Improving Infrastructure: Current status and developments in the water supply network

Current status and developments in the water supply network

The water resources in India are under tre­mendous pressure as the availability of safe drinking water is not sufficient to cater to the population demand. The rate of groundwater withdrawal is extremely high as compared to available supplies. The expansion of cities will see the demand for freshwater

su­­p­ply rising exponentially, and with limited re­so­urces India may become a water-starved nati­on. One of the prominent challenges facing the water sector is the ageing infrastructure of the distribution system. Water utilities in India are looking to address this challenge and revamp the infrastructure as a priority for economic, so­cial and environmental benefits.

A look at some of the notable developments in the water supply infrastructure…

Key developments

Apart from escalating demand, all water utilities are facing issues regarding damaged water networks and rising customer expectations with regard to access to a continuous supply of

cl­ean water. As per Indian Infrastructure Rese­ar­ch, water supply in India has seen an inc­rease from 72,075 mld in 2015-16 to 90,585 mld in 2020-21, registering a CAGR of 4.68 per cent. In the recent past, the govern­me­nt and ur­ban local bodies (ULBs) have undertaken pro­jects to improve the water supply infrastructure in the country.

In 2015, the Odisha government obser­ved that the water distribution system in the sta­te faced significant challenges such as in­equity in supply, inconsistent pressure and contamination due to the mixing of water and sewage lines. Meanwhile, only 50 per cent of the households in Puri had piped water connections. The rest of the households relied on public standposts, wa­ter tankers and other so­urces for water supply. Due to the lack of adequate infrastructure and metering, around 54 per cent of unaccounted water losses were ob­served within the system. In 2017, there was a state-wide move to upgra­de the water supply infrastructure for achieving universal coverage of piped networks and transition from intermittent supply to 24×7 water supply. Between 2017 and 2020, with increased investment in the water sector, this transition was facilitated. There was an addition of around 6,000 km of new pipe network to the existing infrastructure. With the launch of the mission Drink from Tap, also called the Sujal Scheme, in July 2021, Puri became the first city in the country to provide drink-from-tap-quality water to all its citizens round the clock.

In another notable development, Hydera­­b­ad has laid the foundation stone for the infrastructure works to build the Sunkishala raw wa­ter intake well at the shore of the Nagarjun­a­sa­gar reservoir in Nalgonda district, about 150 km away from the city. This project has been proposed as a vision that a raw water intake well would eliminate drinking water issues in the city for at least 50 years from now. The project entails an investment of Rs 14.5 billion. The state has estimated the potable water requirement, based on the population projection till 2072. As per the estimations, in 2022, the city needs a total of 37,000 million cubic feet (tmc) of potable water, and subsequently, an­­oth­er 47.76 tmc is estimated for 2035, 58.98 tmc for 2050, 67.71 tmc for 2065 and 70.97 tmc for 2072. Further, the Hyderabad Met­ro­po­litan Water Supply and Sewerage Bo­ard is providing fresh infrastructure to the ex­tended are­as of the Outer Ring Road (ORR) villages by con­structing an elevated service re­ser­voir. This would benefit around 0.2 million people in the city. The project is expected to be commissi­oned by the end of December 2022. The board has already started laying the inlet, outlet and distribution network. After the completion of the ORR Phase II project, the water supply will be enhanced by improving the service-level benchmarks for existing consumers and coverage of unserved areas.

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development sanctioned Rs 32.45 billion for rural drinking water supply projects and irrigation in Gujarat for financial year 2021-22, under the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF). This is the highest ever allocation for loan assistance to projects in the state. The amount sanctioned under the RIDF for financial year 2021-22 is 8.5 per cent higher than the sanction of Rs 29.89 billion in financial year 2020-21. For rural drinking water supply projects un­der the government’s Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), Rs 10.06 billion was sanctioned for providing functional household tap connections to 8.58 million people in eight districts of Gujarat. Apart from this, two rural drinking water supply infrastructure projects – Budhel-to-Borda bulk pipe­line in the Bhavnagar and Dhanki-to-Navda bulk pipeline – were appro­ved with a sanction amou­nt of Rs 2.93 billion and Rs 7.94 billion respectively. These projects are expected to cater to a population of 6.84 million.

The government is continuously working to­wards providing drinking water facilities to every household in the country in the coming years. This would also help cater to the urgent need to develop adequate water infrastructure in the country. The JJM aims to provide every ru­ral household with drinking water supply in adequate quantity of prescribed quality on a regular and long-term basis at affordable service delivery charges. The components of the mission fo­cus on the provision of sustainable water supply infrastructure. These components include the development of in-village piped water supply infrastructure to provide tap water connections to every rural household, development of reliable drinking water sources and au­g­­mentation of existing sources to provide long-term sustainability, bulk water transfer, treatment plants, and distribution network to cater to every rural household. The Har Nal Se Jal scheme under the JJM will attract a huge invest­me­nt in water infrastructure, which will help in ad­d­ressing the iss­ues of drinking water supply.

In another major initiative to digitise the wa­ter supply infrastructure in rural India, the government has reached out to all states and union territories (UTs) for rolling out sensor-based IoT solutions to measure and monitor water supply in the hinterland. This initiative is part of the national JJM. It aims to ensure water service delivery in rural homes by add­ressing various issues that cause disruption in the water supply on a regular basis. Digitally en­abled water supply infrastructure will help in near-real-time monitoring and evidence-based policymaking. More importantly, it will help anticipate and address any future challenges. In order to utilise this expertise, the Ministry of Jal Shakti has constituted a technical expert committee to prepare a roadmap for measurement and monitoring of the water service delivery system in the rural areas. The broad framework prepared by the committee will help the states/UTs in firming up the desired standards to meet the requirements of change in water service delivery.

In sum

As per Indian Infrastructure Research, the up­co­ming capacity addition in the municipal wa­ter supply segment is expected to be around 12,874 mld. This primarily includes projects pertaining to providing 24×7 water supply, wa­ter treatment capacity augmentation, laying of the water pipeline, and metering water supply connections. Many government schemes like the JJM, Namami Gange, AMRUT and the Swa­chh Bha­rat Mission are focused on providing continuous water supply and better supply in­fra­structure in the country. The increased fo­cus of the government and ULBs on improving the water supply services is also attracting private sector participation in the construction, operations and maintenance of assets, and increasing the use of advanced technologies.