Water Network Management: Technology solutions and strategies

The growing demand for water in India is being exacerbated by the loss of water and lack of proper monitoring of such leakages in the water network. These water losses are essentially of two types – real losses caused by leakages in the water network infrastructure, and apparent losses, which include meter-related issues, meter theft and unauthorised consumption. Some of the main reasons for such losses are the lack of data related to metered water, flow and pressure of water network; and continuous degradation of water supply pipelines and tapping of water in transmission mains, which further res­tri­c­t the amount of water that can be supplied to elevated storage tanks or operation zones (OZs). Therefore, a strategy for continuous monitoring of the water network and visibility of water losses is necessary to diag­no­se these issues and improve water network effi­ciency. Further, the adoption of related efficie­nt digital solutions by water utilities has become imperative. These smart solutions can help in monitoring the operation, capex and opex of related projects, tracking their key performance indicators (KPIs) and offering a decision support system.

A look at some of the key digital solutions that can help in addressing these challenges…

Hydraulic model management

The information on the water supply system at present is scattered among different departments and authorities in water utilities, and requires unification on a single platform. A hydraulic mo­del management system is helpful in creating clarity on water network components and  operations. It combines the data of all assets and provides decision-making support. Such as system is provided by Itron as an easy interface for the entire operations and maintenance cycle, while connecting it with the project site for feedback.

In this system, sensors help in tracking the water pressure for 24 hours. In case the pressure drops in a particular area, it will be shown in the calibrated model, facilitating appropriate action. It provides clear visibility on the water network boundaries, inlet and outlet channels, and valves through an operational hydraulic model, in correlation with field data loggers. Moreover, it is easily accessible and secured through user-level authentication by operators and engineers on a web interface.

DMA/OZ monitoring

The 24×7 water supply projects demand continuous monitoring and auditing of the water network. This necessitates the segregation of real and apparent losses, which is possible by studying the performance of different district-metered areas (DMAs) and OZs on hourly, weekly, monthly and yearly bases. An analysis of consumer meter data and pre-localisation of leakages is required for this.

As a part of this monitoring process, automatic meter reading (AMR) should also be enabled. AMR technology automatically collects data on water consumption through a smart water analytic compressor and transfers it to a central database for billing, troubleshooting and analysis. This system should be implemented on a trial basis in a DMA and OZ with daily tracking, before going for an overall plan. An advanced metering infrastructure also needs to be set up to obtain statistical information on real losses in specific zones. Accordingly, the water utility can implement strategies in the relevant zones rather than the entire DMA. This would help achieve faster detection of leakages and ultimately improve operational efficiency.

Transmission main monitoring and other solutions

The efficiency of the water network can be maintained by tracking the amount of water supplied within the jurisdiction of the DMAs of a city. This level of analysis can be visualised through a transmission main monitoring system. Such a system is a part of the Temetra Analysis platform offered by Itron. It identifies locations that are water-deficient and require a 24×7 water supply plan. This is done by making the operations of bulk water supply visible, while sectorisation of DMAs is done to monitor water losses and unauthorised connections. In this manner, data from different sensors is correlated through sectional water balance or tank mass balance; and analysed and forecasted over a period of time. This multi-grade analysis platform is helpful in the health monitoring of DMAs through localisation of water loss, resulting in faster loss reduction and ultimately helping switch from an intermittent water supply system to a 24×7 system. This can be further used to plan pumping operations and improve the overall operational strategy by means of a continuous feedback system.

There are other solutions provided by the Temetra Analysis platform such as water revenue assurance and water leak management. These solutions are generated by using data through geographic information system-based models, sensors, meters and hydraulic models. The insights from these can be used by water utilities to plan network strategies and revenue assurance campaigns, and organise their data. Additionally, it helps them in the cost-benefit analysis of the project undertaken and their returns in the long run.

Key case examples

Some Indian and global projects are pioneering the use of similar digital solutions to optimise their water networks and increase the efficiency of the output. These include projects in Satna in Madhya Pradesh and Prayagraj in Uttar Pra­de­sh, targeted to monitor water loss in the transmission system. The project in Satna in­clu­des 150 km of transmission line, two water treatment plants (WTPs) and 32 overhead service reservoirs (OHSRs); while the one in Prayagraj includes 250 km of transmission line, four WTPs, 78 OHSRs and 150 tube wells. These projects have deployed sensor-based monitoring with predictive analytics and hydraulic modelling to control leakages in transmission mains and prevent water theft. Similarly, hydraulic model management has been adopted in a few areas in San Francisco, where the water data is anonymised due to concerns related to data security. It helps in finding the water pressure on a particular date in a specific area. Further, the hourly tracking of DMAs has been adopted in different regions of Europe, helping control leakages through timely action, based on constant analysis and visibility of the water network.

In sum

The Government of India has declared a target for the reduction of non-revenue water in Indian cities to around 15 per cent. This can be achieved by creating new infrastructure, improving existing infrastructure, or an amalgamation of the two based on the available budget. Digital platforms aid in assessing the demand versus supply ratio for conducting pilot projects in a DMA of a particular city. They help in contextually strategising a plan for every OZ and thereby implementing a cost-effective and sustainable solution for water. n

Based on a presentation by Manmohan Prajapat, Principal Consultant, Itron, at a recent India Infrastructure conference