Pacific Institute Insights is the staff blog of the Pacific Institute, one of the world’s leading nonprofit research groups on sustainable and equitable management of natural resources. For more about what we do, click here.

  • Notes from the Field: DIY: Do-It-Yourself as a Way of Life

    by Misha Hutchings, Research Associate
    September 17, 2011


    Transport-it-yourself: Various water containers that are filled and carried back to neighboring homes with no running water – a 20-liter jerry container, when full, can weigh about 45 lbs. Tallo, Makassar.

    DIY is one of those terms that is at once so familiar to me and seems universally used and understood, but in reality it takes on a very different meaning in different contexts, cultures or countries.

    Although the term DIY (do-it-yourself) emerged in the 1950s, in the past 10 years it has come into widespread use in the US to describe the “can-do” attitude to complete a job without the aid of experts or professionals (who are usually widely available) or not purchase a ready-made product and instead to do or make it yourself. DIY projects range from hand crafts such as knitting and jewelry-making, to gourmet cooking, and home and car repairs. In one sense, it is a hobby. After all, you could probably choose to have someone else with knowledge and experience do it faster and sometimes more cheaply, but it must be out of pleasure that you take the task upon yourself.

    In another sense, it is a show of self-efficiency and cleverness (“Why yes, I did brew that beer/install that veggie oil fuel system/make that music video/build that composting toilet all by myself in my spare time.”). Somehow, at some point our culture got out of touch with performing some of the most basic tasks and instead chose to outsource, and it has come into fashion to choose to do some of these things with our own two hands again. Whether for cost-saving, quality control, or hobby, DIY by and large is a trend to show others that you simply can.


    CIY – Clean-it-yourself (right): Water filtration with a cloth next to a household water well, in Banta Bantaeng, Makassar.

    Why? Because there is a choice involved. Once interest or patience in doing-it-yourself fades away, one can simply revert back to having others provide you with most everything you need or desire, cheaply.

    But what if there was no choice? What if you had to grow your own food, make your own clothes, or go out and find your own bathing and drinking water by yourself? Without training or knowledge to undertake the task, how safe would the water collected be for your family to consume, every day?

    I couldn’t help but think about this contrast as I visited different communities in Makassar, South Sulawesi. When it comes to basic needs, such as supplying household water, Indonesians are no strangers to DIY, because some of them have few or no options.

    There are some services that are better performed by specialists. But if the specialists aren’t making their services available, what do you do? If the services are basic necessities and yet aren’t affordable, what choice do you have? DIY, then, is not a choice, but a way of life.

    • Twitter
    • Facebook
  • Notes from the Field: Urban Water Sources in Malang and Makassar, Indonesia

    by Misha Hutchings, Research Associate
    Sept 10, 2011

    In a tropical country like Indonesia water is available everywhere — pouring down in torrents onto city streets, hovering as mist in rainforests and along the coastline, snaking as rivers from countryside to city, and bubbling up from beneath your feet where you least expect it. Unfortunately, like many countries rich in water resources that are experiencing exponential urban growth, it is difficult for all city residents in Indonesia to obtain access to potable water. In the inland Javanese city of Malang, our first pilot location for the Indonesia WATER SMS Project — to improve water services for the urban poor using crowd-sourced map data from reports that people send using cell phones and email — 80-85,000 households of the 819,000-person population receive direct service from the local water utility, PDAM Kota Malang. This is among the highest connection rates for water utilities in Indonesia.

    community_water_source_makassar.jpgIn our second pilot location of Makassar, situated on the western coast of South Sulawesi, the water utility, PDAM Kota Makassar, services 692,308 residents out of a 1.3 million plus population —  of these about 60% receive water by pipe distribution. Others receive water from storage tanks that are replenished with trucked-in water (see photo on right). This begs the question: where do urban Indonesian residents get their water when they don’t have access to municipal water services?

    Wells (Indonesian, sumur) and springs (mata air) are used as both primary and utility back-up sources for everything from drinking water – although most won’t admit this to strangers – to washing clothes and watering plants. Signs for bore drilling services are as common as weekend garage sale signs in North American cities. Residents are relying more and more on wells and springs when utility service is interrupted, shut off, or just simply too expensive to provide enough water for all daily household needs. In some cases, these sources are more trusted even when a water connection is available. In several Malang and Makassar neighborhoods, wells are becoming less and less reliable during the dry season, putting pressure on the families and other nearby water sources.

    river_bathing_and_brushing_teeth.jpgWhile rivers (Indonesian, sungai) are among the easiest water sources to access because riverbanks can provide multiple access points for multiple users and water is already above the ground, they are also among the easiest to pollute. Rivers are looked to for daily household washing and in extreme cases for bathing and brushing teeth (see photo above). Unfortunately, they are also used as toilets and urban waste disposal points.

    water_vendor_makassar.jpgWater vendors (Indonesian, penjual air) provide water from shops, door-to-door by foot, push bike or truck, or even from homes (see photo to left). They take their water from a variety of sources including surface water such as rivers and streams, wells, and from existing water utility connections. The convenience is undeniable, especially when residents have no other option and little time. But when it comes to quality and price, the long term hazards may not be worth the convenience.

