Living on the Edge

On Monday morning, after a very hectic but fun weekend entertaining friends at home with biryani and beer, the workmen arrived. I had left for office, so I have to take Amit’s word for what happened next. They brought a pump with a long hose and one end and a long hose at the other. At least one of the hoses was pretty fat, too – not your common or garden variety, I guess. One hose went into the sump. The other went out in the lawn. The pump, oddly enough, went on top of the gatepost and one guy got on top of it and sat astride it to keep it from pumping itself off the gatepost and crashing to the ground below. (I wish I’d been home to take a photo at least!) The pump whooshed the water out so fast that even though it was aimed to stay in the large, thirsty lawn, it started to overflow out into the storm water drain.

By the time the tank was empty, we had less than 500 lts in the overhead tank, god knows how many lts in the gray water tank, which was full to overflowing, 300 lts in the discarded rain water harvesting tank, which was perched next to the phytoremediation reed bed, and maybe 100-200 lts in various buckets that had been filled to the brim. Less than 1,000 lts of white water – and with that, we intended to hold out for three whole days. Was that at all possible – even by our stringent standards?

Doing the waterproofing itself doesn’t seem to have been much of a task. When I got home, all there was to show for it was what looked like a layer of white paint on the inside of the tank.

Of course, Amit and I can never leave a good thing alone, let alone a bad thing. So we manouevred the immensely long ladder into the extremely small opening of the sump – we seem to be getting quite good at this – and with me still dressed in my newest t-shirt and jeans, to boot. Then, of course, since I’m the more compact one, it was me who went down into the sump. It was quite nice inside – wet, but not dank; warm, but not fetid; dim, but not gloomy. I measured everything I could, made some markings to provide visual indicators of the water level that would be visible from ground level, and came back up without incident.

Inside the house, though, was another story. By the end of Monday, our overhead tank was down to half. By the end of Tuesday, we had stopped using all the taps in the house and were desperately filling buckets from the discarded rain water tank and lugging them into the house, and by the end of Wednesday we went so far as to go out for dinner so that we wouldn’t have to wash dishes – which is not a unique event in itself, but what was rather rare even by our eclectic standards was that by this time dishes were being washed with water scooped out of a bucket. The washing machine was given a rest and the house looked distinctly messy for want of mopping on both Tuesday and Wednesday. The only thing that still looked happy was the lawn – it was still a brilliant emerald green.

Meanwhile, the suspense was building. Clearly, we couldn’t manage another day on our current reserves of water. The question was, what would Thursday bring? How much water did we actually need to ensure that we could run the submersible pump? Would the Cauvery water gods smile on us and fill our tank with a good 4,000 lts?

Of course, it’s absolutely true that all this drama and suspense was of our own making. Granted that the waterproofing probably needs a day or so to dry, it’s still patently true that we could have called for a tanker and got ourselves 5000 lts of borewell water at any time on Wednesday. But – after all, why pass up an exciting challenge? I mean, it’s not every day that the opportunity to spend three days with a meagre 1000 lts of water comes a-begging.

So Thursday morning I got back from tennis to find Amit straddling the sump and looking down pensively. I joined him. Water was gushing in, but the sump looked very big, very deep, and very empty. There still wasn’t enough water in it to run the pump. To add to the nail-biting finish, our diligent cleaning lady had come and washed all the breakfast dishes directly with tap water, resulting in the overhead tank being run almost entirely dry. Then, just to make sure there really was not a single drop of water left in it for exigencies of any kind, she proceeded to diligently fill the water filter with eight litres of water. This, after we had been brushing our teeth and washing our faces with about a dozen droplets of running water each. Sigh.

By 8.30 a.m. I needed to get dressed for office (I was already half an hour behind schedule) and the water in the tank was still not enough to run the pump. The mouth of the submersible pump has to be completely submerged, or the pump will burn out. And our overhead tank requires 500 lts, which, according to Amit’s calculations, represents a clear two-and-a-half inches of water from the underground tank. And, we weren’t even sure the pump would actually pump until the water had reached a sensor on it which was fairly high up. In a happy but disgruntled manner, I resigned myself to yet another cold water bucket bath.

By the time I was leaving for office, though, things were looking up. Water had been filling for more than two hours and the “fairly high up” sensor level had been attained. The automatic water level controller took charge and started pumping! By the time the water gods’ munificence finally reached its limits, around 10 a.m. we had got more than 5,000 of our 15,000 lts back.

And then, on Thursday evening, after the kids had gone to bed, I stepped out into the driveway, what do I hear but the sound of water gushing into our tank again. At that hour? Can’t be! I called Amit and he equipped himself with a headlamp and we opened the cover and lo! Still more water! We went to bed disbelievingly, and woke up this morning to find our sump full to capacity! The water gods have been incredibly kind to us.

Elections must be coming, said Amit cynically.

And here I thought it was all good karma being paid back in kind.

007 The discarded rain water harvesting tank, with about 100 lts of water left in it. We couldn’t have managed without it. Don’t miss the endless ladder, stretching into the distance.

015 See the disbelieving look on his face? That’s because the tank is full to the top!

5 Responses to Living on the Edge

  1. Happy ending at last. 🙂 So good to hear. We have started our struggle with water. Our borewell has run dry. Tanker after tanker is being called by our association. But no amount of water seems to be enough. Sigh. Promises to be a long summer.

  2. poupee97 says:

    Supriya: Didn’t I hear you say that apartments were better because other people could be trusted to sort out the problems? I always thought that cuts both ways, though – sometimes other people aggravate (or are) the problem. Anyhow, you don’t have to worry too much about this summer, surely. 🙂 Or at least, not on that account.

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    Thank you, so much!

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