One of the things that struck me the most about Bangalore is the amount of water that I see on a regular basis. There are a tonne of little lakes and streams, some of them very close to my house. Moving here, I didn’t expect that I would see so much open water on a regular basis. Initially, it was a nice surprise. Then I started to really look at that water… There is a rather large lake less than a kilometre from our house. It would be lovely to see more of it, but there is a razor wire fence that surrounds it. When we asked our local friends why the fence, they told us that it was to keep people from the water, because it is so polluted, unsafe for any access, let alone drinking. It was an eye opener for me.
One of the things that struck us are particularly odd was that the birds drink from the swimming pools here. We initially thought that our pool might be under chlorinated, but started seeing this happening all over, in Bangalore and the other cities that we travelled to. It finally dawned on me that this was likely the cleanest and safest water they had access too. Most of the water that I see in is heavily polluted and filled with trash, but that doesn’t stop people from wading in, swimming, washing their clothes, and drinking it. As a result of drinking it, many get sick from it.
The problem has become dire in some regions, as the monsoon has not arrived in much of India, including the state of Karnataka, where we live. Much of the state has recorded a little over fifty per cent of the expected rainfall, with little relief in sight. This has caused crop loss, particularly for grains in all of the affected areas, and there is some fear that entire harvests will be lost as they have not been planted. It has also caused disruptions to the drinking water supply in areas that rely on water that is drawn from rivers. In some areas the supply has become dangerously low, and in others, just dangerous, with pollution levels being incredibly high. There are some areas where large groups of people have become ill, and many have died. It makes me pause.
Water supply in Bangalore comes from a mixture of sources. Much of the city is supplied by the Cauvery River, and it faced water supply issues earlier this summer. These have theoretically been resolved with the arrival of rains upstream. Our community is on the outskirts of the city and not on city water. We are supplied by borewells that go deep into the ground. There has been talk of supply from the Cauvery River being extended to our area, but this has not yet happened. There has also been community discussion about rainwater harvesting, but the lack of rain in years like this one would make that difficult. This year, the borewells weren’t keeping up with demand and three more were dug. We now appear to have a decent supply of water, but it is not without issue.
The water in the community is not safe to drink. It apparently tests fine, but I don’t know of anyone who dares to drink it. It is chlorinated on site, but there is a history of instability and random injections of excess chlorine in the system. It is also extremely hard. There is a community wide ion exchanger to soften it, but the softness achieved varies across the community, and it too is prone to humane error. The end result is water that is extremely corrosive. We have had the on demand hot water heater in our bedroom (the only one that we use) repaired three times in the nine months we have live here. It just started dripping again this weekend, and I know that they will take it apart and once again see that the water has eaten through it. It eats through everything; the pipes, taps, solar water heaters, our clothes, and rusts anything that it can’t destroy quickly.
The most alarming concern for me is what it does to us. I know that it stings my eyes to take my contacts out, or if I get water in the eyes when I shower. The lils feel it too, and complain bitterly if they get it in their eyes, or bathe with an open cut. I miss clean water.