    Drinking water user associations (Indonesian, HIPPAMHimpunan Penduduk Pemakai Air Minum) pool their labor and resources to provide low-cost water for the communities where formal municipal water service is not yet available either because of affordability or location. Sometimes this communal service just includes pumping services, storage, communal access points, and maintenance and administration. Other times it includes water connections to individual homes and tiered tariff systems — the lowest tier being free service to support the neediest families. While most are independently operated by the communities, some do receive support from the government, NGOs, and even the nearest water utility.

    Many communities will work together to pool their labor and funds to get water for everyone, typically a cheaper option than getting individual household connections. They dig and maintain community wells and construct collection, washing, and bathing facilities around springs, as well as build storage units supplied by pipe or truck with the help of a government agency such as the local utility. All of these sources are solicited by the communities when municipal water service to households is insufficient or out of reach.


    • Twitter
    • Facebook
  • The Waghad System: Institutions, the Role of Mobile Technology, and Wise Water Use

     by Veena Srinivasan, Research Affiliate
    August 26, 2011 

    Waghad Institutions
    The Waghad system has well developed water institutions that have contributed to it being such a major success story. One of the hardest problems to tackle in all water management is enforcement of rules. Many villages in India have registered WUAs as per various PIM state laws. However, enforcement – making sure the water is allocated equitably and no one tries to cheat – remains a thorny issue.
    Based on these conversations at Ozar and Mohadi villages, I found several recurring themes about how water was being managed.

    1. Consensus on water allocation rules
    2. Establishment of trust
    3. Robust monitoring and enforcement arrangements
    4. Theft deterrence mechanisms
    5. De-politicized, fair voting process
    6. Sound financial management

    Consensus on Water Allocation Rules:
    Over a period of 10 years, the project developed a set of rules that work for everyone. There appear to be two core ideas – prioritization of domestic water schemes and proportional cuts to all farmers in water-scarce years except smallholders having an acre or less of land.
    Every October, at the end of the monsoon, an Annual Irrigation Scheduling meeting is held. Farmers submit their request for water for the next year to their WUA. At the annual meeting, all requests are tallied and the total water available for irrigation for the next year for each of the two growing seasons (Rabi or winter and Garmi or summer) is determined. Then the amount of water available to each farm is estimated and an irrigation schedule is drawn up
    The Waghad dam has an annual average availability of 2550 Mcft. Of this about 15% is lost in evaporation. 40% of the remaining water is allocated to a downstream dam – the Palkhet dam. About 200 Mcft is of the remaining water is allocated to serve a drinking water scheme in the village of Dindhori. The remaining 1060 McFT or so is available for allocation for irrigation.

    Water is allocated in proportion to the water available in the dam. However the dam is clearly an upstream dam – in the last 25 years, the 100% dam level has been missed only 4 times. In water scarce years, the first priority is allocations to Gram Panchayat Drinking water schemes. Smallholders (landholding<=0.5 Ha) are not cutback. Larger holdings are cut back in proportion to the total water available.

    Establishment of Trust, Trust, Trust
    As Mr. Bharat Kawale pointed out this was absolutely the hardest and most time consuming component of the process. The local NGO and WUAs worked very hard for over 15 years to gradually build trust between the different actors. This is something that simply cannot be achieved with a short-term project mind-set. Trust only builds when each of the actors has had a chance to test whether the other actors will each live up to their promises under different and difficult circumstances.

    In 1991, the farmers held the Irrigation Department in contempt – corrupt opportunists out to exploit the farmers. The Irrigation Department personnel too had little respect for the “uneducated farmers”. Today both sides appear to respect the other and understand the strengths. Importantly, the improvement and benefit to each is obvious. On one hand Irrigation Department revenues have gone up ten-fold and the canal system is being maintained with little effort on the part of Irrigation Department. On the other, farmers at both the head and tail ends of the canal feel confident the water they paid for will actually be delivered.

    Although the tail-end villages were the first to form the WUAs as they were clearly suffering under status quo, when the head reaches saw the benefits from the creation of the WUAs they too decided to form one. Initially each of the WUAs interacted with the Irrigation Department separately. In 2003, the WUAs jointly decided to form a Project Level Association (PLA) to co-ordinate between the WUAs and the Irrigation Department. The Irrigation Department was initially very skeptical of this. They worried that if they allowed farmers any access to the dam – the farmers would no longer pay the Irrigation Department for water. They agreed to allow the PLA to be created only if a bank guarantee of Rs 5 lakhs (Rs 500,000) was given to the Irrigation Department by the WUAs constituting the PLA. The WUAs agreed to give a bank guarantee and the PLA was formed. Once the Irrigation Department realized that the farmers were continuing to pay dues and the department revenues were even increasing, they began to support the whole scheme. Now PLAs are a mandatory feature in the Maharshtra Farmer Management Act of 2005. PLAs across the state are no longer required to provide a bank guarantee.

    However, as Mr. Kulkarni and others point out the PLAs are the easiest part of the whole institutional system. The 24 WUAs in the Waghad Project involved building trust with 15,000 farmers. In contrast, forming the PLAs merely involved getting representatives from each of the 24 WUAs in a room. They pointed out that WUAs are the foundational pillars of PIM. Creating  a PLA first as some “top-down” PIM efforts have done have failed because they lack the most fundamental element of PIM – which is trust between the command area farmers.

