Digital Intervention

Delhi Jal Board’s initiatives to reduce water woes

The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has been progressively undertaking initiatives towards the digitalisation of water services in the country’s capital. The authority has been working for a long time to enable the shift to online services, so as to shift to online services for its consumers. DJB’s revenue management system (RMS) has been one such step highlighting the board’s dedication towards the shift to online services. It has also undertaken other initiatives such as launching its own mobile application, shifting water services to online mode, deploying water ATMs, etc.

Smart Utilities takes a look at some of the initiatives undertaken by the capital’s water utility towards digital transformation…

Recent developments

In a bid to enable advancements and innovations, DJB launched a mobile app called DJB mSeva to provide greater convenience to consumers. It allows consumers to ins­tantly self-generate their bills at any time 24×7, besides providing facilities such as online payment and viewing and downloading of previous bills and payment receipts. The steps for registering on the app and self-generating bills are very simple, making the app easy to use and inclusive.

In November 2021, DJB unveiled plans to shift 20 facilities to its online platform and make all services of the zonal revenue offices online to smooth out the existing glitches in the system. The consumers will not have to stand in long queues to avail of the services of DJB. They can generate bills, lodge billing-related grievan­ces, apply for new water and sewer connections, seek permission for borewell, regularisation of unauth­orised water connections, apply for mutation, disconnection, reopening, rain­water harvesting certi­ficate, availing of DJB water tankers, etc., through DJB’s website or the DJB mSeva mobile app.

The step is aimed at delivering services to consumers in a transparent way and in a time-bound manner. It is an important initiative towards ac­hie­ving the dream of a new era of governance that will be corruption-free and transparent and will make life easier for the citizens of the national capital. The water services will be made faceless and online portals will be introduced to bring them under one roof. Further, help desks will be set up in every zone to help each and every citizen of Delhi to avail of the online services and re­gister their grievances. In addition to this, the revamping of DJB includes pushing for on­line modes of customer complaint redressal and door­step delivery. As of February 2022, the de­part­me­nt is also working on the DJB4You mobile application and the bo­ard has instructed officials to resolve grievances by customers within set timelines.

Revenue management system

The RMS adopted by DJB automates different functions across the water authority. It has facilities for viewing and printing the latest water bill, online payments, logging grievances and tracking the application status. RMS is an end-to-end solution wherein the key idea is to digitalise ac­cess to a host of services in the form of consistent, cyclical and accurate billing and minimal me­ter-to-bill and bill-to-cash cycles. To make bill payments, facilities for net banking and payment through debit/credit cards are also available. DJB has collaborated with third parties such as banks – the Corporation Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, IDBI Bank and Allahabad Bank – for payments. RMS has helped DJB im­prove its billing accuracy and made the revenue collection pro­cess efficient, by replacing offline billing with ad­vanced online billing and allowing the recording of real-time transactions at a central server.

Other initiatives

DJB has also collaborated with MobiKwik for payment of water bills by citizens. It was one of the first such partnerships with a state government in the country, whereby citizens us­ing the wallet could digitally pay water bills from the comfort of their home. The DJB mobile app extended the facility of online payment. App users will also be able to view their profile de­ta­ils and water consumption graph.

Apart from this, DJB is establishing a state-of-the-art real-time monitoring system for the city’s water supply infrastructure and ensuring proper functioning of water treatment plants through the su­­pervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system. The SCADA system will provi­de details such as pressure and flow of water at important locations in the city’s water supply system. It is designed to ensure that water losses are reduced and the maximum water utilisation is achieved. The project was initiated in 2018 and as of July 2021, 98 per cent of the primary supply system and 97 per cent of the secondary supply has been covered.

DJB is planning to install about 3,285 flowmeters for water auditing of primary and secondary systems up to the district metered area level. As per the latest updates, nearly 3,204 flowmeters have been installed and are being integrated with the SCADA centre. 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 ensure non-revenue water management in the city. Meanwhile, the water/sewer lines of Delhi have also been digitalised and are available on the global positioning system map.

In an attempt to reduce the water crisis and provide safe drinking water, DJB also brought to the national capital its first water ATM. The idea of water ATMs was first proposed by Sarvajal, a so­cial enterprise established by the Piramal Foun­dation. A pilot project was then launched at Sav­da Ghevra, a resettlement colony in southwest Delhi. This project was funded and coordinated by DJB. As a part of the project, a decentralised water treatment plant has been installed to extract groundwater, which is then purified through reverse osmosis and provided to people through 15 water ATM kiosks in the area. The re­si­dents of the colony can obtain 1 litre of water fr­om two ATMs installed at the plant itself, by paying Re 0.15 and from 13 other kiosks at a cost of Re 0.30, using smart cards called Sarva­jal cards. Apart from this, Sarvajal serves around 300,000 consumers daily through more than 150 water ATMs across 12 states.

In sum

Greater automation and adoption of smart technologies is of utmost importance for the smooth operation of water utilities. It ensures accurate wa­ter billing, reduces unmetered and illegal wa­ter connections and eases access of water services for customers. It also ensures transparency and enhances the revenue generation capacity of urban local bodies.

The digitalisation of different municipal functions through the adoption of the RMS has been one of the key revenue enhancement strategies adopted by DJB. The system has helped not only the board but also consumers by offering them a seamless online experience. However, DJB fa­ced several issues and challenges in the im­ple­mentation of the RMS. These include data mi­gration of a large legacy system, data cleansing, staff training and unavailability of certain Or­acle modules. Its successful implementation has hel­ped the board strengthen municipal finances and facilitate effective delivery of services.

It is expected that in the future, the water utilities of other cities will learn from DJB’s experience and undertake similar initiatives for improving their operational and financial performance.