In recent years, Chikamaglur in Karnataka has recorded severe droughts affecting their areca nut, coffee and spice plantations. The crisis escalated due to poor rainfall, causing the residents and farmers to depend on water tankers and groundwater sources, eventually drying them with over-extraction.
The situation for Michael Sadanand Baptist, an engineering diploma graduate, was no different on his ancestral agricultural land.
“We have 6 acres of land and it is not far away from the city. However, in 2001, the region faced severe droughts. We decided to drill bore wells to irrigate and survive our coffee plantations,” he tells The Better India.
Michael says that he drilled 28 borewells one after the other on their six-acre land in search of water but in vain. “Disappointed with the results, my father directed me to stop those adventures at once. He suggested that we opt for rainwater harvesting to replenish the groundwater,” the 58-year-old says.
His journey to install a rainwater harvesting system eventually led him to innovate a unique self-cleaning, dual-intensity rainwater harvesting water filter and a V-wire injection technology that helps groundwater recharge in deeper layers of the earth.
A Self-Sustaining Technology
Michael researched and procured the pipes, casing material and drill and other equipment to install the rainwater harvesting system at his farm.
He took help from the experts to capture the surface run-off water and percolate in the bore wells but faced a problem.
“The conventional systems have a filtration system with stone, gravel, sand and other material to filter the rainwater from leaves, debris and other unwanted contaminants. However, the filter was not efficient as the filter needed frequent cleaning, and the silt depositing on the surface of the filters made the water percolation difficult due to clogging of the layers,” Michael says.
He adds that such a system would become redundant after a period and needed money to invest and revive the functionality.
To overcome the problem, Michael and his friends Vijayraj and Sunil Gilbert joined hands to experiment and bring an innovative and efficient rainwater harvesting technique by setting up Farmland Rainwater Harvesting Systems (FLRWHS).
After years of efforts and improvements, they conceived two devices, Rainy filter and V-Wire recharging for domestic and agriculture purposes, respectively.
Michael says, “The technology is entirely indigenous and works on the principles of cohesion and centrifugal force for low and high-intensity rainfalls.”
Explaining about the Rainy filter, he says, “The system is connected tangentially to a down-take pipe, where rainwater from the roof is channelised to the filter. The rainwater mixed with dirt and debris flows in an angular motion along the periphery of the upper part, flowing at the bottom with a specific velocity towards the filter element. Here, the dirt and debris separate from clean rainwater.
The water movement creates a cohesive force and segregates the dirt from the water. “If the intensity of the rainfall increases, the high water volume moves in an anti-clockwise direction creating a centrifugal force. The process simultaneously flushes out the silt, debris, dirt through an open-ended outlet drain provided in the filter while diverting clean water into the storage tank or recharge pit,” he explains.
Speaking about the second innovation, V-wire injection technology, he says, “The system, mainly used in farmlands, consists of three parts — a silt trap unit, a recharge pit, having 20 per cent of stone, gravel, sand, activated charcoal and other natural filtration material up to 6 meters deep and a recharging borewell that goes deep int the ground up to 100 meters.”
Michael says the rainwater gets directed through a water channel in a silt trap allowing the silt to settle in the chamber. The overflowing water gets directed with an outlet on the other side and leads to the recharge pit. It then passes through multi-layered filtration media placed at the top.
“Water accumulates after passing through the filtration process in a specifically designed storage well creating a water column. A percolator pie fitted to the non-clogging V-wire screen is placed at the boring fitted with the V-wire injection filter unit between 45 and 100 meters below the ground. Clean water is allowed to pass through a permeable stratum via gravity and is realises in dry joints, weathered zones, cracks and aquifers that hold the water underground,” the entrepreneur says.
Explainer: V-wire injection
Michael assures that the technology is indigenous and works on all rainfall conditions with negligible maintenance. “The system does not require any attention for at least 20 years post-installation,” he adds.
So far, the 10,000 Rainy filters percolate about 10 million litres of water while the V-wire injection technology recharges 35 million Cubic meters of water through 15,000 wells.
A senior manager at Infosys campus Chennai says, “Chennai faces extreme conditions of drought and floods. Two natural ponds in the 130-acre campus used to turn dry for at least six months in a year. However, installing 165 injection wells in 2017-2018 and rooftop rainwater harvesting systems have helped increase the groundwater table.”
He says the result has been visible as the water requirement in the campus has been reduced by 50 per cent. “The ponds remain dry only for two months, and our freshwater requirement has reduced from 25,000-kilolitres to 11,000-kilolitres a month as we use the recharged water from the rainfall,” he adds.
Michael says that residents have reported their water tanker requirement to have reduced by 70 per cent with the rainwater harvesting system.
“The groundwater sources are depleting at an extremely high rate, and replenishing the precious source is the need of the hour. About 35 per cent of the surface water drains into the sewage or sea and gets wasted. Arresting and diverting the precious natural source can serve thousands through rainwater harvesting. I hope more residents and farmers opt for the same,” he adds.
Edited by Yoshita Rao