    Monitoring Devices and Enforcement Rules
    The cornerstone of the robust water institution in Waghad is the tail-to-head ordering of delivery. Water delivery begins at the tail end and then as each outlet upstream is successfully opened, water flow downstream is automatically cut off. The calculations of the water quantity and the number of hours each outlet will remain open and schedule is decided right at the end of the monsoon in October. Once this was agreed to all tail-end farmers were confident that their needs would be met and had an incentive to participate and pay dues.
    Most importantly this system is self-enforcing. Each farmer has an incentive to show-up and open the outlet at the appointed time even if it is in the middle of the night. The tail-to-head ordering only requires the farmer who is going to get water to show up and open his own gate and put some stones in the canal to stop flow downstream.  Since water naturally follows gravity no action is required on the part of the tail-enders – the farmer who is going to be shut-off does not need to be present. This is in direct contrast to a head-to-tail ordering system where the tail-ender is at the mercy of the head-ender shutting his outlet. The head-ender has no particular incentive to do this if water is scarce.


    Gate controlling farm level outlet. It can be locked in theory but in Ozar this had not been found necessary.

    In the minor canal, flow measurement devices between the major and minor canals and the minor canals and farm outlets. Each minor canal is under the control of a WUA. When opening minor canal outlet, the PLA and WUA Canal Inspector must both be present and sign off on each other’s registers. When opening a farm outlet, the WLA Canal Inspector and farmer must both be present and sign off on each other’s registers.
    Two types of monitoring devices were in use. Both perform essentially the same function. One is calibrated to be measured in cusecs and the other in cm height of water flowing in the canal – which must be converted into cusecs using a conversion chart.



    Figures above show the two types of flow measurement devices. The device on the left is calibrated to be in cusecs. The device on the right measures height of water flow in inches and must be converted to cusecs using a chart.

    Information management and deterrence of cheating
    Better information management and deterrence of cheating forms an important component of the institutional structure of Waghad. Two mechanisms have been used – 1) physical removal of water rerouting pipes and regular monitoring,  2) social pressure and 4) careful thought to staffing.
    Mr. Govardhan Kulkarni mentioned the use of “social pressure” as an important enforcement tool. (He actually used the term social pressure, even though the rest of our conversation was conducted in Hindi). Although outright theft of water is fairly rare now, when it used to occur twenty years ago, social pressure played a major role in enforcing allocation rules. According to two different WUA members, this worked as follows: if a farmer broke an outlet and “stole” water one night, the whole WUA would show up at his home for tea the next morning. No reference would be made to the actual theft – but by the next day everyone would know that so-and so was paid a morning visit. The self-knowledge of theft and the fact that they were “caught” was enough to shame farmers into compliance.

    Once the WUA was monitored by a local farmer, the thefts became quite easy to detect just by looking at the flow data. This was not the situation before the formation of the WUA, when each farmer dealt directly with the Irrigation Department. The farmers would simply bribe the Irrigation Department official secure in the knowledge that they had gotten away with the theft. The farmers did not control the data and had no way of knowing who received how much water.

    Detection and removal of theft infrastructure
    This social pressure went hand in hand with the physical removal of an entire network of underground pipes that allowed water from the canal area to be pumped to fields outside the command area – sometimes as much as 6 km away.  Regular checks pose a sufficient deterrence to ensure that farmers will not bother to make the considerable investment in building sophisticated underground piped networks to route the water out of the command area in a bid to steal water.

    Role of Mobile Information Technology in Waghad

    waghad_mobile_phoneThe coordinating role of mobile phones in smoothening the functions of WUAs is striking. It is clear that widespread use of cell phones has greatly improved co-ordination among the WUAs and PLA. In one instance, mentioned by the PLA member, it had begun to rain heavily in a command area, just as the outlet to the minor was about to be opened upstream. The WUA was able to immediately call and halt the opening of the gate – leading to the farmers saving money as well as allowing the water to remain in the dam for future use.

    Innovative uses of mobile phone technology:
    A mobile phone application developed by the WUA member Mr Kulkarni uses an existing application called “Convertor” widely available in all Nokia phones to translate how to convert the storage levels in the Waghad dam to cusec-days at the field outlet level. He hopes to disseminate this widely for use by all other WUAs at the next October meeting. He has created a poster explaining this mobile application and a simple pamphlet.
    A second use of mobile technology by Mr. Kulkarni was a spreadsheet maintaining all field-level readings at the minor canal and field outlet canals. His ultimate ambition is to have the canal inspector directly broadcast the reading to all WUA members and automatically update the data spreadsheet.

    SMS service for market and climate prices
    Several farmers confirmed using crop forecasting and commodity price information which is delivered to them as a daily SMS. The farmers pay Rs 250/month for weather information (which they found to be 80% accurate!) and prices of 3 crops in nearby markets.

    Wise use of water

    Another key element component of the Waghad system is the wise use of water. The Waghad system is characterized by three remarkable features: low water intensive crops, widespread drip irrigation and conjunctive use of water. Wastewater reuse is apparently prevalent in one or two places and was described to me but it is rare I did not personally get a chance to visit the sites.

    1. Low-water intensive, cash crops (vegetables)
    When the dam was first put in, everyone’s first inclination was to grow sugarcane – As one farmer said – “we were so excited we rushed to sow sugarcane the first two years”. Farmers soon realized there was not enough water to go around and everyone’s crop failed. Since then the main focus has been on relatively fruits and vegetables and more recently flowers for export.

