Asset Management Solutions

ULBs leverage digital tools to improve efficiency

Recognising the need for modern infrastructure facilities and improved service delivery, many urban local bodies (ULBs) and water utilities across India have turned to advanced technological solutions for efficient asset management. Over the past few years, many ULBs have launched projects to deploy advanced flow and pressure management systems, leak detection devices and asset management systems. The results of these initiatives have also been quite encouraging. Further, many ULBs such as the Delhi Jal Board, the Pune Municipal Corporation, and the Bengaluru Se­werage and Water Supply Board have outsourced the operations and maintenance (O&M) of water assets to private agencies. This has resulted in some noteworthy improvements in operational performance such as reduction in water losses, expansion of the customer base and improvement in billing and revenue collection mechanisms. Hence, advocating the importance of the essential O&M activities for water and wastewater systems among key stakeholders and supporting their implementation within an enabling policy framework will greatly help service providers in the long term.

Trends in asset management practices

Asset management practices are emerging as a vital aspect of water resource management as clean and reliable water is becoming an essential resource. The introduction of private players in enhancing asset management practices has been identified as a key aspect by various water utilities and ULBs across the country. The in­vol­vement of private players with technical expertise and financial resources in asset management of the water network has had a positive im­pact on both customers as well as ULBs.

The Delhi Jal Board has outsourced the O&M of some of its water assets to private players. The key projects being developed by private entities in Delhi include water supply improvement schemes in Mehrauli, Vasant Vihar and  Mal­vi­ya Nagar. The projects are generally outso­urced for a period of 10-12 years. As a result of introducing private participation, the non-reve­n­ue water (NRW) level in Malaviya Nagar has re­duced from 45 per cent to 30 per cent.

The Nagpur Municipal Corporation has ro­p­ed in Veolia India for asset management and O&M services of its water network. The company optimises the O&M of treatment plants and networks by improving the performance of wa­ter and wastewater assets. It takes charge of complete management of services and perfor­mance optimisation. Meanwhile, the Bangalore Water Su­pply and Sewerage Board and the Chennai Me­­­­tropolitan Water Supply and Sewe­rage Board have also outsourced the management of water network assets to private agencies. As a result, NRW levels in Bengaluru re­duc­ed to 35 per cent in 2019. Water utilities and ULBs in the country are now also willing to adopt new technologies that will help them improve their operations. Te­c­h­nologies such as re­mote sensing of water, wh­i­ch can help with water accounting, and internet of things, which enables smart irrigation and water quality control and facilitates the development of complex mo­dels for water management, are being ad­opted extensively by water utilities.

Several ULBs are also leveraging digital tools that help them track and monitor various activities and resources. These digital management tools help ULBs improve customer service, provide up-to-date data on maintenance histories, allow efficient resource planning, increase the frequency of planned maintenance and provide a framework for ULBs’ asset management programme. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has further driven the adoption of digital tools for asset management across the water sector.

Key issues and challenges

ULBs across the country have shown an en­couraging response towards embracing advan­c­ed technologies for asset management practices. However, there are various issues that have hampered the widespread adoption of such technologies. Many ULBs across the co­un­try face issues with the procurement of technology and manpower due to which they are unable to facilitate efficient management of water assets. Further, there is a lack of public awareness pertaining to the advanced technologies, due to which their adoption has been limited to major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, etc.

In order to address these challenges, ULBs and water utilities across the country need to actively adopt the public-private partnership model in the O&M of water assets. Further, there needs to be a clear funding mechanism and the introduction of innovative financing models to increase participation of a greater number of ULBs. Above all, the focus should be on the in­volvement of all stakeholders in water assets to ensure better operational efficiency.

The road ahead

O&M activities carried out by private contractors have been noteworthy; however, O&M conditions in some projects maintained by public departments have been below par due to lack of funds as well as interest. Hence, going forward, there is a need for a government push for in­creasing private participation in the O&M of wa­ter assets. In this regard, incentives for private contractors under centrally sponsored schemes can be a strong motivator. Further, technological initiatives aimed at improving the performance of water assets during their O&M phase are also required. Such initiatives can help keep maintenance costs low, while maintaining the performance of these assets.

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