Groundwater Injection with Muddy, Polluted Runoff a Good Idea?
Subject: Guidelines for avoiding contamination during
underground water recharging in India
Date: Thu, 03 May 2001
From: Art Ludwig
To: "Dr. R.K. Jain" <vishijain©usa.net>
Dr. R.K. Jain from Ratlam, M.P. state, India writes
regarding how to avoid contaminating groundwater with
collected surface water. The environment is jungle with 35
mm average rainfall.
> [My questions are] in the large interest of public,
> environment and society. Being very small NGO, I would
> not be able in giving any fees for your suggestion.
> Let me introduce first. This message I am sending on
> behalf of one nonprofit making group of social
> workers, dedicated for social welfare and to environment.
> You may be aware that at least four states/ provinces of
> India are passing through severe drought conditions since
> last three years. This year government of India is
> focusing much on the recharging of underground water
> during coming rainy season. Many government agencies,
> NGOs, social welfare groups etc. are busy in educating
> people regarding the importance of recharging of
> underground water which is a real need of day as well. On
> mass scale people are preparing themselves for recharging
> their bore wells/ tube wells by infusing rainy surface
> water into it through very inefficient, technically poor,
> self designed filter beds which contain mainly some stone
> chips and sand, that's too only 100 cubic feet
> approximately. No doubt many people are trying to harvest
> the rainy water by collecting them in the form of lake or
> pond and allowing them to percolate in the land which
> seems to be right method for increasing the underground
> water level.
> Prior of going ahead please keep this fact in mind that
> approximately 75% of surface water of India is highly
> polluted (lot of industrial and municipal wastes) and
> contaminated with many infections e.g. Leptospira
> interrogans (Infective Jaundice); Salmonella paratyphi
> (enteric fever); Salmonella typhosa (typhoid fever)
> Shigella dysenterai (dysentery); Shigella Flexneri
> (dysentery) Vibrio cholera; Streptococcus;
> Staphylococcus; Escherichia coil; Hepatitis virus;
> Influenza virus; Poliovirus poliomyelitis); Rotavirus and
> Bacteriophage (E.col) and yeast and fungi.
> Now my apprehension is that if people at large are
> infusing highly polluted and contaminated rainy
> surface water into bore wells/ tube wells DIRECTLY
> without putting any efficient and scientific filtration
> devices, entire source of underground water can get
> contamination/ infection which can lead serious
> By this communication we request you to oblige us by
> giving your views and suggestions on our this
> apprehension. We also request you to suggest the
> precautions required, if any. Also advise us the history
> of such type of contamination, if any.
> I DO UNDERSTAND THAT THE INFORMATION PROVIDED BY ME, MAY
> NOT BE SUFFICIENT TO DRAW ANY CONCLUSION. BUT,
> I SHALL APPRECIATE IF YOU WILL TENDER YOUR EXPERT OPINION
> AS GENERAL.
> MY SPECIFIC QUERY IS ? POURING OF MUDDY, POLLUTED RAINY
> WATER INTO 'PAKKA' WELL, BORE/ TUBE WELL(DIRECTLY OR
> THROUGH VERY TINY FILTER-PIT) IS LEGAL, SCIENTIFICALLY
> ACCEPTABLE AND SAFE?
> I shall highly appreciate if you will arrange to send the
> various methods/ technologies/ devices available for
> water harvesting and underground water recharging. I am
> ready to pay fees, if any. Please advise on priority as
> matter is urgent.
> We shall feel pleasure in sending any relevant
> information as and when required by you.
> With best regards,
> Dr. Jain
> Dr. R.K. Jain, President
> Society for Environmental Upgradation & Eco-Balancing,
> 1, Geetanjali, Shastri Nagar,
> RATLAM, 457 001 (M.P.) INDIA
> Tel.: 0091 7412 35224/ 55780; FAX : 30017
> e-mail : vishijain©usa.netMr. Jain:
RE: "POURING OF MUDDY, POLLUTED RAINY WATER INTO 'PAKKA'
WELL, BORE/ TUBE WELL (DIRECTLY OR THROUGH VERY TINY
FILTER-PIT) IS LEGAL, SCIENTIFICALLY ACCEPTABLE AND SAFE?"
the answer is (as you rightly suspect) a resounding "NO!"
This is an appalling idea.
The soil is the guardian of groundwater quality. The rule
of thumb for groundwater recharge with reasonable flows of
water containing *biological* hazards (e.g., contaminated
storm runoff, septic tank water) is passage through 20
horizontal meters of soil before extraction with a well at
domestic scale pumping rates. The rule of thumb for the
minimum for groundwater recharge with low flows of fairly
clean water (rain) is three vertical meters, corresponding
to the sealed section near the surface of the well.
There is no corresponding rule of thumb for man-made
chemical hazards: every chemical has a different degree of
mobility in the soil, and some can travel *any* distance
through the ground, with time. Thus, the only safe practice
is to avoid their use entirely or create artificially
managed cycles which leak minimally into the water cycle.
For references, I suggest material from "excreta disposal
in rural areas and small communities" (1959, the World
Health Organization, currently out of print, but reproduced
in our Builder's Grey Water Guide (book) and at
and the WHO book on small community water systems.
If you'd like any more help, please contact me.
I wish you every success in stopping this foolhardy
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