For providing uninterrupted supply of water, the concept of a 24×7 service model has gained traction among utilities in the country over the past few years. After a few successful 24×7 pilots were implemented in Nagpur, Amaravati, Hubli-Dharwad, Belgaum and Gulbarga, a number of urban local bodies (ULBs) are making efforts to provide round-the-clock water supply. Various projects for continuous water supply are being implemented under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme and the Smart Cities Mission (SCM). Following suit, the Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation (CCMC) has launched the Coimbatore 24×7 Water Supply Scheme to ensure continuous drinking water access to its 1.6 million inhabitants. The project to manage and operate the water distribution system within Coimbatore has been awarded to SUEZ India on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis. Currently, the project is under construction.
In October 2013, the Central Sanctioning and Monitoring Committee, under the Ministry of Urban Development, accorded approval for the 24×7 water supply project to the CCMC following which administrative sanction was accorded by the Tamil Nadu government in August 2015 for Rs 5.57 billion. After a request for qualification (RFQ) was approved by the Tamil Nadu Infrastructure Development Board (TNIDB) in September 2015, the due date for the submission of request for proposal (RfP) was fixed as January 4, 2017. However, due to poor response, the date for retendering was set as April 7, 2017. Finally, a letter of award (LoA) was issued to SUEZ on November 24, 2017 and an agreement was signed on January 8, 2018. The project construction was expected to begin by January 2019; however, owing to infrastructure bottlenecks and implementation delays, it got delayed and finally commenced in August 2019. The work has again come to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The project envisages the replacement of the existing cement and PVC pipes with high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes, which comprise about 80 per cent of the overall pipeline network in the targeted area. The project life is 26 years, with one year of study phase, four years of construction and 21 years of operations and maintenance (O&M). Taking into account the cost of manpower involved in water distribution for 21 years, the project is expected to incur about Rs 40 billion, while the estimated capex stands at Rs 6.47 billion. The project funding will comprise 33 per cent contribution from the central government, 20 per cent from the state government, 13.2 per cent from TNIDB, and 20 per cent from the concessionaire. However, the concessionaire’s share will be withheld by the CCMC during the construction period and will be eventually released during the O&M period. In order to ensure minimum loss of water in distribution, the corporation aims to reduce non-revenue water (NRW) from the current level of 30-35 per cent to about 15 per cent.
The 24×7 drinking water supply project will benefit the CCMC and residents of the old corporation area, comprising 60 wards. It would provide residents with clean drinking water over a metered connection 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a saving of over Rs 17 billion for the CCMC over the 21-year maintenance period. Throughout the maintenance period and the five years of project implementation period preceding it, the CCMC would retain control over fixing water charges, providing new connections and disconnecting existing lines.
The quantity of water supplied to consumers would be measured through automatic meters and water bills would be “system” generated. Besides, the collection of water bills would be automated. The tariff would be fixed by the CCMC with the consent of the state government. Similar to electricity charges, water charges would be determined as per usage. This would urge people to use water meticulously and pay as per their usage. Besides, pumping stations, service reservoirs, handheld automatic meter reading devices, anytime bill payment machines, bulk water meter with data loggers, gas chlorinators, a water quality laboratory and SCADA control rooms have been proposed as part of the project.
With the installation of smart water meters in 200 houses at R.S. Puram nearing completion, the city corporation is likely to start water metering on a trial basis. SUEZ is installing 100 multi-jet water meters, 50 ultrasonic water meters and 50 electromagnetic water meters at houses selected on a random basis. As per the corporation, while multi-jet meters are cheaper, the other two varieties have a longer life. Besides, as the minimum starting flow of meters differs, meter accuracy would vary. The performance of meters would be studied for two-three months post which the most appropriate meter would be selected.
Meanwhile, SUEZ India plans to open a 24×7 customer care centre in the city as part of the project. The centre would address grievances related to water supply in the city. The company has already commenced a survey to implement the project.
Impact of Covid-19
The CCMC had to stop work on the project in the third week of March after the state government imposed a lockdown to contain the spread of the disease. However, during the lockdown, CCEC and SUEZ India Private Limited attended to over 1,000 leaks in the distribution system in the city, including major complaints from Selvapuram, West Club Road and Gandhipuram. The corporation also carried out corrective works to improve water distribution in Ramanathapuram and a few other places. In May 2020, seeking to resume water distribution improvement work in the 60 wards of the city, the CCMC requested the eight district collectors to allow movement of skilled workers. The corporation also requested the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board and other agencies to engage skilled and unskilled workers for early resumption of work. The city corporation and SUEZ also replaced old and damaged pipes in Azad Nagar with HDPE pipes. Although the company had initially decided to replace the pipes in the area in the fourth year of the water supply project, it agreed to prepone it after receiving complaints. In addition to R.S. Puram, work is being carried out to lay additional pipelines and replace the existing ones at Mulai Nagar and Pari Nagar near Papanaickenpudur, from Meena Estate to Sowripalayam, Jayaram Nagar and Cheran Nagar near Telugupalayam Road.
The 24×7 water supply model adopted by the CCMC is expected to be a key role model for other cities willing to ensure uninterrupted water supply. A similar 24×7 water supply project is being implemented in Agra, which involves area-based development work and the installation of water meters as part of the SCM. Another round-the-clock water supply project has been planned in Shimla at an investment of Rs 690 million. Assam is also working on implementing a 24×7 water supply project in Dibrugarh. Other water utilities such as the Delhi Jal Board and the Guwahati Jal Board are also exploring the possibilities of undertaking uninterrupted water supply projects in their respective areas. Meanwhile, a project to supply drinking water to entire Mysuru 24×7 is in the pipeline. The Pune Municipal Corporation is working on implementing a 24×7 water supply project in the city and related work has started in Baner under the SCM. The city has been divided into six parts, and L&T Limited and Jain Irrigation have been awarded the contract to carry out the work of laying the water pipeline and installing meters in the city. The need of the hour is to bring more cities on board and help them gain experience from completed and ongoing water supply projects so that they can provide unhindered water supply services to their residents.