Water is a worldwide challenge of the 21st century, both in terms of managing the available water resources as well as providing access to drinking water and sanitation to the world’s population. This is also true for India’s water sector, with scarcity of water sources being a major barrier. To overcome this challenge, it is essential to monitor the advancements in water resources management and adopt IT initiatives. IT technology can help drive efficient supply of water and holds several advantages over conventional distribution techniques.
To ensure that the available assets and infrastructure continue to meet the ever increasing demand for potable drinking water, it is imperative to deploy modern and reliable control systems. For example, upgrading the telemetry equipment reduces the risk of service failure by targeting maintenance and responding to failures before customers are affected. In the light of the above, water utilities are increasingly implementing analytics and technologies throughout their water supply chains, including network meters and network management solutions.
Further, by installing network meters at various intervals in the supply chain, including its source and distribution points, utilities can assess the performance of individual sections. They can also deal with leakages and other problems effectively and efficiently, and prioritise areas for upgradation based on the available resources.
For better water management, there is a need to understand networks, leakages and pressure management with real-time data. The industry is also working to create more usable water, as water demand continues to increase. Desalination and wastewater management, which are ways to create a new, clean and available water source, are being used in many countries around the world.
The Indian government is pushing for more private sector investments in urban infrastructure and basic service provision, particularly in the water sector. It has chosen to showcase Nagpur as its model for water supply privatisation. At smart city conferences in Delhi, officials have been hailing the Nagpur model as worthy of emulation. The city was the first in India to hand over its entire water service to private firms under “Orange Water Country”, a joint venture between Vishvaraj Infrastructure Limited (Vishvaraj) and the Veolia Group.
The Nagpur 24×7 Water Supply project is a good example of the benefits of IT initiatives in a very large distribution network. Under the project, Vishvaraj manages the supply, treatment and distribution of drinking water. Water is supplied from six water treatment plants in the city. The total water supply for the city is around 700 million litres per day (mld), which is supplied through a network of 2,100 km of pipeline and 46 reservoirs to about 300,000 connections in the city.
Given the huge size of the water network, the remote control systems installed are essential for the safety and optimisation of water supply. In order to perform flow analysis in the distribution network and reduce leakages, Vishvaraj has introduced a few IT technologies that help in optimising the water supply and distribution chain. The technological solutions implemented to monitor the water distribution system include geographical information system (GIS) mapping, photometer reading, online bill payment, GPS tracking for tankers, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and integrated information management system (IIMS), making this India’s first heralded project.
Implementation of best practices for effective asset management
GIS mapping facilitates the implementation of essential hydraulics. It does this by incorporating effective management, analysis, visualisation and representation of information related to geographical locations of each consumer as well as each asset. Through GIS mapping, command areas that were recently provided 24×7 water supply were compared to the initial scenario and all the new consumer data was incorporated into the GIS. Besides, all the borewells and stand posts were incorporated with GIS.
Further, a GPS tracking system is being used for monitoring tanker operations for economical, efficient and effective water management. The web-based GPS-integrated solution has been installed in the water tanker delivery management system. It effectively tracks the tanker movement and thus improves the efficiency of the water tanker delivery management system.
The SCADA system has been configured to control equipment and monitor the water distribution network, particularly large reservoirs and tanks. Besides, the system enables monitoring of flow meters, which measure the gallons of water per minute being delivered along with the measurement of pressure-sustaining, pressure-reducing and other valves that open and close incrementally to adjust the rate at which the water flows.
All the water supply assets are mapped on GIS along with the consumer properties to keep a check on leakages and disruption in the water flow. The data related to the daily water supply to the city is available on the website such that both the citizens and the authority can access the information as and when required.
The IIMS, being currently implemented, will help in the efficient management of the overall operations of the water supply network in Nagpur. The billing part of the IIMS is already implemented and the rest is in process. At the beginning of the project, there was no integration of data; however, at present, all efforts are being made to integrate the entire data related to the water supply system such that any required information is easily available.
Other key IT initiatives taken by Vishvaraj
A photometer reading, which is a meter reading application, is being used to connect to the master data and the photographs of meters are uploaded on the system. This application helps in the effective segregation of consumers and subsequently enables quicker bill distribution, and the authenticity of readings is maintained.
Online bill payment
Vishvaraj has also introduced an online billing system in Nagpur’s water utility. It has provided ease of payment to busy consumers.
A 24×7 toll free helpline has been introduced for providing information as well as registering complaints regarding water. The company is undertaking initiatives to create awareness among consumers to register complaints at call centres.
Advantages and the way forward
The inherent advantage of integrated control systems is quite clear. Small and medium-size waterworks can be operated without having anyone on site. When faults occur or thresholds are exceeded, the operator can be notified instantly, and a technician can quickly reach the site to analyse the situation.
The management of the distribution system by remote control from a central control station makes operation faster and more efficient. Besides, volume flows, fill levels and fault messages can be detected, analysed and corrected, if necessary. Moreover, less manpower is needed and faults can be rectified quicker.
Apart from the Nagpur 24×7 Water Supply Project, Vishvaraj is implementing a sewage treatment and reuse project, which entails the construction of a 200 mld sewage treatment plant on a public-private partnership basis, where the treated sewage will be used by industries. The project will be implemented with advanced technologies wherein the operations of the treatment plant will be entirely monitored by a SCADA system, thereby making the plant almost devoid of manpower. In contrast, a plant with manual operations requires manpower of at least 30-40 for its operations. The SCADA system will control the chambers, treatment units, flow regulations, and the valves.
The increasing demand for water will continue to drive innovation in the water industry. In addition, there is need for both better industry and customer awareness regarding the existing issues and the solutions available. When innovation and education both come to the forefront, we will see large-scale changes taking place. Given the benefits, there is no greater rationale for using innovative technologies than to achieve the national goal of providing basics public services in India. Following the success of the Nagpur project, we see tremendous possibilities for innovation in this sector and the company is among the frontrunners in promoting 24×7 water supply projects by evaluating projects only on their techno-commercial feasibility. By supplying pressurised and potable water through taps for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we can ensure that everyone has equal access to this precious resource. As long as the will is there, it is possible.