img_303412 September 2016, Kotagiri: The Water Resources programme held a capacity building training on campus for staff and volunteers on 6-7 September. The training was attended by 20 people including six newly-recruited volunteers from Aracode, Pillur, Coonoor, Punanjanur, Konnavakkarai and Hasanur. The training was conducted by Bala, Gokul, Selvi and Babu from the water programme.

The training began with a review of the work that Keystone had done on water resources in these areas. Starting with the Kilcoupe drinking water project in 1995, they traced Keystone projects through the DfID watershed project, study of hill waters and livelihoods in Sigur, study of wetlands in the Nilgiris and the Happy Valley restoration, Coonoor town scenario building, Payment for Ecosystem Services and mapping of springs in Coonoor. All of these lay the foundation for the current Springs Initiative project on water resources in the NBR.

Giving an introduction to water resources of springs, wetlands, and streams, Gokul spoke of the world’s water where 97.5% is salt water and only 2.5% is freshwater. About 70% of this store of freshwater is locked up in the ice and snow caps in mountainous regions, about 30% exists as groundwater and 0.3% is in the form of freshwater rivers and lakes. Springs represent ‘natural groundwater discharge’ that feeds streams and rivers, often making such streams and rivers perennial. The group was informed about springs, its uses and its relation to ground water and aquifers. In mountainous settings, springs are very much the lifeline of the community.  It was mentioned that groundwater in general and springs in particular are dark spots in our knowledge base and that makes the role of Keystone and the volunteers a very important one.

Water for drinking purpose and water for other uses have different levels for acceptable physical, chemical and biological properties. Various factors such as pH (acidity/alkalinity), electrical conductivity, salinity, total dissolved solids (TDS) and faecal coliform affect the quality of water. During the session on water quality and sanitation linkages, the participants were explained about these factors and the acceptable levels of each. The link between sanitation practices and contamination of ground water was also explained.

img_3011The second part of the first day’s training was devoted to field study and the group was taken to Coonoor where they visited a new spring box in MGR Nagar, an old spring box in Chinna Hubbathalai,  wetlands in Bellatimattam and Yedapalli. The group had already been told about the water quality parameters in the classroom and the testing of water samples for some of these parameters was demonstrated in the field. The rest of the day was utilized in practical field data collection such as measuring spring discharge, tracking well water levels, and monitoring water quality. In Chinna Hubbathalai, they were also shown a patch of land near a water source where habitat restoration activities had been undertaken and about 60 saplings of native shola species planted.

The second day of training continued with more training on water quality and basics of hydrogeology. They then went on to the process of mapping water resources. The participants were trained on use of GPS and the data that they would be generating would add to the Springs Inventory. The group also discussed the cultural significance of water resources and different folklore associated with it.  The last part of the training was devoted to the use of android Tablets that had been provided to the group for this project. The tablets could be used for documentation (photographs, video, and audio), for marking GPS points, and for collecting baseline survey data on ODK Collect – an app for  field data collection.

It is almost a month now since the training took place and data has started coming in from the field. The raw data that is fed into the system using ODK Collect is directly uploaded into the server and will be analysed and shared in due course.