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Mussoorie’s Water Dilemma: Less Production, More Demand

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We, the Citizens

By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

The facts are known to our netas and babus, but they don’t seem to care. If we don’t do something now, Mussoorie’s taps will go dry!
Here are the Facts in simple language.

1. Mussoorie’s main source of water is its springs.

2. These springs are located in valleys.

3. Rain, snow or hail, falling on the slopes of the valleys, above the springs, may filter through the ground and reach the springs, or it may run off as rivulets and streams.

4. If it runs off then the springs will remain empty.

5. Rain, snow or hail will run off the slopes if the hillsides are covered with anything that does not absorb water, like cement.

6. Tarred or concrete roads do not absorb water so they do not recharge the springs.

7. Buildings also do not allow water to recharge the springs.

8. The more buildings and tarred or concrete roads that cover a hillside the less water reaches the springs.

9. The leaves and branches of trees break the force of the rain.

10. The leaf litter, the fallen leaves that cover the base of trees and form a cushion, allows the rain, snow or hail to sink into the ground and fill the springs.

11. Springs are really the spouts of natural water containers called aquifers.

12. Aquifers have a base of hard rock which does not absorb water.

13. Above this base sits a layer of soft rock, like limestone, which absorbs and holds water like a sponge.

14. When this “sponge” gets full of water it releases it, creating a spring.

15. At the springs we have Pumping Stations.

16. The Pumping Stations use electric pumps to push this water from the springs through large pipes called Rising Mains, into reservoirs built at high places in Mussoorie.

17. From these reservoirs, which are large cement Tanks, the stored spring water flows down, by gravity, to meet the needs of the people living in Mussoorie.

That is the structure of the Mussoorie Water Supply System. It was installed, and maintained, by the Mussoorie City Board. Then, every consumer was billed according to the Water Meter installed in his property. Now, private consumers of water are billed according to an arbitrary formula devised by the state water boards.

The present system is riddled with many uncertainties which the authorities seem curiously reluctant to correct.

a. The construction of a new building, or the expansion of an existing one, requires the sanction of the MDDA. Prior to this sanction, the approval of the water-works authorities is needed. Knowing that our water resources are strained, how often has this approval been refused?

b. Aware that any major earthworks, such as roads, could obstruct the flow of water into our aquifers, why are the water authorities not consulted before another state organisation starts such activities?

c. Water gushes out over the hillside below Dhobi Ghat. It is tapped by water tankers and then sold to people in Mussoorie. If commercial tanker operators are allowed to supply this water to Mussoorie, why is it not being tapped by the state water authorities and supplied by them?

d. Most of the reservoirs were built before 1947. Earth tremors and land-subsidence are common in our range and are likely to have damaged the old reservoirs. The record of the amount of water held in each reservoir is, most often, based on an eye-estimate of the level of water in that dark reservoir. If bulk meters were installed at the input and output points of each reservoir, it would be easy to get an accurate figure of the amount of water stored and the possible loss due to leakage. Why are the waterworks authorities reluctant to install such bulk meters? Aren’t they concerned about supplying safe drinking water to their consumers?

According to a report, UNICEF says that less than 50% of Indians have access to safe drinking water and that water-borne diseases lead to an economic loss of Rs 4,200 crore a year. Safe and easily accessible water supply could increase India’s GDP by 2% to 3%.

Clearly, our state water-works authorities don’t realise just how important they are!

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other
National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on
national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person
articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian
Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)