    2. High penetration of drip irrigation
    The most remarkable aspect of the system is the widespread use of drip irrigation which was apparent on almost every farm. As Mr. Kulkarni pointed out, without drip the two rotations of water flood irrigation would never be sufficient.  Drip irrigated vegetables were ubiquitous in every farm I visited.


    Drip Irrigated plant covered with plastic to reduce evaporative losses.

    3.Conjuctive Use

    The second characteristic of agricultural water use in Waghad, is the widespread conjunctive use of ground and surface water. Perennial crops like grapes and vegetables like tomatoes need highly reliable levels of water. In the Waghad project, waiting for the next delivery is not always feasible. Particularly in areas lacking black cotton soil which can retain moisture for a long time, farmers must supplement water with groundwater from their wells. This is addressed by allowing farmers to supplement water from open wells to cover the period between water deliveries.

    The Ozar area has instituted a ban on bore wells. Only open wells are allowed. The one problem with groundwater use was that initially the farmers were unwilling to “pay” for groundwater. Groundwater is considered the sole right of the land owner under Indian law. A major achievement of the project was the gaining farmer recognition of the interconnectivity of surface and groundwater. Recognizing that they were unable to have sufficient groundwater when the canal linings began to be lined, the farmers realized that the groundwater they were using was coming from canal recharge.  Eventually the farmers agreed to pay for groundwater
    Conjunctive use has become so much a part of the system that farmers now even officially set aside a portion of their canal delivery to be specifically directed for groundwater recharge.

    This means they pay for surface water and then allow it to percolate into the aquifer. This is achieved by placing sand bags in the field outlet canal to slow down the flow of water or directing the water into a recharge pond. Today an estimated 50% of the water in the Waghad project area is sourced via groundwater. Groundwater levels have remained relatively stable and even risen slightly.

    There was one rather unusual form of conjuctive use I encountered. One farmer recognizing that groundwater levels were dropping in summer, decided to construct a lined farm pond to ensure that he had enough water to irrigate his summer vegetables when groundwater levels drop in the dry season. The farm pond would be filled by pumping groundwater into the surface water pond in the wet season.


    Farm pond storing pumped groundwater for use in the dry season

    However, the farmer said he was not actually making much money from this rather unusual conversion of a public good into a private good. The main reason he cited for the poor profitability was that he had given up growing grapes because he was unable to get affordable farm labor because of the growth in service sector and manufacturing jobs in nearby Nasik. Without grapes, he no longer needed the same level of “insurance” and could no longer justify a lined farm pond.

    4. Wastewater Reuse
    Reuse of domestic sewage is quite rare but where practiced is mainly for percolation and recharge. The wastewater is directed to a communal pond lined with gravel and stones and allowed to stand. The coarser material gets trapped and only the water percolates. The rocks are allowed to dry out in the summer every year or so and replaced. This type of water reuse is however fairly rare in Waghad.


    Figure of groundwater recharge process.


    • Twitter
    • Facebook
  • Notes from the Field: Community Learning Sessions in Malang

    by Misha Hutchings, Research Associate
    July 30, 2011

    At the beginning of one of the WATER SMS Project learning sessions in Malang, Indonesia, resident Pak Suep said, “We feel that we are small people. We don’t have any right to complain.” By the end of a learning session in the Klojen district of Malang, Ibu Lis, energized by the activity and passion of her fellow participants, stated, “This is an amazing group –I think everyone in here should become leaders and legislators so we can accomplish these goals!”


    On July 26 and July 28, Indonesian NGO PATTIRO, the Pacific Institute, and Nexleaf Analytics conducted three learning sessions with communities in Malang, East Java province. The goal was to understand what improvements residents wanted to see in water services, recognize what information they needed to improve their water supply, and identify organizations and agencies that could respond to these needs. The learning sessions in Malang and engagement sessions with water managers and stakeholders will help the Pacific Institute and our partners define key aspects of the Indonesia WATER SMS system, a mobile-phone-to-web-based communication and transparency system to improve water services in Indonesia.

    Information from these learning sessions will be taken to the local government and the water utility to help understand and determine what issues agencies can commit to immediately resolving, what they can incorporate into planning, and how they can provide necessary information and tools to respond to community requests. Based on this, issue areas for the WATER SMS tool can be defined.

    Learning sessions were conducted in Klojen, Kedungkandang, and Blimbing districts. In each of the sessions, 25-35 engaged and enthusiastic participants brimmed with ideas on what improvements they needed, who should be responsible, and how to continue this process. The problems identified with PDAM (government water utility service) included high costs, lack of transparency or consistency in water pricing, low water volume at certain places and times, lack of service in some areas that had already paid, poor water quality, and poor complaint redressal. Some residents were also served by local water user groups called HIPAMs. People complained that HIPAM services were not consistent, and that they often did not get enough water.

    Many residents requested further information to learn if their water was safe to drink, when water services would be shut off, and about transparent rate information. Residents who self-supplied water through private wells also wanted information on how to protect this supply. “I just want to know what the solution is — when I was a child, even in the dry season water existed all the time. Now, in dry season there is absolutely no water,” stated Ibu Srihanaratani during the Klojen session.

