According to a Water Aid report, the Indians have the worst access to safe drinking water in the world. A majority of this population belongs to impoverished communities which are forced to collect dirty water from open ponds & rivers or buy water from tankers. Even rural and semi-urban areas struggle to get pure and safe drinking water. The problem is expected to get worse as per The Asian Development Bank forecast, which says that by 2030, India will have a water deficit of 50%.
Apart from the municipal supply which is not reliable, most Indian households depend on the bottled water as the next best alternative for drinking purpose. However, not many know that bottled water is not safe. A study found that bottled water contains bacteria, pesticide residues, and chemicals. Several packaged drinking water companies do not adhere to the quality parameters set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). In 2014-15, 31% of packaged water samples tested by the Indian government were found to be adulterated or misbranded. So, it is a myth that bottled water is completely safe. In fact, there are several other concerns as well:
- Plastic water bottles often get dumped or recycled, which lead to pollution and hence, are not environment-friendly.
- The cost of a 1-litre bottle is around Rs. 20 and that of a 20-litre jar is Rs 80. On an average, every family in India consumes about 4-5 litres of water for drinking and the same quantity for cooking as well. It takes a simple math to calculate how the expensive bottled water is!
Related Article: Water ATMs are set to make rural India a healthy India
As compared to bottled water, a more sustainable and eco-friendly solution would be the installation of water ATMs in the areas where people don’t have access to pure and safe drinking water or face a scarcity of water. A concept similar to Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) which dispense cash, a water vending machine dispenses water. The buyer has to insert a coin or a smart card (provided by the installation company) in a water ATM to access water.
A water ATM has numerous advantages over bottled water:
- People, especially in rural areas, can’t afford to spend their hard-earned money to buy costly bottled water at Rs. 20 per litre. A water ATM cost is quite economical; it dispenses water at a very nominal cost.
- It is a long-term solution as it provides safe, fresh and pure drinking water round the clock. Citizens can buy water on ‘pay per use’ basis whenever they feel like it.
- The source of bottled water is often unknown, due to which its quality is highly dubious. However, since water ATMs use tap or groundwater and make it potable through inbuilt RO water purification system. So, there is a complete guarantee of clean and safe drinking water. It frees people from the worries of waterborne health hazards.
- Unlike plastic pollution caused by bottled water, the water ATM machines have a marginal environmental footprint. They have a huge water storage capacity and are convenient to install anywhere – schools, hospitals, bus/railway stations or community meeting places. People can carry their own pots, vessels or containers to fill and store water. Also, since it is a coin/smart card operated machine, people fetch water judiciously, without trying to waste even a single drop of water.
Voltas Water Solutions has launched its own water ATMs to provide a safe, durable and secure source of purified drinking water for communities and public places.
Water ATMs are a self-sustainable model and beat the drawbacks of bottled water anytime.