The second I step out of the Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport in the heart of Mumbai, I see three things:  humidity, people and water. These have been the three defining (and might I say, most memorable) aspects of my biannual summer trips to India for as long as I can remember.

My visit this summer was focused around an internship with Water and Sanitation Management Organization (WASMO), an organization based in Gujarat, which has a mandate to provide drinking water to 18,000 villages in Gujarat.

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The struggle for water is prominent in India, and that became clear as I visited the Indian villages with the WASMO. Vijay Patel, Director of the Gujarat State Laboratory at the Jalseva Training Institute in Gujarat stated it simply, “Water in India and around the world is becoming a scarce commodity.”

Working with a team, I quickly learned a lot about the worldwide effort being put in to find an ideal solution to solving our water problem. “We really have a passion for and enjoy the work we do here with WASMO,” said Manish Patel. “Seeing the impact that our efforts make on an entire village is truly heartwarming.”

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I visited a village in Gujarat, about an hour from Gandhinagar, called Radhesan. Radhesan’s water supply is supported by a tubewell, currently only at 2/3 capacity. The fluoride levels in the water are dangerously high at 2.56 ppm (parts per million), 1.56 ppm higher than the maximum permissible level of Fluoride.High fluoride consumption for extended periods of time leads to bone deformation and skeletal disease.

I met the head of the village and I was heartened to see how much value he and the rest of the village put on their water. They made efforts to reduce waste and took it upon themselves to understand how to maintain their supply. It was eye opening to see the effort that WASMO puts in to train village folk to treat their own water, and the strong bond they have with the teams working to promote and help with their water management.

“People have started realizing that they can do a lot more if they can control their own water and have responsibility over it,” said Umesh Pandya, CEO of WASMO. “A lot of innovation has happened in the area of water purification development using ideas exchanged from village to village.”

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After taking water samples back to the lab, I ran full water analysis and implemented a fluoride treatment plan using an Aluminum Sulfate dose to mitigate the fluoride level to within permissible range.

After coming back to the Valley, I visited the Santa Clara district Rinconada water recycling plant, and saw the Valley’s efforts to provide clean water to the entire bay area. What’s my verdict about the role of water? Living in the Silicon Valley, in the heart of innovation and technology, we take water for granted, as we consume 100 million gallons of water per day. Seeing the struggle for water in rural India really got me to appreciate all that we have here in the Valley, and how much of an impact water has on our lives. And that we, no matter how young or old, if we exercise care and control can have an invaluable impact on the water situation of our planet.
Ruchi Pandya is a sophomore at Lynbrook High School. She serves on her school’s Associated Student Body and is a commissioner on the Saratoga Youth Commission.

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