    Participants at several of the learning sessions noted that the increase in malls, government buildings, and paved areas provided no way for water to infiltrate and recharge groundwater supply. “We need integrated septic systems and forests and ways for the water to enter the ground,” said Ibu Kris from Kedungkandang. If we keep and protect our water supply, we will have no problem with water.”

    The learning sessions in Malang kicked off a very exciting series of engagement sessions in Malang and Makassar that will lead to the development of a WATER SMS system to meet the information and communication needs of all water sector stakeholders, and ultimately, help improve water services for the poor in Indonesian cities.

    • Twitter
    • Facebook
  • Notes from the Field: A Success Story in Participatory Irrigation Management in India: The Waghad Farmer Managed Irrigation System

    by Veena Srinivasan, Research Affiliate 
    July 15, 2011

    Awards for Waghad Irrigation SystemLast week I visited a farmer-managed irrigation system in India’s Waghad Medium Irrigation Project. I passed by the Waghad Project in my quest to locate Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS) systems around the city of Nasik, India. The Pacific Institute is currently working on understanding multiple-use as a potential for funding for improvements in the water sector. Although Waghad is not strictly an MUS case because of its size, it is an interesting case study because it highlights how “soft” options alone — information, participation, social norms, and wise use of water — can achieve dramatic results.

    The project represents a highly successful “bottom-up” farmer taking over of the irrigation system and the huge prosperity it has brought to the region. What was once a decaying irrigation system where farmers received no water and the Irrigation Department received no revenue is now a thriving region where incomes have grown 50-fold and Irrigation Department Revenues went up 10-fold within 15 years. The success of this project, in part, resulted in the state government passing the Maharashtra State Farmer Managed Irrigation Act in 2005, in a bid to replicate the success elsewhere. The project’s success has been recognized by many awards including one from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) which allowed the project to compete for a water efficiency award as a private company.

    There are 24 Water User Associations (WUAs) and nine Lift Irrigation User Associations in the Waghad system. There is also a Project Level Association (PLA), which co-ordinates between the WUAs and the Department of Irrigation. This blog entry (the first of several to come) is based on interviews with farmers, the local NGO, and members of the PLA and WUAs. The interviews were conducted at two locations: Ozar village, which houses the offices of three tail-end WUAs, and Mohadi village, where the PLA office is located.

    History and Background
    Ozar is a village 18 km from the city of Nasik. Ozar village falls under the command area of a Medium Irrigation Dam called the Waghad Dam. The command area of the Waghad Dam is about 10,000 Ha (hectares) and serves 15,000 farmers. The average land holding is about 1.5 Ha. About 10% are smallholders with holdings of 0.5 Ha or less. The dam is located 45 km upstream of Ozar.

    The Situation in the Late 1980s
    Until 1991 the dam was managed entirely by the Department of Irrigation. Ozar, which falls at the tail end of the command area, was receiving no water at all. But even in the head reaches of the Waghad canal system, farmers were barely earning an income of Rs 2,800/Ha, and farms at the tail-end of the minor canals in the head reaches were receiving very little water. The Irrigation Department’s revenue from the entire project was barely Rs 2 lakhs (about $12,000 in 1990) according to Shri Kulkarni, a local farmer who showed me around. These numbers were backed up by other members sitting in the PLA office. Corruption was rampant and farmers had to bribe irrigation officials to get any allocation of water at all. As the revenue from the project was so low, the Irrigation Department had no incentive to maintain the structures and the structures were gradually degrading.

    Importantly, at the time the prevailing attitude among the farmers was that it was the government’s job to deliver water and the farmer’s job to receive it. Farmers were uninterested in taking over the government’s “job” – even though they were unsatisfied with the situation. Mr. Kulkarni opined that this was a distinct shift from the long history of community-level water resources management in India during the colonial period where water resources management was bureaucratized and run by British engineers who viewed it their job to deliver water and collect taxes. However, the poor state of the system meant that the level of trust in the Irrigation Department was very low. Lacking any trust in the ability of the Irrigation Department to deliver water, the farmers did not attempt to cultivate any “risky” high-value vegetable crops and as a result their income was very low. Wealthier farmers had borewells which they had to run round the clock.

    The Transformation
    The Ozar Water User Association was formed in 1991, one of three WUAs formed with the help of a local NGO founded by Shri Bapu Rao Upadhyay. Shri Upadhyay, founder of a local NGO called Samaj Parvitan Kendra (translates “Societal Change Centre”) was a visionary who understood the difficulties the region was suffering from and had the foresight to argue that if water was not managed it would one day “burn like oil.”

    Initially, it was not difficult to persuade the tail-end farmers to agree to form a WUA. They were receiving absolutely no water from the project. Once they co-ordinated and formed the WUA, they collectively worked to improve the physical structures and persuaded the Irrigation Department to meet their obligations to supply water. As Shri Bharat Kulkarni, who now heads Samaj Parivartan Kendra, explained, the initial change was establishing trust between farmers. This was necessarily a gradual process – it involved building trust farmer by farmer over a period of 15 years. Once they showed some early successes that the WUA could collectively bargain for water, more farmers joined in.

