Urban Water Issues, Approach to Sustainable Solution, and Smart Water Management
Inspiration: WaterEX World Conference 2019
By Jayati Mukherjee

In Indian context, water is the most abused natural resource. Ever growing population, climate change, infrastructure aging, etc are some of the bulging challenges being faced by our water industry. If we narrow down our scope to urban area, some more will be factored in. The most prominent drivers amongst them are: agriculture economy, and rapid urbanization as well as industrialization. Owing to these reasons, though the aggregate water availability remains almost unchanged, the per-capita water availability is reducing day by day. With this context, smart water management would be the most effective remedy. Now the million dollar question is: how to achieve that to the optimum extent? What are the industry best practices? The article aims to discuss various urban water issues and the smart water management best practices adopted by prominent business houses.

Current Water Situation in India:Water is a national resource with no alternative. To explain the criticality of the issue, let's check out some statistics: India has around 18 percent of the world population with approximate 4 percent of water resources. Being a highly populous country, it is imperative that India has a huge need for water. Although the aggregate water availability is more or less constant, with ever growing population, the per-capita water availability is going down. As per the international norm, if the per-capita water availability is less than 1700 cubic metre, the situation is water stressed; and if it is less than 1000 cubic metre, the situation is water-scarce. Depending on the topography and hydrological factor of our country, many areas are either water-stressed or water-scarce. It is forecasted that 54 percent area of India would be highly water stressed by Yr 2025. While we are heavily concerned about the scarcity of water, it's worth mentioning that 97 percent of water is the sea-water; 2 percent of water forms the glacier; and remaining 1 percent is the fresh water, which can further be subdivided into ground water and surface water. We mostly use this surface water for all our requirements.

The issue of water-security has become important with the reduced per-capita water availability. As per the current scenario, 75 percent to 80 percent of water is consumed in irrigation where the water efficiency is very low. Followed by this, there is also an allocation-need for drinking water supply and industrial water supply. At the advent of expansion and advancement of industry, the need for industrial water supply is on the rise. Ecological and environmental needs are also to be factored in.

  • The biggest challenge is sustainable management and development of water for effective utilization. This translates to development & conservation of effective storage of water in varied form. Because of various environmental issues and land-acquisition problems, the water conservation along with smart & efficient water management is getting prominence these days. Inadequate storage capacity is a prime contributor to it.
  • Depletion of ground water due to over-exploitation is another concern. Recharging of ground water is less compared to its use.
  • Large special temporal variation also a significant contributor.
  • Across the nation, the area-wise huge discrimination of rain-fall in rate as well as in quantity is another factorial.
Urban Water Management Issues:
Sustainable water management has become a challenge due to growing rate of population, urbanization, and industrialization. Further granularization focuses on inappropriate urban infrastructure, sub-optimal usage of available water resources, depletion, and other associated elements. Major consumers of urban water are industry and municipality, with their conflicting interest to get priority over each other. On this note, it is worth mentioning that urban water management largely caters to domestic or drinking water supply, and industrial water supply.
  • Inadequate water supply in many Indian cities has made the issue critical. The present demand for water is 40 to 45 billion cubic metres with a projection to rise up to 60 billion cubic metres by Yr 2025.
  • Due to pollution, quality of drinking water is a big concern.
  • Aging of water supply infrastructure, for being deprived of timely repair and renovation, has been adding to it.
  • Another loss parameter is poor operation and maintenance system. This is further reinforced by a vicious cycle of built-neglect-and -rebuilt, which is to be avoided at all cost.
  • In major cities, there is a huge gap between demand and supply, mainly due to ever-increasing population.
Smart water management - some best practices in India:

1. Initiatives by Jamshedpur Utilities and Service Company Limited (JUSCO): JUSCO at its continuous endeavor has made Jamshedpur city famous for water purity. People can even drink it directly from the tap. The city has attended a benchmark of 12.36 percent non-revenue water (NRW), which is the best in India. In Jamshedpur, more than 70 million liters of water is being recharged and more than 7 million liters of water is being reused each year.

