Ensuring Water Resilience: Digital solutions for better resource management

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.

Future roadmap

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