Water infrastructure: Make smart water a reality

November 23, 2020 4:00 AM

Holistic water management that employs smart technologies is critical to achieving the goals of the Smart Cities Mission

Thus, water management must move towards holistic and inclusive smart management to address the said challenges.Thus, water management must move towards holistic and inclusive smart management to address the said challenges.

By Abhaya K Agarwal & Vikas Aggarwal

The objective of the Smart Cities Mission is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and allow citizens a decent quality of life. And the key pillars of a smart city are smart energy, smart buildings, smart mobility, smart governance, smart healthcare and smart water. Rapid urbanisation coupled with increasing concerns over water security in the face of climate change and aging infrastructure has made the effective implementation of these provisions difficult. COVID-19 has further underlined how not having access to safe water can exponentially aggravate the challenges of a pandemic. Thus, water management must move towards holistic and inclusive smart management to address the said challenges.

Smart Water Management (SWM) uses ICT and real-time data and responses as an integral part of the solution. The potential application of smart systems in water management includes monitoring and management solutions for water quality, quantity measurement/regulation, leaks, pressure and flow, efficient irrigation, floods, etc.

These technologies not only increase efficiency and allow effective management of the supply chain but also ensure synergised & efficient operations through convergence of real-time information. Further, AI and Machine Learning-based tools deliver next-level competencies to identify patterns, predict and prevent incidents and direct insights & intelligence for better visibility and management.

While the smart technologies are means to achieve water management, other solutions like circular economy, demand-side management strategies, rationalised pricing mechanism, watershed development, green infrastructure for water sensitive planning, etc. are also of utmost importance. Therefore, a holistic SWM approach must align itself to cost-effectiveness and optimisation of the existing infrastructure.

Cost-effectiveness: Energy efficiency and automation are critical to bringing down operational costs. It could also further contribute to a reduction in water loss, as can Non-Revenue Water (NRW) reduction by leak detection systems.

Optimisation of existing infrastructure: Enhanced monitoring & automation can help prevent infrastructure overload, and reduce the need for new infrastructure.
Making smart water a reality

The concept of SWM is gaining great impetus with states and the industry at large. While the technology to implement SWM is readily available, several hurdles hinder its successful implementation, such as lack of demonstration for water utilities to replicate, regulatory support, motivation to shift from traditional approaches, contextually relevant customisation of solutions. Cities around the world like Toronto, Ashland, Naples, Ontario, etc. are already using smart technologies to consistently supply high-quality water and improve customer service.

A shift is visible in the Indian context too where cities have started to increase adoption of ICT/IoT led technologies like online quality analysers, manhole sensors, pump automation, predictive asset management, centralised SCADA based operations, etc., apart from smart meters.

Going forward, the realisation of a smart water future will have to be achieved with collaborations (with countries like South Korea, Singapore, etc. that have an SWM roadmap) and private sector partnerships. The GoI initiatives—Jal Jeevan Mission, Digital India, Atmanirbhar Bharat —aid SWM. Synergies must be built among stakeholders involved in water management. There is a need to move towards new business models and leverage performance-based financing mechanisms. The Centre can further provide a platform for demonstration of pilot projects for innovative solutions. Policy & regulations will be a major driver in SWM implementation . Sector-driven technological standardisations and development of norms based on best practices shall promote interoperability and reliability.

Abhaya K Agarwal is Partner – Infrastructure, Govt and Public Sector and Vikas Aggarwal is Partner – Technology Consulting, Govt and Public Sector, EY India

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