Open sewers part 2

The newspaper says that the storm that passed over Dharwad a few days ago has gathered force into a tropical depression. It is now over Orissa and heading for the Sundarabans, where it may gain energy from the water-covered marshes and become a full-blown tropical cyclone. Here in N. Karnataka the rains are sporadic, totaling only 30 or 40 cm. But in Mangalore, according to a young hydrologist I met last night, a typical season’s rainfall is 6 meters, and the record is 14 meters. This all during the 4 month monsoon season, sheets of water falling from the sky.

The rain fills with red silt from the unpaved roads and pools in depressions in the buffalo pasture / cricket field out my window. It runs into the open drains and whips the shallow stream of greywater and sewage into a creamy cafe au lait foam. The drains come together in bigger drain, or end in unpaved stream channels that frequently serve as garbage dumps. It’s a similar story to Oakland, except that everything’s visible on the surface, and there’s a little more sewage and trash here. It’s even more similar to San Francisco’s plight during the winter months, when combined sewers carrying both storm water and sewage overflow into the bay. Only here, the water pipes run UNDER the open drains, and water pipes run in or over them. So storm water that floods and overflows ends up directly in the water mains (which are often empty because water is delivered intermittently) via water pipes with no taps, or ends up in the groundwater, where it can infiltrate into leaky water mains when the Corporation water is not flowing.

Everywhere, we humans take clean water, shit in it, concentrate it, addd detergent and chemicals, and then pipe it away. but along the way it comes back to trouble us, either in our water pipes, or fish dinner, or our swimmer’s ear. In the U.S., we also bury our streams / sewers. Here, pigs root around in them, dogs drink from them, and, beyond the city limits, farmers use the nutrients to fertilize their crops (not without public health risk, however). In California, we mostly bring rivers to fields and cities, giveing each household personal springs and riverside washing areas inside the house. Here, river interlinking is in the news alongside neglected but viable local strategies like the baoris and the bunds of Tamil Nadu. In parts of Tamil Nadu, there are still enough functioning rainwater recharge ponds that newspaper articles warn of the dangers of catchment closure–infiltrating so much rainwater that little rain runs off on the surface, in streams. San Francisco, with its annual discharges of 700 million gallons of untreated sewer overflows can only dream of such a problem.

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~ by waterunderground on June 18, 2011.

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