dependent on piped water supply any more, thanks to a simple rainwater harvesting (RWH) system installed behind the house.

Recharging groundwater

The rainwater collected on the rooftop, with an area of 3,000 sq ft, is directed to a pit in order to recharge the borewell. A filter placed in the pit prevents solid substances from entering the borewell. Even the overflow from the overhead tank drains into the pit.

The rainwater collected on the roof of Shanmukha Subrahmanya Temple in Kolpe is used to recharge an open well in the temple vicinity, says Suresh M, former managing trustee of the temple. “Nearly one crore litres of rainwater is harvested annually,” he says.

A miniature replica of Idkidu Gram Panchayat occupies a prime space in the premises of the temple. The model highlights the presence of borewells, channels and other water harvesting structures in the village. “This model prompts every individual to respect available natural resources and motivates us to play a role in water conservation efforts,” explains Dr Krishna Bhat Konkodi, a veterinary doctor.

Initiated into implementing hundreds of RWH systems 18 years ago, Idkidu is known for its community-led water conservation strategies.

Every individual living in Idkidu in Bantwal taluk located about 46 km from Mangaluru is motivated to implement RWH systems at household, neighbourhood and community levels.   

Water-literate community

With hundreds of RWH systems constructed in 2001, Idkidu is seen as a water-literate village. However, in 2016, the community carried out a reality check of the initiatives and it dawned on them that the water levels had dipped again. It came as a shock not only for the residents of the village but also for those who knew about the water conservation efforts of the panchayat.

The agrarian community, with more than 550 irrigation pump sets, comprising nearly three-fourth of the population of about 8000 people in Idkidu and Kula villages were worried to no end.

The village elders initiated a random survey of 1,700 houses to get to the bottom of the problem. Amritha Sinchana Raitha Seva Okkoota President Prafullachandra informs that the survey of 288 households practising RWH revealed that erratic usage of water had led to the depletion of groundwater.

“The positive gains from RWH practices were neutralised by overexploitation of water and sinking more borewells (62 in 2001 to 720 in 2011) to meet the water needs of expanding farms,’’ says Dr Krishna Bhat. In the second phase of the campaign, users were informed about ways to utilise water efficiently.

“We convinced farmers to replace sprinklers with drip irrigation system. Under this, the water needed per plant does not exceed three normal-sized tumblers,” explains Prafullachandra. The farmers were also motivated to embrace mixed cropping for effective use of water.

Several other initiatives like construction of traditional water harvesting structures such as madakas at elevated areas and construction of earthen bunds across rivulets and channels after the Navarathri festival are taken up at community level in order to recharge the aquifers.

What water conservation expert Shree Padre admires about the recent RWH campaigns in the gram panchayat is the way people acted in anticipation of a problem as against the general trend of reacting when a crisis explodes. “The people of Idkidu acted before it was too late and set a model for others,’’ he emphasises.

Gopalkrishna Bhat says everyone must do their bit to conserve water and experience the pleasure of seeing water recharging the aquifers instead of flowing down the drain. 

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