Water Supply Management: New technologies and initiatives

New technologies and initiatives

With a growing economy and changing lifestyles, the pressure on already strained water resources is increasing. Management of water supply has become a challenging task owing to population growth, expansion in industrial and agricultural activities, changing climate scenarios, rapidly depleting water resources, and deteriorating infrastructure and water quality. Over the past few decades, India has witnessed a rapid increase in its urban population. Presently, over 30 per cent of the country’s population lives in urban areas and is increasingly facing water scarcity. It is estimated that 85 per cent of the urban population has access to drinking water. However, only a small percentage of the people have access to safe drinking water.

Cognisant of the situation, the authorities have launched policy reforms in the urban sector and made unprecedented infrastructure investments designed to improve access, quality of water and sanitation services.

Local governments and service agencies too are making interventions to improve service coverage and achieve equity but due to lack of adequate capacity, the gap between demand and supply is yet to be bridged.

In India, a number of private players such as Veolia partner with local authorities to help address these gaps. The company works with its partners to develop 24×7 water supply projects, some of which are currently operational in a few cities, through a water distribution system that is continuously full and under constant pressure.

Public-private partnerships for improved water management services

In recent years, there have been technological advancements in the water supply industry. The government has recognised the need to introduce and integrate new trends in city water management systems. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the management of urban water systems is one such solution. Private water operators bring technical expertise to infrastructure projects and improve operations and services. They also bring in efficient and better management practices along with the much-needed capital investments. It is therefore important that both public and private players come together to find sustainable solutions.

Upgrading water management systems

Potable water, sustainability and inclusion are some of the goals that municipalities should work towards when upgrading their water management systems. These goals can be achieved by supplying continuous pressurised water, which allows better management of water demand and supply thereby reducing contamination and helping foster better public health.

The solutions for water management systems mainly include engineering and construction services, operations and maintenance services, performance contracts, major maintenance and refurbishment, and collecting and treating waste water for safe discharge or recycling. It is important to cover the whole water cycle, from collection to discharge, together with network and customer management, to meet the needs of cities. Within the water treatment segment, it is important to monitor the quality at each stage in the water cycle, from extraction of the natural resource to discharge back into the environment. The aim should be to reduce the amount of raw water extracted and to encourage cities to recycle and reuse water.

Aware of the challenges that face municipalities, private players have formed partnerships with civic authorities to develop and implement solutions based on state-of-the-art network designs. For instance, Veolia has helped demonstrate the feasibility of 24×7 water supply projects in India. It provides round-the-clock water supply to Belgaum, Hubli-Dharwad and Gulbarga in Karnataka, crowded urban precincts such as Nangloi in Delhi, and entire Nagpur city in Maharashtra. The projects in Karnataka connect over 200,000 people and 28,000 homes with uninterrupted water supply, the demozone project in Dharampeth (in Nagpur) supplies 160,000 citizens and in Nangloi a target population of 1 million is to be covered.

The successful completion of these projects led Veolia to form a PPP to provide 24×7 access to quality water services in the entire city of Nagpur in 2012, through its joint venture company Orange City Water. This 25-year contract involves improving water production and distribution, rehabilitating infrastructure and offering other integrated services along with inclusive growth and safe drinking water to 2.7 million inhabitants in Nagpur.

Recently, Veolia won three contracts in the cities of Harihara, Shimoga and Ranebennur in Karnataka to revamp and uprgrade the water supply network along with operations and maintenance of distribution systems from the reservoir to the end user, including round-the-clock customer care services. It is also setting up a world-class water treatment plant in Ranebennur.

In terms of waste water, Veolia’s systems help extract value, generate reusable water and produce energy, fertilisers and other nutrients. In 2012, the Delhi Jal Board chose the company in a competitive bid to build the capital’s first sustainable sewage treatment plant in Nilothi (in north-west Delhi). This 91 million litre per day plant uses green processes that include production of biogas and compost. The facility complies with international norms of waste water treatment technologies, operations expertise, and discharge and energy efficiency standards. For the first time in India, disk filters have been used in place of conventional gravity sand filters for tertiary treatment. Around 50 per cent of the electricity requirement of the plant is met by the biogas produced in-house and the compost obtained from the sludge is used as fertiliser by local farmers. The sewage treatment system in Nilothi removes effluents such as nitrogen and phosphorus from the treated waste water to minimise the impact on the environment before it is discharged into the Yamuna river.

Government initiatives

Improving water access and service delivery is part of India’s larger urban development agenda. Over the past few years, the central government has launched several programmes/schemes for water supply management in India. Some of these initiatives are the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, the Namami Gange programme, the Swachh Bharat Mission, the Smart Cities Mission, the National Rural Drinking Water Programme and the Integrated Urban Water Resource Management. In all these initiatives, the government has acknowledged that the private sector is a key stakeholder in the development process.

The government is continuously promoting new models to accelerate water sector growth. It is moving towards the role of a facilitator and co-financier of water supply schemes and is taking the necessary steps to establish an enabling environment to support the strengthening of local authorities in meeting water demand.


By 2050, India’s total water demand will increase by 32 per cent. The industrial and domestic sectors will account for 85 per cent of the additional demand. Overexploitation of groundwater, failure to recharge acquifers and reduction in catchment capacities due to uncontrolled urbanisation are causes for the precarious tilt in the water balance. If the present rate of groundwater depletion persists, the country will have only 22 per cent of the present daily per capita water available in 2050, possibly forcing the country to import water.

Urban water supply systems are reeling under the stress of supplying adequate, reliable and safe drinking water. Some of the major issues to be addressed to meet consumer demand in an urban water supply system are equitable supply of water at different levels, leakage and energy minimisation, pressure and asset management, managed groundwater pumping, etc. Industries and the government need to progressively implement water optimisation technologies, establish water audit standards, and use a collaborative approach to wade through the water crisis.

Water-efficient technologies will continue to be developed just like they are already being today, but more importantly, it is the renewed understanding of water as a shared commodity that will help these technologies find acceptance with industry, agriculture and individuals alike. Supplying new water services to people requires not only technical skills but also social understanding of the demand of each stakeholder. For a water project to be successful, along with technical expertise it is necessary to have proficient social engineering skills as well. Equitable distribution, sustainable development of resources and awareness with respect to conservation are all equally important. The journey towards 24×7 water supply in India will be long but first experiences are in place to inspire other cities to enter the twenty-first century with high quality services.

Contributed by Veolia India Private Limited