Technology Impetus: Smart solutions for water and waste management

Smart solutions for water and waste management

Often overlooked, technology penetration in the water and waste segment is a much-needed component to ensure efficient urban service delivery. The current state of municipal water supply in the country is characterised by inadequate coverage, intermittent supply, low pressure, poor quality, pipeline leakages, large quantities of non-revenue water (NRW), poor wastewater treatment facilities, etc. Further, inefficiencies and water loss in urban water utility systems implies that most Indian cities are still unable to supply 24×7 water to their citizens. Similarly, waste management is characterised by the absence of treatment facilities, inadequate waste collection facilities, lack of waste segregation and unscientific dumping at landfill sites, etc. The above problems demand “smart solutions” – solutions, that incorporate science, information technology (IT) and internet of things (IoT).

Solutions in store

Smart water solutions comprise elements such as urban water supply systems, urban drainage systems, water production, pipeline leakage management, wastewater treatment, water environment systems, water conservancy systems, etc. The deployment of smart water technologies is believed to minimise the proportion of NRW through efficient monitoring of consumption levels. Smart water management includes data acquisition and integration using sensor networks or smart meters, data distribution using the internet, data processing and storage using cloud technologies, and modelling, analytics, visualisation and decision support using web-based tools. The installation of smart water grids is another smart water solution. A smart water grid incorporates processes and technologies used to optimise the combination of water quality, quantity and delivery cost.

Smart metering is another commonly employed smart water initiative. Several upcoming smart cities plan to install smart water meters to identify and reduce leakages and NRW. This will help in identifying end-point leakages; gaining clarity between leakage, NRW and chargeable consumption, establishing consumption patterns and using predictive analytics to regulate supply, and setting up adjustable alarm notifications to predict/prevent end-point anomalies. The backbone of smart water meters is advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technology. AMI provides a remote and constant two-way data link between utilities, meters and consumers. Communications are delivered through various technologies such as power line communications, telephony, broadband, optic fibre cable, wireless radio frequency and cellular transmission. Apart from monitoring the current status of water consumption, data can contribute towards hydraulic modelling to help predict outcomes and changes in water distribution. Smart water management also implies greater emphasis on wastewater treatment, both domestic and industrial. The Naya Raipur smart city in Chhattisgarh has a 52 million litre per day water treatment plant which supplies clean potable water across the city.

A smart water network allows cities to better anticipate and react to different types of water network issues, from detecting leaks, theft and water quality issues to conserving energy and tracking residential water consumption.

 Smart waste management involves the deployment of solutions for tracking and monitoring waste collection with the objective of lifting garbage bins in a time-bound manner from different locations and monitoring the movement of vehicles carrying the waste. It also includes a smart solution for waste treatment, segregation and disposal, among others. Globally, cities like Barcelona have smart waste sensors installed inside containers to monitor the fill level. This data is then sent in real time to a control centre, which enables optimal collection management. A similar technique is being deployed in the Bhopal smart city project wherein radio frequency identification (RFID) and IoT-based smart bins have been deployed. Pneumatic waste collection system is another smart solution. Here, an automated waste collection system that uses a vacuum-type underground pipe network to collect household waste is deployed. This waste is transported through underground pipes to a sealed container. Trucks then periodically collect the waste for disposal. The entire waste collection process is automated, thereby reducing manpower requirements and increasing productivity.

Smart sewage treatment is another crucial component of waste management. Naya Raipur, a zero- discharge smart city, sets a stellar example for other cities to follow. The city has four decentralised sewage treatment plants. The recycled water is used for watering the city’s green areas. Besides, the waste management system being implemented in Kerala’s coastal town of Alappuzha has been recognised by the United Nations Environment Programme as one of the five models across the world for fighting the pollution menace. Since door-to-door collection and centralised waste treatment is not practical in Kerala due to the high density of population, Alappuzha follows a decentralised system under which the waste is managed at the source itself.

The way forward

Smart cities start with smart systems that work for the benefit of both residents and the environment. It is the development, enhancement and integration of various critical city systems, in a step-by-step manner, that ultimately become the cornerstones of making the smart city a reality. The success of smart cities ultimately rests on the robust use of information and communication technologies along with IoT services. This demands an efficient IT network across the length and breadth of the country. All said and done, technological developments without a change in mindset cannot modernise societies and make them smart. The need of the hour is a mindset shift of the population that resides in these cities. Once these challenges are addressed, cities in India can become “smart” in the true sense of the word. w

With inputs from presentations by Meeta Athavale, Chief Financial Officer, Bhopal Smart City, and Arun Mahesh Babu, Chief Executive Officer, Rajkot Smart City, at a recent India Infrastructure conference