water conservation: how ‘Made in India’ technology can help save our water bodies

By 2025, India could well use all the water it has. This alarming fact is amply illustrated in the graph below. 150 lakes and 7 major river systems have not been able to keep up with population growth and India remains one of the most water-threatened nations in the world.
A 2016 Water Aid report estimates that 76 million people in India do not have access to a safe water supply. The Asian Development Bank has projected that by 2030, India will have a 50% water deficit.

The water supply in India has two main sources – rivers and groundwater. However, the rivers are shrinking due to pollution and industrialization, while the population continues to grow, pushing us into overuse of our groundwater resources and eventually into a huge water deficit.
Rampant pollution, sewage dumping and overuse of rivers have led to large sections of significant rivers like Ganges and Yamuna becoming unfit for use. Take for example the Ganges, which crosses 11 states of India and provides water to more than 500 million people.
The Namami Ganges program was launched by the newly formed BJP government in 2014, based on Prime Minister Modi’s campaign factory to save the Ganges. He represents Varanasi in the Lok Sabha and naturally the river has formed an important part of his campaign.
Rs. 20,000 crores has been allocated for the conservation and pollution reduction program in the Ganges. The Prime Minister recently reviewed the progress of the project – the first since the BJP came to power in the basin states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
And yet, in this alarming situation, our rivers and lakes continue to make the news for all the wrong reasons.
Example of this title: After heavy rain, chemical “snowfall” in Bangalore. It has become routine for people in India’s Silicon Valley. Commuters struggled this weekend as monsoon showers caused toxic moss to overflow onto the main road in Whitefiled.

While Bellandur and Varthur lakes have made headlines for foaming and even catching fire, another of the city’s water bodies has joined the list of polluted lakes in Bangalore. Residents living around Subramanyapura Lake near Uttarahalli in South Bengaluru were shocked to see the western side of the lake foaming up on Saturday morning.
Bellandur is the largest lake in the city where most of India’s start-up capital’s sewage flows. And not just in this lake, across Bangalore, only 43% of sewage discharged into lakes is treated, according to the state of Karnataka. Pollution Control Commission.
The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) is in the process of setting up 14 wastewater treatment plants with ABB India’s automation solutions offering intelligent and efficient process control. This technology provides real-time process parameter monitoring with efficient data analysis. Wastewater treatment capacity will nearly double to 660 MLD (million liters per day) once the full project is fully operational.
So, is that the catastrophic state of our rivers and lakes? But what about the water flowing through our homes. How can we seek to conserve it, price it correctly and encourage people to save water?
Water is our natural right, but most of us don’t think of it as a resource that can run out.

India’s official non-revenue water is very high and can vary from 30% to 70%, the world average is around 28%. Local urban bodies in India do not have the autonomy to set prices to cover costs. An outdated pricing and supply mechanism removes safeguards against irresponsible use by consumers and makes urban water supply a unique problem.
Rajiv Tikoo, Managing Director of OneWorld Foundation, says, “The idea is that a simple app and sensor-based technology can be used for water management. In urban areas, pipes have been laid for a long time and over time they have become punctured, and contamination. Countries like Israel have used simple sensors to detect these leaks. The fundamental problem lies in our behaviors, because we do not value the water. Alarm and sensor-based technologies are not that expensive, but we hardly use them. At the same time the government needs to reduce the cost of products such as sensor faucets to encourage people to opt for them.”
Professor PK Sarkar of the School of Urban Planning and Architecture is a strong proponent of rainwater and rainwater harvesting as a means of increasing the water supply to urban homes. “Right now technology is used sparingly and without any oversight. We cannot think of smart cities without the integrated use of technology,” he said.
City managers have so far treated water as a public good that has accustomed customers to getting it for little or nothing. The absence of any economic deterrent against irresponsible water use results in a huge waste of water. Water utilities in India are mostly unmetered. Not only the end user, but also the distribution networks do not have meters that can be used to set up a control and data acquisition (SCADA) system.
“One of the biggest problems we face in India is that water is not measured accurately. The introduction of a digital flow meter would change this dynamic and if they are ‘made in India’ they would be delivered very fast and also as per the Indian market requirements.Today you can get meters that text you the meter readings or send data to a cloud or web application.We have all seen water be metered in our homes or offices.Imagine what would happen if you could replace the existing meters with smart digital flow meters that can measure waterway flow, much more accurately at almost the same cost. You would create a dramatic revolution in the water measurement space,” says Krishna H Prashanth, who leads Measurement and Analytics for ABB India’s Industrial Automation Division.
ABB flowmeters, suitable for Indian conditions, are now in service in the cities of Mumbai, Kolkata, New Delhi, Bengaluru and Surat. These enable efficient monitoring, tracking and billing of water use.

In Surat it is water billing, while Bengaluru is deploying GSM technology to send signals to the central SCADA and SMS can be used to track water usage.
Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata have plenty of British-era pipelines as well as older neighborhoods, so flowmeters are the perfect solution for retrofitting those that cannot be immediately replaced.
As the government proposes 100 smart cities, ABB India hopes more and more cities will use this technology. As Prashanth puts it, “What gets measured gets done and so whether you are talking about revenue from water flowing in utilities, whether it is cleaning up the Ganges, everywhere measurement plays an important role. Not just measurement, it’s important to transfer information to a place where you can analyze it and act on it.”

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