Urban local bodies (ULBs) in India have been facing problems in water network management due to high levels of non-revenue water (NRW), insufficient details of network locations in cities, ageing networks, high cost of maintenance, incomplete billing, poor revenue collection, water losses, etc. Over the past few years, the use and penetration of IT has been growing with the deployment of innovative e-governance solutions. ULBs have deployed advanced technologies and solutions for better infrastructure management, as well as for online bill payment, digital mapping, mobile governance, etc. to improve service delivery. These technologies have helped ULBs to remotely monitor their water supply distribution systems as well as various process parameters such as water quality, NRW, leakages in pipelines, and consumption patterns.
The supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system is a widely used technology for monitoring collection, distribution and treatment systems in the water sector. ULBs across the country are introducing online portals for civic services and deploying advanced treatment technologies for water monitoring and maintenance. SCADA systems have already been adopted in cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune and Ahmedabad.
In order to ensure complete water audits of large networks, the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) is using a SCADA system for flow monitoring and control. DJB installed the country’s first SCADA system to monitor and control water distribution, with water-controlled valves at 13 local control points to help ensure equitable distribution and NRW management in the city.
Bengaluru, too, has been using a SCADA system for its water network for several years. It monitors data from the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board’s (BWSSB) water supply facilities, such as pumping stations, water and wastewater treatment plants, and reservoirs. Based on the data collected, the BWSSB optimises the supply of water to the city and improves the operating efficiency of its facilities.
The use of GIS mapping in the water network infrastructure yields many benefits, since the creation of a centralised GIS database leads to successful execution of all work related to spatial analysis. The BWSSB has been at the forefront of deploying GIS technology for mapping utility assets. Its system is useful for functions such as restoring the network, fixing visible leaks, isolating valves, rehabilitating hydrants and undertaking remedial pipe work. Further, Mumbai has an online portal – Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai GIS – that gives a spatial view of water pipelines passing through a particular area in the city. It provides information about the existing pipeline network, which helps prevent damage to it. GIS technology also helps identify the exact location of faults in the pipes, and is thus used to detect leakages.
Smart water meters
Smart water meter deployment has increased significantly as an effective means of cutting down NRW, accurately measuring the quantity of water being supplied to each consumer and improving revenues. It helps ensure transparency and accuracy in meter readings. Many utilities are taking up projects to replace conventional meters with smart meters. Cities such as Pune, Chennai, Surat, Chandigarh and Bengaluru are already in the process of doing so.
Owing to the extreme water crisis in the city, the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) commenced the installation of digital water meters with automated meter reading in commercial establishments. In the second phase of the project, the CMWSSB is planning to extend the installation of smart meters to domestic properties as well, so as to charge consumers on the basis of their actual water consumption. In another development, the Pune Municipal Corporation installed over 275,000 SensusiPERL smart water meters to monitor, measure and manage activity across its water network. The technology is expected to help the corporation ensure continuous water supply while reducing its NRW by half over the course of three years.
Leakage detection technology
Controlling leakages is critical to reducing the NRW level in water networks. Advanced equipment and tools such as sensors, ultrasonic flow meters and bulk meters need to be installed throughout the network to detect leakages. Indore is using a SCADA system to detect leakages while Vadodara and Mumbai are using a sound-based leak detection technology.
The way forward
Municipal corporations and water utilities have started taking technological initiatives to reduce NRW and leakages, check faulty billing, etc. These technologies have assisted civic agencies in identifying issues without physically digging up pipelines. Going forward, the potential of these technologies can be fully realised if the agencies train their manpower to operate these systems and upgrade and maintain them in a time-bound manner.