Securing Water for the Future

Surat’s river clean up will meet residents’ basic needs and build prosperity for the future

By cleaning its main river and focusing on treating sewage at its source, Surat will ensure the long-term provision of clean drinking water, improve the river’s accessibility, enhance recreational opportunities, and restore the river’s overall ecosystems.

While water covers 70% of the world’s surface, only 0.3% of it is actually available for human use, as the rest consists of oceans or ice caps, or is trapped in the soil or the atmosphere. Today, over 50% of urban households lack sufficient access to safe drinking water. And urban water demand is anticipated to increase by 50%-70% over the next 30 years, with nearly 2 billion urban residents facing seasonal water shortages by 2050.

In India, as recently as 2011, the World Bank found that less than 50% of urban households were connected to running water, that not a single city received piped water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and that much of the water they did have access to was not potable. The Indian city of Surat, an important port on the Arabian sea and economic capital of the state of Gujarat, is one of the fastest growing and industrializing cities in the world. Unfortunately, part of this rapid development has resulted in the pollution of the Tapi River, the heart of the city and the sole source of fresh drinking water available to the city’s 5.5 million residents, a population predicted to reach 8 million by 2020.

Surat, India

The city has been piping water from the river for over 100 years. In 2015 the average demand was nearly 1 billion liters per day, and rapidly growing. However, the water supply is highly unreliable, averaging only three hours of running water throughout the city per day, with increasing levels of pollution and salt-water intrusion. To address this, Surat’s Resilience Strategy devotes several of its initiatives to remediating environmental damage and regulating water usage, in order to ensure sufficient clean water for its population over the long term, and to build stronger links between citizens and their river.

A city requires both sufficient quantity and quality of water. To help address its risks of insufficient quantity, Surat will deploy a four-pronged effort:

  • Significantly expanding Smart Water Management with Intelligent Sensing technology (in its pilot phase, this technique demonstrated its ability to increase water supply by 30%).
  • Going beyond state regulations mandating them for new construction to install rainwater harvesting units within existing government and institutional buildings, demonstrating such systems as best practice to commercial and residential building owners as well.
  • Developing guidelines for closed-loop water reuse which will be first of their kind in India, and investing in and promoting anaerobic purification treatments for wastewater where appropriate.
  • Leveraging an existing program that transfers water from water-surplus regions to water-deficit regions to campaign for the conservation of lakes and other water resources that could potentially be interlinked to bolster the river’s supply.

The Resilience Strategy pairs these actions with a focus on improving and maintaining the water’s quality and the overall health of the river’s ecosystem, by:

  • Declaring the banks of the Tapi river and tidal creeks as environmentally sensitive zones, and conducting a comprehensive analysis of water quality data, with additional tests to update existing data on an as-needed basis.
  • Monitoring commercial, residential, and industrial activities on a regular basis using instruments that test for specific pollutants and are equipped with GPS/ GPRS capabilities to enable officials to map changes over time at key locations.
  • Introducing a penalty system to discourage polluters, thereby generating additional revenue for the monitoring work.
  • Potentially installing surveillance cameras at key locations that are linked to the smart city center.
  • Checking treated effluents discharged into the river, and enhancing sewage treatment facilities and the incorporation of new co-generation plants.

These place-based interventions will be carried out at the river’s edge across several Surat wards, in outlying upstream villages, and at outlets along the course of the river. In addition, capacity-building trainings will educate city staff about best practices for measuring water quality. Finally, recognizing that technical and regulatory initiatives can fail without sufficient buy-in, the city will engage citizens in a multi-pronged outreach campaign about the relationship of their city with the river, and will develop a recreational green belt along both banks.

Across the Network: Water Security

To date, 100RC member cities have designed more than 50 initiatives relating to water pollution and/or water security.

  • AMMAN lacks ample natural resources and relies on imports to meet many of its basic needs, including water. Between 2011 and 2015, demand for water in the city increased by 40%. Amman is addressing water insecurity through the “Deliver Rainwater Harvesting Plan,” which will grow the city’s capacity to meet local demand, as recycling rainwater across sites like the King Abdullah II Park will improve conservation and resource efficiency. Concurrently, the initiative will raise awareness about the challenges of water scarcity and encourage more responsible usage.
  • BERKELEY is facing an increasingly drier environment as a result of climate change and accompanying periods of drought. Innovative methods to diversify the city’s water supply will be essential to ensuring sustainable conservation, particularly as dependency on declining snow pack levels has diminished the water supply. Some of these methods include a range of projects through partnerships with the local utility companies and UC Berkeley. For example, the potential to use groundwater for backup water supply or park irrigation is being explored, as is the option of using reclaimed water for street cleaning.
  • BYBLOS is working to rehabilitate its main stream, Nahr Jaj, through stream daylighting, in order to better connect the newer and older sections of the city. The stream is an important part of the city’s heritage, but is currently culverted (buried) under the city’s roads. Its opening will also support better drainage and the development of an ecological corridor for city inhabitants. This initiative is furthering Byblos’ network of blue-green infrastructure and enhancing the health of the urban environment for its citizens and wildlife.
  • DA NANG is a coastal city situated at the mouth of the Hàn River, and highly vulnerable to both floods and the impacts of water pollution. To address its risks, Da Nang has collaborated with its neighboring province, Quang Nam, to form one of the first cross-jurisdictional platforms in Vietnam for the co-management of a shared river basin. Historically, cities and provinces have acted independently, with Da Nang’s flood management system exacerbating flooding in Quang Nam, while the development of hydropower reservoirs in Quang Nam caused water shortages and increased salinization for Da Nang. The two will now create complementary watershed management strategies that will lead to economic development opportunities, more effective flood management and climate change adaptation, and increased water security.
  • SANTIAGO DE CHILE is a metropolitan area that includes both dense urban districts and rural zones. The rural areas suffer from unreliable supplies of potable water, with 2,500 houses still receiving water from tanker trucks. The city is undertaking a program to construct additional drinking water infrastructure and improve existing infrastructure. Moreover, they are conducting capacity-building exercises to create rural drinking water cooperatives that empower residents to administer this important service themselves, and equip them with knowledge of best practices for water management and new technologies which can further secure their water resources for the long-term.