40% of all the Cauvery water that gets pumped into the city – from a distance of about 140 km and to a height of 500m, at a cost of Rs 300 crores a year is said to be unaccounted for. This is either wasted as a result of leaks or is stolen or not recorded because of faulty meters, thus making it ‘Non-Revenue Water (NRW)’ or ‘Unaccounted For Water (UFW)’. BWSSB has woken up to this alarming reality and is trying to address a part of the problem through a project funded by the Japan Bank of International Co-operation (JICO).
BWSSB is implementing a Rs 153-crore project that started mid-2012. The project contracted out to L&T is scheduled to complete in June 2015, with extended O&M (Operations and Maintenance) support for three years thereafter, till 2018. Currently survey work is completed in a third of the areas where fixing of faulty meters has begun. In other areas, surveys are underway.
Venkata Raju, Chief Engineer, BWSSB shares that the project will cover an area of 52 sq.km. and will include the constituencies of Padmanabhanagar, Basavanagudi, Chamarajpet (a part of the area), Jayanagar, BTM Layout (includes Koramangala) and parts of Chickpet.
The 52 sq km is divided into ‘District Metered Areas’ (DMA) based on water pressures. Typically a single DMA will consist of 1000-3000 connections and the area is planned to be divided into 70-75 DMAs. BWSSB will go from house to house and inspect consumer meters and all known meters within the DMA will be marked for a pressure test. The pressure test will show up faulty meters and leaks based on the inflow and outflow pressures within a DMA. The project also includes detection of water theft and replacing old and non-performing pipes.
N S Mukunda, President of Citizen’s Action Forum, who has been actively pursuing water related issues in Bangalore feels that the objective of the project is to increase the revenue for BWSSB by identifying thefts and faulty meters.
The project scope mentions the replacement of Ductile Iron (DI) pipes, Mild Steel (MS) pipes and PVC pipes. An L&T engineer (who does not wish to be named) says, “The old and non-performing water pipes are the ones that will be replaced”. He goes on to clarify that MS, DI and PVC pipes are used for long distance, high volume water connection pipes and the pipes in old areas like Basavanagudi, Girinagar, Jayanagar will be surveyed and replaced where found leaky/faulty. Galvanised Iron (GI) pipes used for house service connections will also be repaired and replaced where necessary, he said.
According to BWSSB, the current status of the project is that in nearly 25 DMAs the Pressure Zero Test (PZT) is complete based on which faulty meters and house service connection pipes in 12 of these DMAs have been fixed. PZT and faulty meters and house connections will be fixed in tandem, the repair/replacement of the larger pipes (DI, MS) pipes will be done only after the round of PZT tests are complete for all DMAs.
BWSSB’s pilot project to fix leaks was done in 2009. That project covered an area of 16 sq km (21 DMAs) that included 35,000 connections. The input water to the area was 84 MLD (Million Litres per Day). This project replaced nearly 19,000 consumer meters and 8644 house service connections. Close to 12,000 leaks were found and repaired. The project that cost about Rs 48 crores brought down the leakage in the area by 14 MLD. This amounts to savings of more than Rs 8 crores a year. The details are available here.
The objective of the current project in South Bangalore is to reduce the UFW from 40% to 16% at the end of three years.
Mukunda remains worried. “Even if water leaks are fixed, the need for water is only going to increase. The government moots large scale projects such as bringing water from Nethravati river that is 370 km from Bangalore which will amount to 50,000 crores (every possibility of this going up to 70,000 crores by the time the project gets approved and implemented) and other projects like ‘inter linking of rivers'” says Mukund. He dismisses such plans as not feasible since they involve costs that the public cannot afford. He feels the government should be looking at rainwater harvesting, rejuvenation of Arkavathy river and restoring lakes in Bangalore, but such projects get sidelined since it is tough to get a cut from projects that are simple and are low budget.⊕