The Cooum River

Discovery Area Report: Water Systems

As a city, Chennai currently addresses water reactively, by building storm water drains to quickly transport water away, or by meeting water demand increases by augmenting supply. Water management requires a more balanced approach that focuses and plans for demand management as much as supply side interventions in an integrated manner. City water experts and citizens collectively believe that the way forward is to protect and conserve water bodies rather than augmenting supply. A survey of residents across the city reveals that they (51% of total respondents) are willing to pay a higher price for water and support (71% of total respondents) government metering policy. Further, contrary to popular opinion, 58% of total respondents are willing to pay for recycled water and a conclusive 79% will likely support government policy on recycling for domestic purposes. (Please see Appendix 2 for comprehensive survey results). A working group meeting with varied stakeholders also revealed similar views (see appendix 1 for details). Simultaneously, Chennai’s water experts recognise the inter-related issues of encroachment, solid waste management, climate risks and waste water management and emphasize the need for integrated planning in the water sector.

A reflection of Chennai’s key challenges, makes it clear that we must build more resilience in our water system by thinking about water holistically.

Building resilience, therefore, should be about:

a) bouncing back, if not bouncing forward, on occasions of disruptions and, more importantly,

b) building linkages and integrated efforts on a continual basis so Chennai’s water problems can be addressed more holistically and in the longer term.