May 2017

Solar powers a splash

In mountainous, water-scarce Chureddhar, solar powered pump installed by the Himmotthan Society an associate organisation of the Tata Trusts in partnership with First Solar and Tata Power Solar, lift water to provide clean drinking water

Solar pump project in Chureddhar, Tehri Garhwal

The village of Chureddhar in Chamba, Tehri Garhwal district is one among the many mountain villages of Uttarakhand that suffer from the lack of safe potable water. Until 2002, they depended on a single hand-pump to provide them with water. That summer, the hand-pump stopped working and the villagers were forced to walk to a perennial natural spring, a kilometre and a half away.

Some of the villages in the district either tapped natural water resources to provide gravity-piped water, or collected rainwater via Rain Water Harvesting Tanks (RWHT). Unfortunately, Chureddhar, like several other villages, did not have a natural water resource, which could be used for gravity water scheme.

In 2003, Tata Trusts, decided to intervene in overlooked villages such as Chureddhar, under the drinking water supply intervention. Initially, the plan was to construct 59 individual RWHT of 7,000 litres each.

Women now have piped water close to home with the solar pump project in Chureddhar, Tehri Garhwal
Later during 2013, much research, and discussions with First Solar Inc. (manufacturer of thin film photovoltaic modules, or solar panels) and Tata Power Solar threw up a cost-effective solution to Himmotthan – the Solar powered Lift Drinking Water Scheme – a scheme that has been implemented in the village of Uttarakhand by the Dehradun-based Himmotthan Society and Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust (HIHT). The use of solar energy is also estimated to reduce electricity bills by Rs. 34,000 on average per annum.

Under this scheme, water is collected in the Source Collection Chamber (SCC). A three-step filtration process takes the pumped water through a 710-metre pipeline to a height of 186 metres at the rate of 38 litres per minute through single-stage pumping.

Solar power happy community
Fifty solar panels of 77.5 watts (installed on two solar off-line grids) have been installed in Chureddhar. Together, these panels produce 3,750 Wp, which enables the pump to push the water against the gravity towards a clear water reservoir where the water is chlorinated. Individual connection for every household is not a viable proposition due to the limited availability of water and spread of cluster. A common Tank Type Stand Post (TTSP) has been installed having four taps at a convenient location.

The first project of its kind, this scheme was inaugurated by the Chief Secretary of the Government of Uttarakhand on 4th March 2014; it has the potential to become a long-term solution to implement anti-gravity water schemes in remote locations of the region where hydro-electricity is not a viable solution.

Rama Lal, a Village management worker inspecting the automated Chlorine Producing Unit
The villagers of Chureddhar are pleased – they not only have drinking water on tap, the scheme has considerably reduced the women’s workload. Moreover, they are relieved that this will reduce the incidence of water-borne diseases. Furthering the water quality manual chlorinator has been replaced to automated Chlorine Producing Unit (CPU) in March 2017.

To ensure long term sustainability of scheme Village Water Management Committee – VWMC (which is sub-committee of Gram Panchayat), has appointed a Village Maintenance Work (VMW) who is responsible for operation and maintenance of the scheme. VWMC collects monthly user charge currently which is @ Rs. 50 per household per month to meet basic maintenance expenditure for chlorination, insurance, operational charges, etc. A reserve fund of Rs. 1,05,000/ has been set aside in a fixed deposit.

The success of this project has inspired government officials to look at solar energy to solve drinking water problems that beset mountain communities. This collaboration –between villagers Himmotthan Society, First Solar and Tata Power Solar – has changed the face of Chureddhar. It is clear that a little support goes a long way in helping a community help themselves.