The government and industries are making concerted efforts to ensure water security. There is growing focus on achieving 24×7 water supply in urban and rural areas, and on recycling and reusing treated wastewater to reduce the pressure on freshwater resources. Digitalisation is also emerging as a key pillar for achieving water resilience and improving operational efficiency. However, many challenges still remain. Leading experts comment on the technological initiatives undertaken in the water sector to increase operational efficiency…
M. Dana Kishore
The Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) has played a pivotal role in addressing the escalating water demand of Hyderabad city. This pursuit has entailed the creation of an extensive network of service reservoirs and expansion of pipeline infrastructure, among others. HMWSSB has been instrumental in ensuring steady water supply within the jurisdiction of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and its adjoining areas. It embarked on a digital transformation mission to improve operational efficiency, enhance the customer and employee experience, augment asset management, and ensure data availability for informed decision-making, by leveraging Industry 4.0 technologies.
Mini sewer cleaning jetting machines: Mini sewer jetting machines are being introduced to reduce sewage problems, especially in small lanes and streets, which are generally neglected, and also to improve the quality of life.
Sewer Croc Robotic technology: To clean choked sewer lines and manholes, Sewer Croc, a robotic device armed with metallic cutters, is sent into sewer lines. Mounted on a wheel-base, the Sewer Croc cuts and chops the accumulated waste in the lines with blades.
Naanyatha application: Naanyatha is a unique initiative to improve the feedback mechanism in water quality aspects. Under this initiative, a mobile application has been built, which is currently in use by nearly 1,100 water sample collectors across the city. The team collects water samples at various consumer supply points and reservoir locations and tests for chlorine adequacy, using readily available kits.
Annual maintenance system (AMS): To ensure electronic monitoring of works and speed up immediate execution of small O&M works, HMWSSB has initiated AMS in the O&M of water supply, sewerage and electrical operations. This ensures ready availability of agencies to take up small works and geo-tag all the works in HMWSSB.
LoRaWAN: LoRaWAN enables deployment in private networks in a cost-efficient and secure manner. HMWSSB has fixed LoRaWAN compatible automatic meters to high-value connections and set up gateways at strategic locations to receive meter reading data from automatic meters without human intervention. Currently, the pilot is under evaluation for further scaling.
Online continuous effluent monitoring system (OCEMS) technology: This is set up as per the guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board at all sewage treatment plants (STPs) to obtain real-time data on STP outlet parameters such as BOD, COD, TSS, pH flow and the daily quantity of treated water. The system transmits real-time data to the concerned stakeholders through specifically designed mobile applications and websites.
Quick Identification of Water Pollution Source Technology: This cutting-edge tool is designed to navigate the hidden labyrinth of Hyderabad’s water supply lines, identifying pollution sources and leakages, and assessing the longevity of ageing pipelines.
Self-billing: HMWSSB has introduced a self-billing mobile app for the convenience of consumers, through which they can generate their monthly bills and make payments through a digital platform.
The water sector has witnessed significant advancements over the past few years. Central government initiatives such as the Jal Jeevan Mission and the establishment of the Ministry of Jal Shakti have been remarkable. Some of the key milestones achieved under these initiatives are:
Water conservation: There has been a notable shift towards promoting sustainable water usage and reducing wastage through conservation measures.
Public-private partnerships (PPPs): Collaboration between the public and private sectors has increased, leading to innovative projects and improved service delivery.
Smart water management: Smart technologies are being adopted to monitor water infrastructure, detect leaks and optimise water distribution networks.
Reuse of wastewater to support a circular economy: Reusing treated water for domestic purposes such as flushing and gardening, as well as for industrial purposes such as cooling the chambers of power plants, has helped shorten the gap between demand and supply of potable water. This has turned a vicious cycle into a virtuous one.
Desalination: Desalination plants are being implemented to augment water supply.
To increase operational efficiency, we have started working on the deployment of internet-of-things (IoT) devices and using data analytics to monitor water infrastructure in real time, enabling quick responses to issues. In addition, data loggers, GIS mapping and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) are the new staples in the routine operations of water and wastewater management.
With a burgeoning population of approximately 6.9-7 million at present, Pune City has moved up the ladder to house Maharashtra’s largest municipal corporation, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). It added 23 new villages to its administrative limits in 2017, followed by 11 villages in 2021. This expansion has led to an unprecedented rise in the demand for water. The majority of the water supply in Pune is met by four major dams in the city – the Kharakwasla chain, which includes Khadakwasla, Panshet, Warasgaon and Temghar. In addition, Pune’s requirement is met from Bhama Askhed and partly from the Pawna river. The total storage capacity of these dams is approximately 33 thousand million cubic feet.
Several innovative measures have been adopted by PMC to effectively regulate the water supply in the city. First, the automation of valves has made it possible to release water at stipulated timings. An actuator is installed on the valves to remotely operate them, turning them on and off at preset times. This helps in controlling water release without extra, unnecessary supply. Second, electronic flow meters are being used to measure the amount of water consumed and provide associated readings instantly. Third, PMC is actively installing automated water meters in the city. Approximately 260,000 of these meters are planned to be installed, of which 128,000 have been installed so far. Furthermore, the ground staff is making use of handheld devices that can capture meter readings within 300 metres of their path. Antennas are used to capture real-time readings of nearby households and send them directly to the electronic server. The remote access of these automated devices has minimised the need for manual intervention, which has made water supply system operations more efficient. Moreover, PMC is incorporating technologies such as the IoT and SCADA into their water supply systems.
Bhandari Swagat Ranveerchand
Kerala is considered the land of water resources, with high rainfall and many rivers, backwaters, lakes and streams. However, the state frequently faces drought and acute water scarcity in several districts. To this end, the state is undertaking several digital initiatives including:
Ensuring a seamless citizen interface: Kerala has adopted various mechanisms to ensure effective service delivery and grievance redressal. The 1916 call centre of the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) serves as a crucial communication hub, connecting the public with the authority to address water-related queries and service requests. The progress of rectified complaints is monitored regularly. Additionally, a web-based application, “E-tapp”, has been developed for availing of new water connections and consumer services.
Automation of pump sets for improved scheme operations: Kerala aims to automate all pumping stations to enhance service delivery and the operation of water supply schemes. So far, 1,301 out of 2,381 pumping stations have been automated. Automation will allow operators to manage pump houses from a central control room or even through mobile devices.
Community engagement and women as change agents: To increase awareness among rural communities about the importance of using safe drinking water and water conservation, non-governmental organisations have been engaged as Institutional Support Agencies in gram panchayats. Various activities are conducted in gram sabhas to create awareness among the rural populace.
In-house adaptive research: KWA has developed several innovative systems through in-house adaptive research, including a “flow failure alert system” and a “chlorine dosing alert system”. They have been implemented to enhance network management, and improve the safety and management of resources.