Interview: Ayyappa Masagi of Water Literacy Foundation

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Ayyappa Masagi is the Founder of Water Literacy Foundation, a non-government organization that works to improve awareness on water conservation and to ensure effective utilization of available water for household, industrial or agricultural purposes by deploying various ingeniously developed techniques of water harvesting, bore well-recharging and irrigation. ThinkChange India caught up with him for a short interview on the sidelines of Ashoka Green Plan-it unconference that was  covered earlier.

  • [TCI] You were working as a Mechanical Engineer for 23 years. What inspired you to leave your job and start this initiative?

[Ayyappa] I was born and brought up in a drought-prone area. During summer I used to wake up as early as 3 in the morning and go along with my mother to fetch water from a community well. I belong to a family with agricultural background. Due to water shortage , my father was able to irrigate only 25% of his land. My father very knowledgeable  about agriculture, irrigation and conservation. Empowered with his knowledge and my degree, I started developing my own techniques and systems for conservation of water. When I started working for Larson and Tubro, during my leisure time, I had been working on continuously improving my systems. As my techniques matured and gained popularity, I decided to leave my job and started working on this full time.

  • [TCI] Can you please tell what are the various things common man can do to conserve water?

[Ayyappa]While techniques like water harvesting and such are important, I think conservation of  water during daily usage  is very very important. Simple things like taking a bucket bath, or using a mug of water instead of water from the tap would reduce wastage to a great extent and their importance can never be over-emphasized.

  • [TCI] If one person is to employ such simple techniques of conservation for one day, how much water saving can be done?

[Ayyappa] To give you a simple example, our toilet flush tank has a storage capacity of 10 litres of water and we use as much to flush out human waste per usage. But if we wet the toilet before using it, two litres of water would be more than enough to flush out the human waste. To get an estimate of how much water can be saved using such small  techniques, we can consider a gated-community of about 600 families where I have implemented such technologies. As a result, they save about 4 tankers of water per day.

  • [TCI] Can you please brief on grey-water recharging?

[Ayyappa] Grey-water recharging is essentially reusing water that is discharged from our bathroom. The general perception is that this is unusable. But that is not true. Grey-water is nothing but utility water with small proportion of soap and impurities. Soap is nothing but phosphate which is actually a good manure for plants. Coconut trees grow much taller and yield much more in the urban areas when compared to rural areas mainly because of the fact that urban areas tend to have phosphate rich soil because of higher quantity of grey water discharge. When grey-water reaches the ground, phosphates are absorbed by plants and the impurities are easily filtered out by the sub-soil. So, with proper recharging techniques, it is possible to extract potable water from grey-water and recharge our wells and bore-wells. This technique is neither new nor mine. It can be traced back to the days of our fore-fathers who have traditionally implemented grey-water harvesting techniques. The main point I would like to emphasize is that water harvesting should not be restricted only to rainy days. But it should be done all through the year. In that context, grey-water harvesting finds its importance.

  • [TCI] What are the different the different solutions that Water Literacy foundation that would offer for someone who would like to employ water conservation techniques in his/her residential community

[Ayyappa] I have various solutions that I can provide regarding water-harvesting, bore-well recharging.  Depending on the water availability in the residential area and depending on the budget, I can design and can design solutions in such a way that the residential community doesn’t face any water problem after that

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Badhri Jagannathan