Containing Losses

Smart meters to reduce unaccounted-for water in Pune

Non-revenue water (NRW) is one of the biggest issues faced by urban local bodies (ULBs). The factors that contribute to unaccounted-for-water (UfW) are pipeline leakages, corrosion, water theft and operational inefficiencies of ULBs. A case in point is the Pune Municipal Corporation. The ULB is responsible for facilitating water supply (apart from other civic services) in the city, including the 11 newly merged villages covering an area of 332 square km. However, providing equitable access to portable water in the densely populated area has become a challenge for PMC. The utility does not have a sufficient distribution pipeline network. Moreover, the existing pipelines are old and require replacement. Household metering is also almost negligible.

Around 13 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water is being lifted annually from PMC’s four dams – Khadakwasla, Panshet, Varasgaon and Temghar, against a requirement of 16 tmcft. This is not sufficient to meet the water demand. In addition, much water is lost in pipelines due to leakages, resulting in a high NRW level of about 40 per cent. As a result, most of the villages and surrounding areas face frequent water cuts and are heavily dependent on water tankers.

In order to cater to the growing demand, PMC continues to create new infrastructure such as main pipelines and sumps. However, it has not been able to curb its water losses. The ULB has now realised the need for smart technology interventions to manage water supply. To this end, IoT-enabled devices and smart equipment such as smart meters are being deployed as part of its ambitious 24X7 water supply distribution project. Through 100 per cent smart metering, PMC aims to bring the NRW below the 20 per cent level, which is the benchmark service level. Further, this digital initiative will help PMC deliver services more efficiently while ensuring accountability and transparency.

24X7 water supply

To switch from intermittent water supply to 24X7 pressurised water supply, PMC launched the 24X7 water supply distribution project in 2016. Through the project, PMC aims to provide safe and equitable water supply across the city and curb water losses by implementing 100 per cent smart metering. As part of the project, the civic agency is constructing 103 water tanks across the city besides laying about 1,600 km of water pipelines.

The contract for project implementation was awarded to two engineering, procurement and construction contractors, Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T) and Jain Irrigation Limited, in February 2018. While L&T won works worth Rs 16.80 billion, Jain Irrigation won a contract worth Rs 3.75 billion. The latter involves laying a 508 km pipeline network, and the installation of 49,000 water meters including the laying of 1,339 km utility ducts connecting households. Meanwhile, L&T will be involved in the laying of water, transmission pipelines and optical fibre cable ducts, the construction of sumps and house service connections, the adoption of NRW reduction measures, the installation of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and 275,000 smart meters. It will also undertake water audits, record bill readings, and carry out other associated electromechanical and instrumentation works.

Work on the project had commenced in June 2018. Currently, water pipelines are being laid in Audh, Baner and Ahmednagar areas, where 56 km has to be laid. The work of constructing water tanks is also in progress in various areas. The door-to-door survey that was started by PMC in October 2018 to obtain information about the water requirement and the number of persons residing in every house is at the final stage of completion. The installation of water meters has not yet started. The entire project entails an investment of Rs 20.55 billion and is expected to be completed by 2021-22.

Digital meters

To reduce the UfW, smart water meters are being deployed in the city. In this regard, L&T has selected Sensus, a Xylem brand, as its technology partner to supply 275,000 Sensus iPERL™ meters. These are next-generation, high-performance, solid-state electromagnetic smart water meters. The meters have bidirectional communication capabilities, which will help the utility seamlessly transition to advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). These meters are based on a unique technology, which records a low water flow of 1 litre per hour without compromising on accuracy. These programmable meters enable recording of highly granular data at an interval of 15 minutes, thus accurately identifying customer-side leakages.

The meter represents a data end-point that replaces the traditional meters by remotely capturing and communicating the network status and consumption data in real time. With the installation of smart meters, PMC aims to monitor, measure and manage the water supply activity across its water pipeline network. Once installed, PMC will gain an in-depth understanding of the network and respond accordingly to improve its performance.

Key benefits

Iperl smart meters offer various operational benefits to local bodies and enhance user experience. The biggest advantage is its long operational asset life of 15 years with sustained performance. This eliminates the need for regular investments in new devices, and also reduces the operations and maintenance (O&M) cost. The high sampling rate of water quality is maintained with low battery consumption, making these meters highly efficient. The meter also has an inbuilt alarm function that helps take timely actions, thereby reducing downtime as in the case of manual readings. The wealth of data that it generates will help agencies manage distribution networks more efficiently, conserve water, provide accurate billing to customers and inform consumers about leaks, frauds and unusual usage patterns. Apart from this, these meters are tamper-proof and fraud-resistant, which do not need regular inspections. Also, the remote diagnostic and monitoring facility enables local bodies to prepare for actions well in advance. It also enables a seamless technology migration from AMR to AMI to ULBs.

Conclusion

Investments in smart technology will help PMC to gain an in-depth understanding of the network and respond accordingly. By monitoring performance on a real-time basis, it will be able to prepare future business strategies and plan investments. The NRW levels of the city are expected to substantially reduce to about 50 per cent in the next five years. Accurate billing based on actual consumption will ensure transparency and increase revenue generation. Nonetheless, other internet-based softwares would be needed to manage and retrieve the huge quantum of water supply and consumption data.

Apart from smart meters, digital initiatives under the project such as the installation of SCADA will improve PMC’s operational efficiency by controlling water flow at source. In this way, regions facing acute water shortage could be provided with regular water supply. To ensure long-term performance of these devices, regular upkeep and maintenance needs to be undertaken, for which O&M contracts have to be awarded well in advance.

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