In July 2019, Vadodara in Gujarat experienced a cloudburst and recorded 242 mm of rainfall within six hours.

Later on, District Collector Shalini Agarwal learnt that many schools were left without sufficient water to meet their drinking needs.

“The irony of letting crores of litres of water drain away while suffering from a water crisis troubled me. We thought that rainwater harvesting could be the solution,” she says.

Shalini pledged not to let any school experience water scarcity the next year and drew a plan to install a rainwater harvesting system within the next couple of months.

The district administration identified 1,071 schools, of which 37 schools had already installed the water recharging infrastructure.

Initiating project Varsha Kal Nidhi in 2020, the administration covered 963 schools for water conservation, which benefited 1.8 lakh students by saving 10 crore litres of water.

Each rainwater harvesting system costs around Rs 3–5 lakh. Since it was not feasible to spend such amounts, Shalini says a cost-effective, innovative solution was needed to bring the expenses down.

With the help of a team of experts and engineers, the administration came up with two models that reduced the cost ranging between Rs 25,000 and Rs 90,000.

Explaining the process, she says, “The rainwater is collected from the terrace and channelised through pipes towards a chamber in the ground.”

“The chamber then filters and percolates the water in the bore well, ensuring direct groundwater recharge.” Once the water reaches the bottom, a pipe pushes water from the chambers to the percolation tank. Each system can harvest one lakh litres of water.

“Everyone consumes water and it is a valuable resource passed on by generations. We must conserve and make it available for future generations,” Shalini says.