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Inside your water tanker

In Hyderabad, water tankers are the dominant source of our daily water supply. Research for the project ‘Ensuring Water Security in Hyderabad Municipal Area’ gave us some insights into the quality of water carried by these tankers. When the water is pumped from bore wells in villages, it is not always transferred to tankers immediately. Many a timeswater is pumped and stored in sumps. These sumps are lined with micron plastic sheets, which are used for a minimum of two years. This stagnant water is rarely covered. It ends up becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects. Lizards or Chameleons fall into the water and end up dead. The water also develops a layer of moss. The micron plastic itself ends up having algae and moss stuck to it even when the water is changed. Before getting transferred into the tankers, the bigger leaves and insects get picked out, but the rest go along with the water into the tanker.


Coming to the tanker itself, there are three kinds of material that are usually used in the manufacturing of tankers. These are Metal Steel (MS/Iron), Galvanised Iron (GI) and Stainless Steel (SS). Stainless steel is the most expensive, followed by Galvanised Iron and Iron. SS and GI are rust-free material. MS is prone to rusting. SS tankers have the longest shelf life of 15 years on an average. MS tankers can be used for a maximum of 5 years.

SS tankers are mostly used by the HMWSSB, since they can afford it. MS being the cheapest is used by a majority of informal water tankers. Water cannot be stored in them and needs to be delivered within 20 minutes. If the water is stored for longer, then the insides of the tanker begin to rust. Every six months, these MS tankers are coated with water-proof paint on the inside to cover up the rust.


However, our research has revealed that sometimes the HMWSSB also buys water from these private tankers. So even though their tankers are in a better condition, the water that it carries may have already been exposed to rust.

This water is used for all domestic purposes in the households of peri-urban Hyderabad. While we make sure that the water we drink is pure and safe, there is no standard of hygiene enforced for the water that we use on a daily basis. The whole supply chain of informal water market is not regulated and quality of water is doubtful. At least the urban lifestyle has properly distinguished between drinking water and water to use for other domestic purposes. Our research in peri-urban spaces has revealed cases where people use the water from these tankers for domestic purposes and also drink the same. People do complain of aches and pains  due to the water. But, to have different sources for different uses of water, is a privilege that many cannot afford.

By Anshika JohnSumit VijPoulomi BanerjeeSai Kiran

Col John K John
October 20th, 2016 at 6:22 am

Very insightful and thought provoking.

Gregory Pierce
October 20th, 2016 at 10:08 pm

This is really interesting. Good work!

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