    It was clear to me why the tail-end farmers who were miserably poor were willing to join the WUA. But the big question is why the head-end farmers joined in. Older members who were active 20 years ago said that even the head-end canals were not receiving much water: only “head-end farmers in head-end canals were actually getting water.” The Irrigation Department was not maintaining the structures at all and the water was not being released at times they needed it and Irrigation Department staff needed to bribed to open the canal outlets. The farmers were frustrated that they were being asked to pay for water and bribe officials for water they could not rely on.

    As Shri Kulkarni put it – even though everything appears “fair and lovely” now, the present success is because of protracted negotiations and trust-building over 20 years. Waghad appears to be exceptional in remaining untouched by caste divisions and political rivalry. Other farmer-managed systems in India have not been similarly lucky in managing to stay depoliticized, particularly in the elections of Chairman of the PLA. As one board member in the PLA put it, “We leave our differences at the door when we enter the WUA building – otherwise the whole organization would fall apart – our focus is on water and only water.”  I was not able to understand how the WUAs managed to work this miracle although I asked this question in different ways a few times. The only answer I could get was that there were inspiring leaders who were extremely committed to the cause of maintaining a de-politicized environment within the WUAs and ensured that these became part of the rules early on by simply not permitting any political or religious rhetoric.

    The Current Picture
    In 2011, the Waghad Irrigation Farmer Managed System is touted as an exemplary case of farmer-managed irrigation. The Project has won numerous state and national level awards and local WUA members are regularly invited to guest lecture or conduct training sessions at Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) workshops all over the country. Today the Irrigation Department revenue from the project is almost Rs 27 lakhs (about $60,000).

    Farmers said that their average income from agriculture is in the range of Rs 1,20,000 per Ha (about $2500) — almost 50 times what it was 20 years ago. In an area where they could not dream of growing fruits and vegetables, farmers now regularly grow perennial crops and vegetables which require high levels of reliable water supply. Farmer participation in the WUA has stayed consistently high for 20 years.

    What Steps Were Taken
    Based on my conversations with farmers, the success of the Waghad project can be attributed to two types of measures: first, development of robust water institutions around monitoring and enforcement and second, widespread adoption of water efficiency measures. I will discuss this more in next month’s entry!

    • Twitter
    • Facebook
  • Notes from the Field: Field Report from Hivre Bazar

    by Veena Srinivasan, Research Affiliate 
    July 1, 2011

    In the first week of July, I had the pleasure of visiting Hivre Bazar, a village close to the town of Ahmednagar in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra in India. Hivre Bazar is considered of the biggest success stories of the participatory watershed movement in India. Twenty years ago, a 1992 household survey showed over 90% of the families in the village were below the poverty line. There was a lot of in-fighting and high rates of alcoholism among villagers. Following the death of one villager after a partisan fight, many moved out of the main village center — either to live nearer their fields or to urban areas. Drinking water was scarce and agriculture was precarious. Poor farmers depended on rain-fed agriculture; the richer farmers were bore-well dependent — often running their pumps round the clock. The village was considered unsuitable for government schemes — no government official was willing to visit the village much less waste his time trying to implement a scheme in the village.

    In a short space of twenty years, Hivre Bazar has been completely transformed. Today, no family in Hivre Bazar is below the poverty line. Despite successful practice of family planning, the population of the village has increased by 50% because of reverse migration. Almost 100 families that had migrated to urban areas have returned. Hivre Bazar has been declared an “Ideal Village.” The head of the village (sarpanch) whose vision transformed it has been appointed to lead the Maharashtra state “Adarsh Gaon Yojana” (Ideal Village Scheme) to replicate its success in over 100 selected villages statewide. There is no shortage of drinking water or irrigation water.


    One of several rooms housing the awards won by the village of Hivre Bazar

    The village has now received so many awards that three rooms are insufficient to house the medals, trophies, and certificates. A field trip to the village is now mandatory in the training of the prestigious Indian Administrative Service (IAS) candidates both at the federal and state levels. The village is also used as a case study in military training, NGOs, social work programs, etc. Each day 500 visitors come to the village to learn how this transformation was achieved — so many that it became necessary to train tour guides and ask visitors to pay. I myself witnessed busloads of Masters of Social Work students from a local college arrive as part of a mandatory field trip to listen to a lecture by the tour guide Mohan, who also showed me around the village.

    However, despite the high level of “development tourism,” the primary income source remains agriculture. There are no stores or restaurants in the village and the only non-agricultural jobs appear to be in the school, librar,y and visitor center. I saw no evidence of any other kind of commercial activity. Instead, piles of produce (onions, potatoes, etc.) were seen in front of every farm. Now that the village has become a brand in itself, they have plans to directly market “Hivre Bazar Organic Produce” at high end stores in urban areas.


    Litter-free streets with cement houses, wide roads in Hivre Bazar.

    Importantly, there is of pride among the villagers — there is not a spec of litter anywhere on the wide streets of the main village; each house is perfectly maintained; the color schemes (!) in the homes are coordinated. The school motorized pumps run on solar energy; the school buildings are well maintained. The village has been successful in implementing all kinds of government schemes — the village was one of the first to mandate pre-marital HIV testing for all. Hivre Bazar is also an open-defecation-free village and 100% of the homes have toilets. The area around the village is lush with vegetation and all kinds of birds could be seen. Importantly, all this is achieved by consensus. The Gram Sabha (village general body) meetings are well attended by at least one representative from each household. I was told it is common to have 1000 people attend the Gram Sabha meeting (the village population is only ~1300) — entire families come and make a picnic of the event.

