Learning from Experience: Key takeaways from 24×7 water supply projects

Key takeaways from 24x7 water supply projects

Water supply is being rendered only as an intermittent service in most parts of the country. However, over the years, the concept of 24×7 water supply has ga­ined significant interest in the country. Urban local bodies (ULBs) and city corporations 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 pilot 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, in Nagpur, Coimbatore, Delhi, Pune, etc.

Indian Infrastructure takes a look at some of the cities that have implemented 24×7 water supply projects and their experi­en­ce with these projects…

Nagpur, Maharashtra

Nagpur was the first city in the country of its size to outsource its water supply to a private contractor. In 2011, a tripartite agreement was signed by Orange City Water Private Limited, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation and Nagpur Environmental Services Limited, with a concession period of 25 years. The objective was to provide 100 per cent safe drinking water 24×7 to the city’s population, including slum dw­e­ll­­­e­rs, within five years.

As per the agreement signed, of the total project cost, 30 per cent was to come from the concessionaire and the remaining 70 per cent from the government. The contract is based on the performance of the project, which helps in ensuring financial sustainability as well as satisfactory service delivery for end users. Fur­ther, private sector expertise helps in efficient management of resources, given access to the latest technologies and professional experience. As of April 2021, 75 per cent of the work stan­ds completed. Meanwhile, 300,000 new mete­rs have been installed and 60,000 more have been planned.

The project has benefited the city’s water supply system greatly. It has resulted in a re­duction in non-revenue water (NRW) from 67 per cent in 2012 to 43 per cent in 2021 and a subsequent increase in revenue generation, vo­lu­mes billed and customer count. The project implementation also improved the asset management and complaint redressal system. It has deployed several technological and me­thodological advancements, including supervisory control and data acquisition system, geographic information system (GIS), and a tank cleaning system developed in-hou­se. In light of its success, Niti Aayog applauded the project and stated that other states should take lessons from the Orange City Water Pro­ject to provide potable water to every citizen.

Hubballi-Dharwad, Gulbarga and Belgaum, Karnataka

The Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Develop­ment and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC) undertook the implementation of the Karnataka urban water supply modernisation project in 2004 in three cities – Hubballi-Dharwad, Gulbarga and Belgaum. KUIDFC selected eight wards (of 67) in Hubballi-Dharwad, 10 wards (of 58) in Belgaum and 11 wards in Gulbarga for the implementation of the pilot project. The total investment made was Rs 1.59 billion for these three cities. The World Bank contributed $39.9 million, while the Karnataka government shared $11.63 million. In April 2008, the water supply works were completed in demonstration zones in Gulbarga, Hubballi and Dharwad.

KUIDFC has been successful in providing 24×7 water supply in the three towns, thereby im­­proving the water supply scenario. Water me­te­rs and payment of tariffs based on actual water use have reduced citizens’ private ex­pe­nses for securing water and led to revenue generation for the municipal water service provider.

Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu

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

One of the key features of the concession agreement was that 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. It was also ensured that the concessionaire would be able to recover the entire cost during the O&M phase of the project. Further, annuity payments were subject to meeting pro­gress targets and not through regulated tariff, factoring capex and efficiency curves. Since its initiation, CCMC has been able to save ab­o­ut 70 million litres of water and has repaired 8,000 pipeline leakages, besides ensuring 100 per cent metering in these three cities.

Pune, Maharashtra

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) undertook the 24×7 water supply project to address problems of irregular, uneven and insufficient water supply in the city. The key objectives of the project include ensuring safe and equitable water supply to the city population for a period of 30 years; reducing the level of water losses and NRW; and ensuring technical and econo­mic stability of the water supply service.

The project was approved in February 2018. Of the total project of Rs 25.5 billion, PMC raised Rs 2 billion through bonds. PMC also levied wa­ter charges for the project and has been charging since 2018. The main scope of work for the contractors involves laying 1,700 water pipelin­es; installation of 315,000 battery-operated automated meter reading (AMR) and non-AMR meters; and construction of reservoirs and pum­ping stations. The project has also focused on technology deployment. It involves the use of GIS mapping for the procurement of satellite imagery, creation of base map and geospatial data integration, besides using customer data in hy­dra­u­lic modelling, water audit and supply-de­mand analysis. Meanwhile, PMC is now expanding the project to cover 11 villages in the first phase and 23 villages in the future.

The road ahead

To ensure better water supply in the country, the implementation of continuous water supply projects, involving improvements to the existing water infrastructure and a reduction in leakages and NRW through technological interventions, has become the need of the hour.

However, successful and timely execution of these projects remains a key concern. Time­line extensions have been witnessed with several pilot projects in the past. Citywide 24×7 projects are more prone to delays due to factors such as encroachments, pipeline leakages and people protests, among other issu­es. Financing is an­other critical issue for which innovative funding mechanisms such as raising funds through bon­ds is being adopted by a few ULBs, PMC being one of them. Private participation in the sector has also been limited as a few projects, such as the Mysuru 24×7 wa­ter supply project, failed to achieve the desired results. At the same time, the public-private partnership project in Nagpur has been quite successful and has had a positive impact on the sector.