"Water is life's matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water."

Water Management

The story of water in Auroville is a complex and multifaceted one, intimately connected to the ocean. Today Auroville has come a long way in terms of water management. Beyond the largely successful reforestation of the area, major work in erosion control via check dams, rainwater harvesting via bunds and de-silting irrigation tanks, waste water treatment plants within individual communities, appropriate building technologies, emphasis on renewable energies, community awareness, and data gathering have all been areas of strength.

Despite the strides we have taken, there is still a long way to go given the challenges that face us today.

  • Harvest

    Bunds and check dams for erosion control and ground water recharge
  • Manage

    Providing safe water efficiently for Auroville
  • Recycle

    Innovations in waste water treatment systems
Auroville's Water Background

Auroville lies in the coastal watershed of Kaliveli, located within the state of Tamil Nadu and the northern part of the Union Territory of Pondicherry. The watershed of 764 square km flows to Kaliveli swamp and deposits into the sea at Marakanam. It stretches along the coast of the Bay of Bengal for 35 kms.

Starting in ancient times, ingenious water management was undertaken throughout the area through a system of inter-connected “erys”, or tanks. Today there are 196 interconnected irrigation tanks within the watershed, making up a total of 34,500 acres.

Fast forward to 1968, when Auroville was born. After years of deforestation of valuable tropical woods by the British, French, Dutch and local people, the landscape was a barren plateau largely stripped of any vegetation. Monsoon storms eroded its topsoil. When a drop of rain fell from the sky, it slammed into a clay surface and, without any absorptive top soil, flowed down into the Bay of Bengal, carving canyons and ravines on its way.

In the years that have followed, the landscape has been transformed. Early planting of trees created a fledgling forest, regenerating the topsoil and creating a sponge-like top layer for rain to fall. Bunds were constructed to stop the flow of rainwater to the sea and instead let it percolate to layers below. Check dams were built to stop the torrential flow of storm rains to the sea and allow water to percolate into the aquifers.

Socioeconomic factors in the surrounding areas also played a key role. When the Green Revolution came to India, new crops required more intensive, consistent water usage. This necessitated a shift from shared common water resources to individual borewells, further depleting the aquifers.

See Also