    If there is any dissent it is not voiced. The phrase “the villagers know the Gram Panchayat is acting in their best interest” was repeated a few times. This explanation seems very plausible — the contrast between Hivre Bazar’s prosperity and poverty of nearby villages is too stark for villagers to complain. Even the landless have benefited from the prosperity as even those families are no longer below the poverty line.

    • Twitter
    • Facebook
  • Notes from the Field: Safe Guarding Water Quality – A Concern for All

    by Dr. John Akudago, Senior Research Associate
    June 26, 2010

    Ghana polluted water

    At Lamsheigu, a Surburb of Tamale, Ghana, and about 30 km south of Savelugu, there is a surface dam which is being used by people for domestic purposes. Close to the dam is a vehicle washing bay, for the purpose of easy access to water. This dam is polluted from oils and dirt from the surrounding and vehicles that are washed.

    Though it was mentioned that the water is used for bathing and cooking, there is not any form of household-level treatment before use according to some women I spoke to. The photo above shows the dirty water in the dam, and the photo below, some water being fetched for domestic consumption. When asked if they had knowledge of any water-related diseases, the answer was “yes,” but no one could give reasons for not treating the water before use. The people might boil the water to kill bacteria but what happens to the film of oily layers on the water is question for which no one has sought the answers.

    Ghana domestic water

    The vehicle washing bay owner might be earning daily income from his job but little does he think of the harm being caused to the only precious dam that serves a large population at Lamashiegu. It is therefore very important for education to be given to all people staying close to the dam to know the contribution of their actions to polluting the dam.


    • Twitter
    • Facebook
  • Notes from the Field:Need for Water Resource Management and Adequate Sanitation

     by Dr. John Akudago, Senior Research Associate
     June 2, 2010

    mahama_azundo_photo.jpg“Water is life,” says 60-year-old Mahama Azundo of Gbulung, a community 5 Km East of Savelugu in the Northern Region of Ghana. He explained that with water he could provide enough food for his family, be safe from water borne-diseases, and also get other development projects such as building his mud house and community shea-butter processing accomplished. Mr. Mahama – standing by a hand-dug well that was provided by Adventist Relief Agency (ADRA) over 20 years ago and a dam that was constructed in early 1960s mainly for drinking water – mentioned that in the last eight years, World Vision and its West Africa Water Initiative (WAWI) partners have taught them how to use the water for irrigation, which has brought improvement to their lives including a radio set he now owns (see photo 1).

    When asked how they manage the water sources and what the state of sanitation was in the village, he said, “The village chief appointed me as the one responsible for managing the water here.” If anyone including people from outside their village needed to take water for any purpose, he should be informed, and there is no charge for using the water. Though the dam never dries completely, there are times when the water almost gets finished (see photo 2). It has also not been desilted due to lack of funds. The interaction with Mr. Mahama reveals that if the community could contribute toward desilting the dam it will be able to store more water. He also views water as a gift from God rather than a resource that needs to be used and managed cautiously.


    On the part of sanitation, open defecation was the common practice for most people in the community.  However, they travel a little bit far (over 100 m) to ease themselves so that their waters do not get contaminated with the feces. As for treating the water at the household level before use, he said they drink water from two newly installed hand-pump wells though not enough for everyone. They do drink physically treated water from the dam whenever there is water scarcity. Though Mr Mahama acknowledged that sometimes they get sick from taking the water, Moringa tree is their best medicine and solution to all their malaria, boils, fever, diarrhea and even snake bites.

    From this interaction, there is need for proper water resource management and appropriate sanitation facilities such as latrines in Gbulung to reduce water scarcity in the community.

    • Twitter
    • Facebook
  • Bottled and Sold: What’s Really in Our Bottled Water

    My new book on bottled water is out, at last. “Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water” (Island Press, Washington) has apparently (according to reports from my secret field agents) started appearing in book stores. You’ve been able to order it online for a while through Island Press, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and other places.

    There are some great stories in the book: here is a little one, about what’s sometimes found in our bottled water.

    You don’t find what you don’t look for. This maxim holds true for arms control, as Ronald Reagan noted. And it holds true for contaminants in bottled water. One would think and expect that bottled water would be cleaner than our tap water. But is it?

    The system for testing and monitoring the quality of bottled water is so flawed that we simply have no comprehensive assessment of actual bottled water quality. Don’t misunderstand me. The inadequacies of U.S. rules for testing bottled water do not mean that bottled-water quality is poor. If bottled water was monitored as consistently, frequently, and accurately as tap water, the evidence might show that it was just as good, or even better on average, than tap water. Given how much consumers pay for it, we certainly have the right to expect it to be better.

    But we’re just not looking carefully enough. And the bad news is that when we do actually look, we find evidence that there are potentially serious quality problems with bottled water, lurking just under the cap. Even worse, outside of the U.S. (where sometimes bottled water really needs to be better than tap water) there is growing evidence that bottled water quality can be terrible.

    Most of our tap water is completely safe; most of our bottled water is probably completely safe. But to know for sure, we must look carefully. And when we do actually look, we sometimes find more than we bargained for. The most famous example is when Perrier was discovered in 1991 to be contaminated with benzene. But this example is not the only one.

