Water Losses: Smart, real-time monitoring needed for NRW management

Smart, real-time monitoring needed for NRW management

As per the estimates of the Central Water Commission, India is not a water-scarce country. It has a water resource potential of 1,869 billion cubic metres. However, more than 40 per cent of the water produced in many cities is wasted before reaching the final consumer due to leaks or thefts. Thus, reducing water losses, and maintaining water quality and adequate supply is very important for the efficiency and financial sustainability of the water utilities across Indian cities. This calls for smart, real-time monitoring to provide utilities with effective control over water usage.

The pandemic has also raised water demand and water stress across India. Given the deteriorating water infrastructure, increased operational costs, and reduced revenue, water utilities might find it challenging to balance the demand and supply in cities in the years to come. However, there are many ways in which such water loss can be curbed.

Water network management involves the adoption of strategies that can help urban local bodies to overcome the challenges related to water losses and damaged pipelines. Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) allows utilities to remotely monitor the water supply system, ensure accurate data collection and undertake efficient management of historical data through internet technology. It also helps remotely assess key performance indicators such as the flow and pressure in the pipeline, and the performance of water distribution pumps. Motorised actuators equipped with GPRS (general packet radio service) connectivity help in the integration of the SCADA system to transmit the data pressure directly to the central servers on a daily or hourly basis. Remote monitoring and control technologies like SCADA and internet of things are used to conserve water and maintain its quality, thus helping in the creation of a sustainable and scalable water economy for water utilities.

The government’s strong commitment and support towards the development of efficient wastewater management infrastructure is expected to attract greater private sector participation. The Delhi Jal Board has outsourced the operation and maintenance of some of its water assets to private players, which has helped reduce the NRW level in Malviya Nagar from 45 per cent to 30 per cent. The Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has adopted IBM’s predictive analysis technology to monitor the actual supply and usage of water. IBM had worked closely with BWSSB to create an operational dashboard, based on IBM’s intelligent operations centre. The Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority has implemented a centralised integrated water management system to identify the demand for potable water, check illegal supply and analyse the incremental supply requirements to meet the demand.

Going forward

To address the erratic water supply problem in the country, continuous water supply projects need to be implemented. These projects should undertake improvement of the existing water infrastructure, leakage detection and NRW reduction through adequate technological interventions. In advanced metering infrastructure systems, modules can take readings of water consumption on an hourly basis to ensure that the pressure is at a safe level. These improvements in utilities can reduce NRW and as a result, the amount of water that facilities must pump and treat to meet demand.

Also, dividing the network into smaller sections or district metering areas is an efficient technique that makes prioritisation and planning easier for operators. This would reduce the amount of energy required to pump the water as well as the amount of carbon emissions produced, providing other tangential benefits. The water utilities in the country need to adopt more smart technologies to provide such services to consumers and help change the cultural and traditional thought processes. The government and policymakers should also focus on the water tariff mechanism to prevent the loss of revenue.