Over the past few years, the concept of continuous water supply has gained significant attention in India. The provision of 24×7 water supply is crucial for enhancing quality of life for the urban population. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.1, set by the United Nations, emphasises the importance of attaining universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. In alignment with SDG 6.1, India is actively pursuing the goal of achieving 24×7 water supply. To this end, various programmes and initiatives have been implemented at both the central and state levels.
The government launched the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) 2.0 in October 2021. The initiative aims to improve the financial sustainability and water security of urban local bodies (ULBs) through a reform agenda. It sets targets such as meeting 20 per cent of water demand through recycled water, reducing non-revenue water (NRW) to less than 20 per cent and rejuvenating waterbodies. One of the key objectives of AMRUT 2.0 is to provide 24×7 water supply with a “drink from tap provision” in at least one ward or district metered area (DMA) in all 500 AMRUT cities.
Further, in order to promote knowledge dissemination and extend support to states and cities in transitioning from intermittent water supply to 24×7 water supply systems, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has constituted the National Task Force and state-level task forces (STFs) on 24×7 water supply systems at the national and state levels respectively. As of February 2023, 25 states and union territories have formed their respective STFs on 24×7 water supply systems under AMRUT 2.0.
Over the past decade, several ULBs have launched pilot phases of 24×7 water supply projects before expanding them on a larger scale. Alongside the repair of ageing pipelines and installation of new transmission and distribution pipelines, cities have incorporated additional infrastructure such as sewage treatment plants (STPs), developing reservoirs and pumping stations to improve water supply for residents. The development of STPs and pumping stations ensures round-the-clock supply of treated water for drinking purposes.
To that end, the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation has planned the first phase of a canal-based 24×7 surface drinking water supply project. It includes the development of an STP, an associated transmission network and overhead service reservoirs (OHSRs). In the first phase of the project, a water treatment plant (WTP) with a capacity of 580 million litres per day (mld) will be built in Bilga to treat the surface water. Subsequently, a 165 km pipeline will be laid alongside the canal to supply treated water from the plant to the OHSRs for potable purposes. The first phase is expected to be completed by 2025. In the second phase, a distribution line will be laid across the city with a distribution system and a service connection with metering to ensure 24×7 canal-based water supply. Similarly, under the ongoing Vadodara 24×7 water supply project, refurbishment of the existing distribution network and construction of new components is planned. Apart from this, the project also involves the design and construction of three elevated storage reservoirs.
The Amritsar bulk water supply project includes the design and construction of essential components such as an offtake chamber, a raw water tank and pumphouse, a 440 mld WTP, a clear-water reservoir and pumphouse, transmission pipelines and overhead service reservoirs. The project is currently under construction and the first phase is expected to be completed by 2024.
NRW reduction to ensure 24×7 water supply
The reduction of NRW plays a crucial role in increasing round-the-clock water supply to improve water services in the country. By reducing NRW, the overall per capita consumption is expected to decline due to minimised water wastage, resulting in significant water savings. Recently, Chandigarh received funding of Rs 5.12 billion for the implementation of a 24×7 pan-city water supply project. According to city authorities, the implementation of the project will lead to a decline in water usage from 230 litres per citizen per day at present to 150 litres per citizen per day due to reduced wastage. The project involves extensive pipeline development to effectively control leakages. As a result, it is anticipated that the city’s NRW will be reduced from the current 35 per cent to 15 per cent.
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has also undertaken a 24×7 equitable water supply project for the city to reduce leakages, thereby reducing NRW. The project includes laying of new pipelines and metering of water consumption to keep leakages in check. At present, there is 40 per cent water loss in the city due to leakages. PMC is expected to bring down NRW to 15 per cent in the future.
In 2022, the Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation approved a round-the-clock water supply project worth Rs 4.92 billion in Shimla. The key aim of the project is to improve water services in Shimla by reducing NRW, introducing energy-efficient technologies, digitalising water supply systems and ensuring quality.
Incorporating technologies such as smart metering and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) is important to achieve 24×7 water supply. Trichy is undertaking a pilot programme to supply 24×7 drinking water to seven wards. This is expected to be completed by 2023. The same scheme will then be replicated in all the remaining wards before 2024. Under this, smart meters will be installed to measure water consumption.
In a similar development, ultrasonic smart water meters are being deployed for the residents of Mani Majra, Chandigarh, under a pilot project for providing 24×7 water supply. As of April 2023, nearly 1,500 water meters have been replaced with ultrasonic smart meters. A total of 13,700 meters are to be replaced in the area. The reading from smart meters will be visible on the SCADA system, which will furnish the monthly and daily consumption figures. Under the pilot project, Mani Majra will be divided into four zones and 16 DMAs. Each DMA will have meters at the inlet and the outlet to determine the exact water loss and the total consumption. The SCADA system will monitor the water meters and control the distribution networks as well. The sensors in the supply system will measure water consumption, water levels and water flow rates on a real-time basis.
In February 2023, the Jammu & Kashmir government constituted a city-level task force for the implementation of 24×7 water supply projects under AMRUT 2.0. The projects involve 100 per cent consumer metering. Further, each meter will have a geographic information system. Bulk meters will be installed at strategic locations for NRW computation. All bulk meters will be connected to the SCADA system.
Water resources in India are under constant pressure owing to the increasing population and rapid urbanisation. It is imperative for local bodies to ensure 24×7 water supply and improve water network management. At present, very few cities such as Nagpur and Puri have successfully implemented 24×7 water supply projects. With the increasing focus of the government on water supply, more cities are now implementing replicable pilot projects for 24×7 water supply. City authorities are equipping water utilities with technical and digital knowledge to ensure the timely completion of water supply projects. Initiatives such as the installation of SCADA systems, reduction in NRW, deployment of smart meters, raising public awareness and policy interventions are also being taken to improve the overall water supply situation in the country.