Smart phone-linked sensors, recycling waste water and literally making water from thin air: Apartment buildings are streamlining water conservation using technology.
Water conservation begins at home, in your apartment complex and colonies. You can start with something as simple as installing a low-flow water aerator on taps and showerheads, or recycle waste water to use for gardening, flushing and other quotidian household needs.
As cities continue to urbanise, demand for fresh water is increasing, it’s hard to keep up supply. Civic bodies do not have adequate water infrastructure, climate change has led to erratic weather patterns. Combine that with mismanaged water resources, wasteful water policies and we have a looming water crisis.
Waking up to this situation, many residential colonies and individual homes in India are using technology to save water. They are installing smart water meters to track water usage, installing waste-water treatment plants to recycle water in their societies and are even making drinking water out of thin air.
“There are only two ways to solve the water problem,” says Abilash Haridass, co-founder and chief of growth and strategy, WEGoT Utility Solutions. “Either you increase the supply of water or you decrease the demand.” One way to reduce demand is by using water sensors to keep track of water consumption in each household.
In 2017, Bengaluru’s Pearl Tuscany complex, installed WEGoT’s VenAqua water sensor in its 48 apartments. The Chennai-based startup installed sensors in the water inlet of each apartment, helping homes to manage the entire water intake and use by analysing data to track flow, pressure and quality of water in real-time through an mobile phone application.
“The platform can detect leakages and we can remotely shut taps and valves off from our mobile phones. It also tracks abnormal consumption like drips and fixture efficiency and helps buildings become more water efficient,” says Venkatesan Natesan, secretary of the society. He says that their monthly maintenance bill has been reduced by 70 percent. “In 2018 we paid around Rs 2,000 per month, now we barely pay Rs 800 and save 35 percent of water too.” The meter is given out free of cost and residents pay a monthly subscription fee of Rs. 140 for the service.
Similarly, Bengaluru-based Smarterhomes provides households in the city with meters to monitor water consumption using a remote sensing technology. At Celebrity Signature Apartments, residents have been heavily dependent on water tankers for the last 4-5 years. One major problem was dividing the tanker bill between its 80 regular flats and 11 penthouses in the building, as costs differed with the size of the home and varying number of people in each flat. “We tried multiple ways to implement a fair billing procedure, however, none of that worked,” says Melvin Vincent, president of the resident welfare association. “We then decided to install a smart meter because each resident can be billed as per use.”
The most significant advantage says Vincent is that when people look at their own consumption data, they start taking conscious steps to optimise their consumption. The connected meters send consumption data in real time to the central analytical and billing engine. “The platform is accessible from smart phones, allowing users to view per inlet consumption, historical or average consumption or even make comparisons with their neighbours, which encourages them to reduce waste,” says Vivek Shukla, CEO Smarterhomes.
An innovative technology launched by Elbow Engineers Pvt LTD in December 2017, called My70 converts humidity in the air into drinking water.
The device, which measures 3 feet by 1.5 feet, consists of a series of chambers, and runs on patented technology. It sucks the humidity from the atmosphere to create water which is then subject to a four-stage filtration process to produce clean water.
“Our domestic version produces 20 litres per day, which is the same as the bubble top can,” says Kumar Loganathan, CEO of the EWR. “The best advantage is the freedom from dependence on bottled water and other wasteful systems. Since our device requires no pipe connection and has no wastage, it scores over water starved areas that need RO systems,” says Gopikrishna, a resident of Chennai who uses this device in his home. The device is electrically powered and is usually kept running at night when the humidity is high. He says it produces water of a better quality than that supplied through the public systems.
Not going to waste
Mumbai-based startup Indra Water helps residential societies save on their water costs by recycling their wastewater and reusing it for non-potable applications like flushing, gardening, car washing and landscaping.
Indra installed a system at Somaiya Vidyavihar’s Maitreyi Hostel in March 2017. “We are saving around Rs 20,000 monthly on water bills,” says Mr. Gaurang Shetty, chief innovation catalyst at the institute’s Research Innovation Incubation Design Laboratory. “The system uses only electricity for treatment, no chemicals or biological medium is required. The technology is electrocoagulation.”
Since setting up, the hostel has managed recycle 7.5 lakh liters water per month, thereby reducing their demand for fresh water. The system status can be checked through a software dashboard and requires maintenance once every three months. It recycles 25,000 liters of wastewater per day taking up only 25 sq.ft for installation and is currently being upgraded to a higher capacity.
“The demand for water is going to double by 2030, as reported by NITI Ayog,” says Abhijit VVR, co-founder and chief of marketing and sales at the company. “With 54% of India being in water-stressed regions, we need innovative, cost-effective and decentralised water treatment technologies that can help societies and industries in sustainable water management.”