    Water Number: More than 100. After months of requests and two Freedom of Information Act requests to the US Food and Drug Administration (which regulates some bottled waters), I got a list of recalls of bottled waters in the U.S. Combined with other research, I ultimately compiled a list of more than 100 bottled water recalls, affecting millions of bottles of water.

    This list (posted here) includes a remarkable list of contaminants. In addition to the benzene found in Perrier, bottled water has been found to contain mold, sodium hydroxide, kerosene, styrene, algae, yeast, tetrahydrofuran, sand, fecal coliforms and other forms of bacteria, elevated chlorine, “filth,” glass particles, sanitizer, and in my very favorite example, crickets.


    Yes, crickets. In 1994, a bottler in Nacogdoches, Texas issued a recall for sparkling water found to be contaminated with crickets. The water was distributed in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia and the recall notice wasn’t issued until seven months after being bottled and distributed, making it unlikely that consumers were notified in time to avoid buying the contaminated bottles. Maybe they thought it was a bonus, like that worm in tequila, or the weird things sometimes found in flavored vodkas.

    However you feel about crickets, my guess is you don’t want them in your bottled water. (Photo: Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA)

    In addition to bottled-water quality, the book talks about advertising and marketing, weird bottled waters claims, disappearing water fountains, conflicting and weak laws protecting consumers, and the growing revolt against bottled water. I’ll post a few more times in the coming months about some of these issues. But if you want the whole story, get the book!

    Peter Gleick 

    (posted at the San Francisco Chronicle’s SF GATE, from England, where I’ve been grounded by the volcano)
    April 17 2010 at 08:00 AM

    Purchase a copy of the book from Island Press.

    Bottled Water Recalls Summary Table

    Learn more about bottled water.


    • Twitter
    • Facebook
  • SFGate: Flushing Water and Money Down the Drain

    By Peter Gleick

    This essay was originally printed in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 12, 2006.

    Exciting developments in the high-efficiency toilet market may sound like an oxymoron. But installing these water-efficient fixtures throughout California could free up more water than any proposed reservoir or water-supply project – with none of the adverse environmental consequences and at a tiny fraction of the economic or political cost. Recognizing this potential, the Assembly and Senate passed AB2496, a bill that would have paved the way in the coming years for the adoption of new, high-efficiency toilets throughout the state. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, however, vetoed the bill, and in doing so flushed away enough high-quality potable water to meet the needs of millions of Californians.

    Inefficient toilets in California waste a tremendous amount of water and money. The Pacific Institute, the institute I co-founded to research and analyze issues on development, environment and security, estimates that replacing existing toilets with high-efficiency models could save California more than 130 billion gallons of water every year. That is more water than we get from Hetch Hetchy reservoir, enough to satisfy the needs of approximately 1.5 million California residents.

    The water we are flushing is water that we already capture in reservoirs or draw from rivers, transport across the state and purify to drinking-water standards. Once used, this water must be treated and disposed. These processes are expensive and often energy intensive — 19 percent of California’s electricity is consumed by water systems to pump, clean, heat and treat water — yet we continue to flush unnecessarily precious water down our toilets. Saving water and reducing the generation of wastewater could save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

    California used to be the leader in the area of water conservation and efficiency. More than a decade ago, we pioneered the move toward water-efficient fixtures in our homes and industries. As a result, our population and economy have continued to grow while total water demands have leveled off. Indeed, we use less water today per person in California than we did more than 50 years ago — a fact that most Californians, and indeed most water policymakers, don’t know or appreciate. These improvements in water-use efficiency have eliminated the need for expensive and controversial new supply projects, reduced the damage to our ecosystems, and saved vast sums of money. But we’ve let our lead slip away.

    Water use is starting to creep back up because of the failure of our leaders to continue to apply well-understood technologies and policies to reduce wasteful and inefficient uses. The progress we have made will ultimately be overwhelmed by a growing population if efforts are not made to further reduce wasteful practices.

    Many state leaders on both sides of the aisle — including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — still fail to recognize California’s conservation and efficiency potential and regularly call for the construction of new reservoirs or new subsidies for expensive ocean desalination plants. Not only would any new reservoir be costly and environmentally controversial, no proposed reservoir could possibly yield as much water as AB2496 would have freed up. And given desalination’s extremely high operating and electricity costs – to say nothing of its impact on local marine ecosystems – it makes no sense to produce expensive desalinated water just to flush it down inefficient toilets.

    In his veto message, the governor stated that we need to study these toilets more. Yet we already know that they are standard in Australia, Japan and other countries. Dozens of models from a wide range of manufacturers have been extensively tested here as well and many of them perform better than toilets already on the market.

    A rational water policy requires that we make the best use of the scarce and valuable water we have. That will require that California return to its position of national leadership in the area of water efficiency and conservation, not just in our homes, but in our industries and on our farms. The Pacific Institute has found that California can actually cut its wasteful use of water by 20 percent in the next 25 years with expected population growth, a healthy agricultural sector and a vibrant economy. We won’t get there if the governor vetoes the steps we’re trying to take in that direction.

    Peter H. Gleick, Ph.D, is president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, a nonpartisan Oakland-based think tank. He is a MacArthur Fellow.



    • Twitter
    • Facebook
Page 15 of 16« First...1213141516