The Chennai Corporation’s plan to introduce low-cost water ATMs in 200 wards of the city has left Metro Water officials stumped. The official announcement has been withheld due to the Model Code of Conduct but water suppliers in the city are already alleging that the decision lacks any practicality.
According to reports, the water ATMs will be set up in 800 locations and will be similar to existing structures in other municipalities and panchayats under the Commissionerate of Municipal Administration (CMA). They will be set up under a public-private partnership and offer water at Rs 7 per 20 litres. It is expected to help at least 10 lakh families reduce dependency on water cans. Such units have already been installed in Tambaram, Chengalpattu and Poonamallee. In Chennai, however, there is one glaring glitch.
“Where will this water even come from? What is this source?” asks a Metro Water official, on the condition of anonymity. “If we had that much water, we would have given it for free to the people. Irrespective of what the Corporation says, we are the ones who have to deliver the water. They will take the water from our overhead tanks,” he adds.
It is well known that the city’s four water reservoirs are being fast depleted to supply water to its residents. By June, the city will reportedly not get any water from the Red Hills lake, Poondi reservoir and Sholavaram lake. From May 15, Metro Water will stop withdrawing from the Red Hills lake, which supplies the city 90 to 120 million litres of water a day. Already residents are receiving a reduced water supply of 500 million litres per day (MLD) as opposed to the required 900 MLD.
“This is very impractical because even if we have the water we need to check whether it is fit for public consumption,” says the Metro Water official. According to the Corporation, the water will UV-treated and purified by reverse osmosis. “But multiple studies have shown that RO treatment removes minerals from water. How will the common man be able to remineralise this water? Even our RO plants don’t directly supply the water. It will increase the stress on the already depleting resources,” he adds.