Beside planting and nurturing trees, another major project in Sadhana Forest is water conservation. Because Sadhana Forest lies on a watershed of red earth and clay, in which ravines and canyons are easily formed by heavy monsoon rains, a major problem on the land is water-flow control and conservation.
Our aim is to achieve, as close as we can, zero water runoff. We are working towards this through recontouring of lands including: building check dams (8 built so far), bunding (over many kilometers so far), and directing remaining runoff to forested areas where absorbency is high. Wherever a natural or “created” hollow exists in the area it is dammed off to create a holding pond or lake where the water can then percolate into the soil.
One of our most outstanding achievements has been the dramatic rise of the local water table at a time when water levels are falling throughout the Auroville area. Our system of trenches and earth dams store over 50,000 cubic meters of rainwater. As a result of all this work, the underground water level (the water table) has risen by 6 meters (20 feet), from an average of 8 meters (26 feet) in depth during 2003, before Sadhana Forest was started, to an average of 1.8m (6 feet) in depth during 2008. These results are after five years of intensive water conservation work. Consequently, water in local open and bore wells is much more accessible to people, greatly beneficial for all the local population. For example, wells in four nearby villages that were dry for 15-20 years are now providing water throughout the year.
As part of our sustainable way of living, we practice various conservation methods to minimize our water wastage and maximize our awareness of the water we do use. In our kitchen we use a hand pump rather than a tap with running water. This greatly reduces wastage and makes us more aware of the water we have to arduously pump to use. We wash our hands with water that flows from a container with a hole near its base that we fill with a cup. This is something that can be done anywhere and tremendously reduces the amount of water wasted.