As advancements in technology continue to reshape various sectors, India’s water management practices are also ready for transformation. Digital transformation of traditional water infrastructure is the key to optimising water network management for the future. The implementation of smart water metering, leveraging digital technologies such as supervisory control and data acquisition, and internet of things (IoT), offers a range of transformative benefits, including identifying pipeline leakages, reducing water loss, improving billing efficiency and promoting water conservation.
This transformation allows data-driven optimisation, which in turn helps in fostering real-time communication among devices, utilities and customers. Streamlining data collection, enabling remote monitoring, and efficiently allocating resources will also help in reducing non-revenue water (NRW).
Smart water metering
The management of India’s water network faces a significant challenge due to the limited implementation of individual domestic water metering, particularly in apartment complexes, which are reliant on bulk meters installed by public utilities. The adoption of smart metering technologies can revolutionise water management practices in the country. Smart water meters, such as IoT-enabled advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) systems, offer multiple benefits, including reducing in water loss and NRW, improving billing efficiency and promoting water conservation. By enabling leak detection, real-time monitoring and machine-to-machine communication, smart meters streamline data collection and facilitate predictive analytics, optimising operational processes and enhancing customer service.
The demand for smart water meters is on the rise, driven by various factors such as improved billing efficiency, enhanced water conservation and resource optimisation, contributing to increased revenue generation for water utilities. Government initiatives such as the Smart Cities Mission are further driving the adoption of smart water meters. These meters help in tracking water consumption and implementing water conservation measures.
The benefits of smart metering extend beyond efficiency and cost reduction. It also has economic, social and environmental implications. By reducing water consumption, smart metering facilitates cost savings in sourcing, treating and transporting bulk water. It enables a better understanding of user demands and supports informed public investment decisions. Smart metering promotes intergenerational equity by ensuring sustainable water resources for future generations, and reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by optimising water usage.
By harnessing digital technologies, utilities can improve efficiency, reduce costs, enhance customer service and achieve sustainable water resource management. The implementation of smart water meters empowers customers to track their consumption patterns, conserve water and contribute to a more sustainable future for water management in India.
Recent technological breakthroughs and innovations
Traditionally, detecting leaks and contamination in water networks has been a cumbersome task. However, the deployment of inspection robots, equipped with advanced sensors and tracer gas technology, has significantly improved leak detection capabilities. These robots navigate through pipelines, identifying leaks and potential sources of contamination. Proactively addressing these issues helps reduce water losses, prevent waterborne diseases and enhance the overall reliability of the water supply.
Efficient pressure management is vital for effective water network management. Innovations in pressure optimisation techniques enable utilities to achieve equitable intermittent supply, ensuring fair distribution of water resources. Strategic pressure level management minimises wastage, protects ageing infrastructure and optimises the water supply. This approach promotes efficient resource allocation, reduces operational costs and enhances the overall performance of water utilities.
Maintaining the integrity of water network infrastructure requires effective structural inspection and condition assessment. Inspection robots equipped with multi-sensors and powered by artificial intelligence have revolutionised this process. By collecting real-time data on structural conditions, these robots compensate for the lack of available information, enabling informed decisions regarding maintenance, rehabilitation and asset management. This proactive approach ensures infrastructure longevity, reduces the risk of failure and improves operational efficiency.
In addition, advancements in action planning and decision support systems provide valuable tools for efficient water network management. These systems implement capital expenditure (capex) optimisation and prioritisation based on risk scoring, leveraging data analytics and advanced algorithms. By optimising capex investments and prioritising projects, utilities can enhance resource allocation, reduce costs and improve the overall resilience and performance of water networks.
Geospatial technologies, such as geographic information systems (GIS), drones, and light detection and ranging (LiDAR), have transformed water network management in India. These tools enable accurate geospatial data collection, remote infrastructure monitoring and issue identification. GIS provides a comprehensive framework for spatial data management and analysis, while drones and LiDAR facilitate high resolution mapping and inspection. The integration of georeferencing, geospatial tools and remote sensing enhances planning, maintenance and decision-making processes, further improving water network management practices.
Recent innovations and technologies have emerged as transformative solutions in revolutionising water management practices in India.
To transform water network management in India, several solutions can be adopted. Adopting static meters with automatic meter reading (AMR) technology is crucial. These meters provide accurate and automated data collection, allowing for efficient billing and consumption monitoring. It is advisable to choose AMR meters that can be upgraded to AMI in the future, enabling a seamless transition to more advanced capabilities.
Prioritising the installation of bulk meters is essential. By focusing on large-scale water consumers such as industrial and commercial establishments, accurate measurement of water usage can be ensured. Once bulk metering is in place, a progressive roll-out of smaller individual meters should be undertaken. This phased approach will allow for a systematic implementation process, eventually leading to the conversion of the entire network to AMI technology once a sustainable 24×7 water supply is established. Before embarking on the transformation, it is important to exhaust all benefits from legacy metering management. This involves implementing an effective meter sizing policy, replacing blocked or faulty meters, and addressing commercial losses. These measures will optimise the existing infrastructure and enhance revenue generation.
To support the transformation, the establishment of an integrated revenue management organisation is crucial. This organisation should oversee all aspects of revenue collection, metering operations and customer billing. By streamlining these processes and ensuring coordination among various stakeholders, the efficiency of water network management can be significantly improved.
Thus, implementing static meters with AMR technology, prioritising bulk metering and gradually transitioning to AMI, alongside addressing legacy metering challenges and establishing an integrated revenue management organisation are key measures that can be taken for transforming water network management in India. These measures will enhance data accuracy, promote efficient resource allocation, and ultimately contribute to sustainable and effective water management practices.
Water network management in India faces numerous challenges, including incomplete data, limited capital expenditure and ageing infrastructure
Water network management in India faces numerous challenges, including incomplete data, limited capital expenditure and ageing infrastructure. These obstacles hinder efficient operations and resource allocation. Inadequate data and irregular intermittency make it difficult to track and analyse water flow and usage accurately. The ageing infrastructure contributes to significant water losses and financial burdens for water utilities, exacerbated by the absence or obsolescence of metering technology. Inconsistent manual practices and a lack of standardised frameworks further complicate water network management, resulting in fragmented operations and inadequate coordination among stakeholders. To address these challenges, a holistic approach is needed, including technological advancements, robust data management systems and policy reforms.
Smart metering promotes intergenerational equity by ensuring sustainable water resources for future generations, and reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by optimising water usage.
Based on remarks by Nicolas Bockhoff, COO, Water Services and O&M, SUEZ India; and Vinod Singh, Regional Director, Jacobs, at a recent India Infrastructure conference