NRW Management: Along with the quality of water, they have established a very prudent loss-management system. To reduce the water consumption, the established loss management system works on twofold way: physical loss management and commercial loss management. Physical loss management includes treatment works, arresting leakages through service reservoir management, and distribution system management. However, commercial loss management system includes metering consumer-usage, proper billing, disconnecting illegal links, and also segregating the entire area as District Metered Areas (DMA). Thus the loss is very well managed through proper and apt calculation.

Zero Liquid Discharge System:Along with NRW management system, JUSCO’s another prominent initiative is phase-wise movement to zero liquid discharge system. The focus at the initial stage is on total water recycling targeting the sewage treatment plant having working capacity of 10 million litres per day. This makes the raw-water intake from river reduced as well as saved. Even the portable water intake has also been reduced in several sectors by using this service water.

2. Initiative by National Water Development Agency: For urban water management, National Water Development Agency has made technology as their weapon through the implementation of waste-towealth concept. Under the national mission of 'Clean Ganga', they started some hybrid annuity model with various purposes. One such is buying the sewage. The project has targeted the encroachments, which are happening at the river banks of main cities, and which are devoid of necessary permissions as well as necessary constructions. As an unfortunate consequence, sewage is being directly thrown to the river. In this mission, the sewage water is being collected at one place, put that into treatment plant, and sent back to river.

3. Initiatives by TATA Projects: TATA Projects operates into industrial and urban infrastructure space; and their present focus is on integrated river rejuvenation, as because the surface water is country's one of the major water resources and is to be taken care of. Recently they have conceptualized and worked on Dravyavati River Project at Jaipur, Rajasthan. Jaipur being a touristspot gets a good amount of tourist foot-fall. Owing to our ignorance for conservation, these rivers are immensely burdened with the regular off-load of untreated domestic sewage and industrial effluents; and much work is not happening towards the river protection. The Central Ground Water and Neeti Aayog together have measured the ratio of water withdrawal and the water-replenishment done. It is very unfortunate that this ratio has come out negative almost everywhere. As an addendum to the whole scenario, a good amount of GDP is lost due to inter-state water disputes.

4. Initiatives by Swach Environment Pvt Ltd: Delhi being in a very water-stressed environment, Swach Environment has taken up a 360 degree approach. To meet the industrial demand for water security, their focus is on both primary water dependency reduction and treated water usage boost up. The organization has taken up a long-term strategy to make a shift towards covering operating costs through user fees. Adding a revenue generating water reuse component to a project lifts a project's financial viability, and in turn reduces the burden on public finances. Along with this, Government policies are also aligned to support the development of treated wastewater reuse as a financially sustainable sector.

5. Initiatives by Green Thumb Environment Protection Group: The group identified a seemingly unnoticed constraint: wastage of major portion of rain-water in our country. In spite of adequate rainfall, owing to poor water management many places in our country are either water -stressed or water-scarce. With this thought, they focused on rainwater harvesting and made their mark with water management at dams. They found that most of the dams are silted and therefore they embarked upon de-silting procedure. At the present days due to ever-increasing population, tree -cutting, grass uprooting, huge encroachment, and other associated factors, demand and supply are heavily imbalanced. Survey revealed that one to one -andhalf feet of silt is coming down every year. In the bargain, we have more of silt and less of water. A proposition for cleaning up lakes, through the removal of islands formed inside it, is placed to Government and which is under consideration.

6. A G Dauters Waste Processing Pvt Ltd: The organization works on the theme: grey water holds the key to the future survival of mankind. To elaborate this, water comes in various colours. One of the prominent colours amongst them is grey. It comes with various shades from dark-grey to lightgrey indicating the extent of pollutants in it. This grey water is non-drinkable, yet is used in irrigation and industrial purpose. The organization utilized the power of such grey water. To mention some statistics, India at these days produces approximate 62000 mld grey water and out of which, only approximately 18883 mld of water is being treated right now. During the process, the water becomes dark grey to light grey. If we look into the potentiality of this grey water, 5 times of India's power requirement can be met from it. Approximately 31000 mld mineral quality of drinking water can be prepared from 62000 mld grey water. Along with, 24000 mld of fuel can also be generated. These numbers correspond to the fact that such a huge potential is flowing down to river in the form of grey water without proper utilization. The organization is thus working on this grey water treatment with a mission to make every city, town, and village of India self-sustainable through producing their own power, own fuel, and own water.