Plugging Leakages: Hyderabad to curb water loss through RFID meters

Hyderabad to curb water loss through RFID meters

IIn a bid to boost revenues and bring down the percentage of non-revenue water from the current 43 per cent to 20 per cent, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board is rolling out a mega plan for the installation of radio frequency identification (RFID) water meters. This would help bill customers on the basis of their usage and plug the loss of water occurring due to leakages.

Till date, the majority of water consumers have failed to install meters under the voluntary disclosure scheme. Of the 0.75 million consumers registered with the board, only 0.21 million have installed meters on their premises, while the remaining 0.54 million users are still without meters. Moreover, of the 378 million gallons of water supplied per day, 165 million gallons is lost through leakages.

Given such high losses, the board has decided to go ahead with the installation of RFID meters both in residential and commercial areas, even though it entails high costs. The project will be implemented through external agencies on a build-own-operate-transfer basis. Once completed, the board will have access to information relating to water supply pressure and timings, and consumer-wise water consumption, which will take into account the water connection size and leakages. This information will help it rectify leakages and improve its service offerings to clients. Further, RFID meters will offer a host of advantages to the board such as remote access to meter readings and sounding out officials in the case of any tampering.

Pilot project

As a part of the pilot project, the board has shortlisted three divisions, Jubilee Hills in Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Division VI, Red Hills in O&M Division IV, and Gachibowli in O&M Division XV, to be deemed as district metered areas (DMAs). Further, a detailed study will be undertaken to identify leakages in the distribution network. Currently, general managers of the respective O&M divisions have been asked to send proposals and estimates for purchasing and installing RFID meters. After receiving the estimations from the three sections, tenders will be floated. The installation work has been planned for initiation by June 2017 and is likely to be completed by May 2019.

The work will be undertaken on a cost sharing basis. In the case of commercial meters costing $8,600, the board will contribute $6,600, while the consumer’s share will be $2,000 (to be paid in 48 instalments of $42 per month). In the case of domestic meters costing $7,500, the board will contribute $6,000, while the customer’s share will be $1,500 (to be paid in 48 instalments at $32 per month).

The way forward

Broadly, the use of decade-old pipes for water supply and a series of road cave-ins that damage pipelines are considered as the major reasons for leakages. The board, therefore, plans to complete the tendering process soon for the installation of RFID meters, and then undertake detailed study for two months to identify the leakage points in the supply. Once detected and rectified, the board will manage to bring down the water loss levels significantly and boost revenues owing to its access to accurate reports on water usage. However, the adoption of this technology still remains a major challenge with nearly Rs 3.75 billion needed for it. The board is thus planning to approach the government or take a loan in order to meet the financial requirements for the project. Once successfully deployed, the RFID meters will not only ensure savings, but also enable the board to have remote access to meter readings and get tamper alerts. These meters, offering a minimum warranty of 10 years, will further reduce the need for hiring more manpower.