Saving life

August 28, 2022

It is imperative to take necessary measures to conserve water

Saving life


roundwater is a valuable natural resource. It should be conserved and preserved for next the generations. All citizens and the government should play their role to this end.

Pumping unnecessary amounts of water, wasteful use and contamination of water through irresponsible activities are endangering the aquifers, leading to public health problems in the provincial metropolis.

Water experts say that once an aquifer is depleted beyond recharge, the ground above it tends to subside into impervious terrain and closes it off. They warn that unsustainable human activities are draining many aquifers at a faster rate than natural systems can replenish them.

The biggest threats to the groundwater reservoir in the provincial metropolis are overuse and contamination. Safe drinking water is currently available to most citizens at nominal cost. This is partly the reason most of them do not think too much about saving or conserving it.

Natural groundwater recharge (seepage of rainwater into the ground) is a slow process. Reduction of green areas in the provincial capital has lowered the rate further. A lot of the rainwater now flows into the sewerage lines and drains and finally away from the city.

Meanwhile, the population of the city is increasing. The Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA), the prime government organisation responsible for providing drinking water to the citizens, has taken several steps to conserve the groundwater resource.

For the first time in the history of Lahore, the WASA has managed to stop the depletion of the aquifers by taking effective measures to stop the unnecessary use of groundwater.

Since 1960, groundwater has been depleting by about a metre a year. This means that the groundwater has been moving away from the natural surface by 3.37 feet a year.

In 1960 groundwater was available at a minimum of 5.7 metres and a maximum of 15.695 metres in the city. In 2018, the highest water level was 23.5 metres and the lowest 50.15 metres.

In 2019 the highest level of the underground water aquifer improved slightly to 23 metres. The lowest level also improved a little to stay at about 50 metres. In 2020, the high mark reached 23 metres and the low level stayed at 50 metre.

Water experts say that per capita drinking water availability in Pakistan has declined by a factor of since 1960. Nature has blessed Pakistan with abundant water but extraordinary population growth has caused the decline in water availability.

WASA Managing Director Ghufran Ahmed tells The News on Sunday (TNS) that the annual drop in Lahore’s underground water aquifer has been up to one metre per annum. For the last three years water level has not dropped.

Calling this a big achievement, he says maintaining the lowest and the highest water levels in the aquifer means extending the life of Lahore’s main aquifer.

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Ghufran Ahmed advises citizens to use water sparingly and wisely. He says saving water is our collective and individual responsibility.

“If the aquifer depletion continues, the city may witness water scarcity in the coming years,” he says. He says that the WASA has taken some extraordinary measures to stop the unnecessary use of groundwater and that these have started showing results.

The WASA chief says that as a first step, the Agency introduced a licensing system and imposed aquifer charges. This reduced the excessive water pumping by tube wells installed in the private sector, especially in privately developed housing societies. The Agency also recovered millions of rupees from the societies.

Secondly, the WASA made it mandatory for service stations to install recycling plants for washing vehicles. Heavy fines are imposed on the car washing units that don’t install water recycling plants. He says presently every car wash unit in the provincial metropolis has a water recycling plant. The WASA teams ensure that these are functional by making random inspections.

Another landmark measure to stop the excessive use of groundwater is the introduction of ablution water recycling at 200 mosques. The ablution water is now transferred to nearby parks for irrigating the pants and trees so that water pumping by the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) has declined.

He says fines are being imposed on water waste through ramp washing and car washing in residential, commercial and industrial areas. The Dolphin Force has been engaged for this purpose.

The WASA has also completed the construction of two underground rainwater storage tanks. Eight more tanks will be constructed soon. These tanks will store rainwater that will later be used by the PHA for irrigation and by fire brigade services.

Combating urban flooding during the monsoon season across the country has been a long-standing problem. The innovative project by the WASA has helped and has been appreciated among others by the president of Pakistan who has directed the concerned departments in other big cities to replicate the project.

The WASA MS says that the timing of tube wells operating in the provincial capital has been fixed. Earlier the tube wells were operative for up to 18 hours. Now the duration has been reduced to eight hours a day.

Ahmed says the citizens should realise that we live on top of our drinking water resources so that our activities affect the quality of our groundwater reservoir. He says citizens have an important role to play in conserving the groundwater and should tell their children about the rational use of drinking water. “To save the groundwater from contamination, we should reduce household chemical use and properly dispose of motor oil and unwanted or unused chemicals and medicines,” he says. He says those who have gardens should select low water-use plants and limit the amount of pesticides and fertilisers used in their gardens.

Ghufran Ahmed advises citizens to use water sparingly and wisely. He says saving water is our collective and individual responsibility. As good citizens we must perform this duty diligently.

The writer is a senior reporter at The News

Saving life