No More Dry Days: Experience and key learnings from 24×7 water supply projects

Experience and key learnings from 24x7 water supply projects

Water supply is being rendered only as an intermittent service in most parts of India. The concept of 24×7 water supply has thus garnered significant interest in the country. Unlike previous attempts, which were focused on merely providing access to water supply, urban local bodies are now focusing on delivering continuous water supply to every consumer throughout the day. The idea of 24×7 water supply was first mooted in 2005, when the first demonstration project was taken up in three Karnataka cities – Hubbali-Dharwad, Gulbarga and Belgaum. Since then, 24×7 water supply projects have been taken up in parts of Delhi, Nagpur, Coimbatore, Chandigarh, Pune, etc. Indian Infrastructure takes a look at the experiences and key learnings from the 24×7 water supply projects undertaken by select cities…

Nagpur 24×7 water supply

Nagpur was the first city of its size in India to outsource its water supply to a private operator; it did so under the public-private partnership model, for a period of 25 years. The project is being implemented by Orange City Water Limited. The objective is to provide 100 per cent safe drinking water 24×7 to the city’s population, including slum dwellers, within five years. As of April 2021, 75 per cent of the work has been completed. Further, 300,000 new meters have been installed, and 60,000 more are planned. The organisation has also replaced 388 km of pipelines.

The project has benefited the city’s water supply system by reducing non-revenue water (NRW) from 67 per cent in 2012 to 43 per cent in 2021, and increasing revenue generation, volumes billed and customer count. It has also improved the asset management and complaint redressal system. It has deployed various technological and methodological advancements, including supervisory control and data acquisition system implementation, a geographic information system (GIS), and a tank cleaning system developed in-house. Challenges faced during the implementation of the project included mismatches between ground conditions and drawings, a collapsing sewer network, unidentified and illegal connections, and refusal to cooperate with rehabilitation work.

Coimbatore 24×7 water supply

The Coimbatore 24×7 water supply project is regarded as one of the flagship projects of the Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation (CCMC). The project entails an investment of Rs 29.72 billion, covering 60 wards in five zones that form part of the old city area of Coimbatore. The scope of work includes the design, rehabilitation and implementation of water supply infrastructure (construction of service reservoirs, installation of meters and valves, etc.), and the operations and maintenance (O&M) of the distribution system.

One of the key features of the concession agreement of the Coimbatore water supply project is the payment to the concessionaire, whereby CCMC bore around 20 per cent of the overall capital investment required, unlike a typical concession agreement where the private contractor is responsible for the entire project cost, resulting in high user charges. Further, it was ensured that the concessionaire would be able to recover the entire cost during the O&M phase of the project. Besides, the annuity payments are subject to the fulfilment of progress targets and not through a regulated tariff, factoring in capex and efficiency curves. Since its initiation, CCMC has saved about 70 million litres of water by fixing more than 8,000 pipeline leakages.

Pune 24×7 water supply

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has undertaken a project to introduce universal smart metering of the water utilised in the city, and thus levy water charges based on actual water consumption. Pune’s 24×7 water supply project entails an investment of about Rs 29 billion. The scope of work involves the construction of reservoirs and pumping stations, shifting of utilities, laying of 1,700 km of transmission and distribution pipelines, and installation of water meters under the Smart Meter National Programme. As of September 2020, 10 per cent of the civil work, including the laying of about 200 km of pipelines and installation of about 10,000 water meters, stands completed. The issues faced during the implementation of the project included problems in acquiring permission to dig concrete roads for laying pipelines, trouble with the old water meters due to poor meter quality, and delays in repair services. PMC is now expanding the project to cover 11 villages in the first phase and 23 villages in the future.

Conclusion

The increasing population and rapid urbanisation have resulted in extreme stress on the country’s water resources. It has become imperative for local bodies to ensure 24×7 water supply and improve water network management. Going forward, it is imperative to focus on equipping utilities with the financial and technical know-how necessary to ensure timely completion of water supply and infrastructure projects. It is also essential that features such as a single GIS database for all utilities, further reduction in NRW, improvements in the revenue collection system, and a legal policy for prevention of water theft and meter tampering are adopted to improve water supply in Indian cities.