Meet the Noida-based organisation that is using Smart Water ATMs to dispense drinking water to commuters and tourists for free
The next big war will be waged for water. The United Nations has predicted a global shortfall in water by 2030. India is at the forefront of water distress, according to Beneath the Surface: The State of the World’s Water 2019, a report by global non-profit WaterAid. India, which tops the list of countries with the most number of people living with water scarcity, is facing the worst water crisis in its history. The alarm bells are ringing, loud and clear, but is anyone listening? Noida-based non-profit organisation Pi-Lo (short for PiLo Shudh Pani Seva Foundation) is trying to do its bit, one glass of water at a time.
In a country where 163 million people are prone to water-borne diseases, safe drinking water is a problem that needs to be solved. For not everyone can afford to buy one-litre water bottles priced at Rs 20. Pi-Lo, started in 2015 by Jatin Ahlawat and Dinesh Goyal, has set out on a mission to provide free and safe drinking water to as many people as it can and reduce the plastic menace while at it. For this, the NGO has installed solar power-run water ATMs in various parts of India to dispense free purified water.
People queue up at the smart water ATMs set up by Pi-Lo
Jatin says Pi-Lo was started to not only bridge the gap between unhealthy and contaminated water, but also the problem that one to pay at least Rs 20 for a litre in the PET plastic bottle, which is another major cause of water contamination. “The initiative began in Delhi Metro four year ago, where Pi-Lo started serving Reverse Osmosis (RO) drinking water. We charged Rs 2 for paper glass filled with water and Rs 5 for a litre in a consumer’s own container,” he says.
Since then, Pi-Lo has moved on from Delhi Metro and serves water free of cost at popular monuments and tourist attractions Qutub Minar, Old Fort, Red Fort, and Safdarjung Tomb, along with hospitals and religious places.
This year, the organisation also pressed 50 such water ATMs into service to provide drinking water to pilgrims at Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj (Allahabad).
As of now, 141 water ATMs have been installed across India in Delhi-NCR, Ayodhya, Agra, Vrindavan, Barsana, Fatehpur Sikri, Prayagraj, and others.
The Pi-Lo Smart Water ATMs purify water through advanced RO technology that has been developed by the founders with the help of technology partners and multiple vendors. The technology is also approved by Dr RA Mashelkar Committee of Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation for highest recovery (90 percent-plus) of water. A single water ATM project treats 500 litres of water on an hourly basis.
Jatin says that Pi-Lo RO water ATM machines are significantly different from the RO machines we use at our homes, as they home waste around 15 percent of the water from the RO purifier.
The Pi-Lo Smart Water ATMs purify water through advanced RO technology
“Similarly, if we compare Pi-Lo water ATM machines, we have tried to install measures and procedures to lower the percentage of water wasted and we have succeeded in getting the number to just five percent,” he says. “We are using 'membrane with ionisation' and through ionisation technology we are retreating the water from being wasted,” adds Jatin.
The Smart Water ATM takes unprocessed groundwater; this is then passed through the process of integrated filtration via the RO mechanism, a multi-step process. The RO filtered water then enters the chiller tank where its temperature is maintained as per the requirement specified. Water can be drawn with the help of push button or by inserting a coin or card.
Pi-Lo claims that their water ATMs retain 90-95 percent of the water treated as compared to conventional RO treatment plants that waste 40 percent of the water they treat. Jatin said water is offered totally free at hospitals, monuments, temples, and bus stations. At Metro stations, “only the paper glass is chargeable”.
The ATMs are cloud-connected, enabling live monitoring of the water quality, temperature, pH, and TDS. All machines have a CCTV installed on them to ensure that they are working properly. The ATMs have inbuilt dustbins to dispose of used paper cups.
Going ahead, PiLo wants to upgrade its technology and develop a smarter water ATM. To generate funds for this, the organisations conducts CSR and sponsorship programmes.
Jatin Ahlawat, Co-Founder, Pi-Lo
Jatin says Pi-Lo is keen to install water ATMs across India to reduce the scarcity of portable drinking water. However, he did not divulge any numbers – on how many ATMs it aims to have in next two-three years or the cities they planned to target next.
Apart from quenching the thirst of people, Pi-Lo also aims to totally eradicate plastic water bottles. For this, the NPO organises community events and awareness programmes across India.
The organisation claims that since inception it has done away with more than 25 million plastic bottles by serving a total of 18,718,853 litres water to people.
“Pi-Lo has been creating awareness on social media through every platform by spreading facts, data, and solutions related to water problems, organising small-scale events such as nukkad natak, poetry, and performances themed on water and its problems and for sustainable expansion,” says Jatin.