Himachal Pradesh is one of the most beautiful states in India, filled with mountains and streams and all the greenery in the world. So logically since there should be no problem with water. Well that’s almost true. Yet, even though the sources of water are abundant, the utilization of the same is disorganized. The result is a state with a heavy water problem.
Himachal Pradesh has seen an increase in demand by over 3.93 crore litres of water per day from its drinking water supplies in the 39 irrigation and public health (IPH) divisions in the state in 2011. To further add to the problem, rains in the state have been showing a decreasing trend and there have been particularly harsh years like 2009 when the state witnessed a deficit of 60% during the monsoon. In fact Bilaspur district registered a deficit of 83%, Solan district 70%, Kangra district 66%, Hamirpur district 65% and Lahaul and Spiti district 58%. There is no way of knowing when the water tanks are running out of water or when they should pump more in order to make up for the shortage. Or even measure the usage in various areas in order to judge the gap between requirement and availability.
Recently, when AirJaldi hosted a workshop on wireless sensor networks and their environmental applications, we realised that wireless networks could help us better manage water in HP.
Before going into how they were used, what are wireless sensor networks? These are spatially distributed autonomous sensors to monitor physical or environmental conditions such as temperature, sound, pressure, etc. and to cooperatively pass their data through the network to a main location. These can be deployed over a specific area where a specific phenomenon is to be monitored.
This workshop was taken by Akiba from freaklabs who taught the participants how to use sensor devices and put them together to form a network in order to successfully correlate the data.
The workshop had a bigger purpose than to just teach the participants about sensor networks. And that was to use it to be able to solve the problem of water in the Dharamshala area of Himachal Pradesh. The workshop consisted of three major parts. The first part was the actual workshop to teach the participants about sensor networks using Arduino which is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. Arduino can sense the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators. It is intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.
The second and third parts were actual sensor network deployments at the Tibetan Childrens Village (TCV) and Sarah Tibetan Center for Higher Learning. In both deployments, SONAR water level sensors were used to measure the water level in storage tanks fed by nearby streams; data that would then get uploaded to Cosm servers. These sensors were used to collect data on how much water is pulled daily and monthly as well as the average usage. They also captured insights to judge the situation and be able to successfully pump in the right amount of water from the surrounding rivers before we reach a situation where the tanks become empty.
The idea is to be prepared and never have the tank go empty. With this data we at AirJaldi hope to be able to implement this solution in other various places and also be able to use the sensor networks to solve water issues.
Wireless sensor networks can be used for various purposes and the proper implementation of the same is something that can help in solving a lot of everyday problems hampering the growth of the country. We hope to see wireless networks used a lot more in innovative problem solving for grassroot issues.