Reducing Non-Revenue Water through Geospatial Technologies

Last year, water officially joined gold and oil as a traded commodity on the Wall Street. This move has accentuated our fear that we are fast heading towards a world where this precious natural resource has become extremely scarce, and as a result highly precious. No wonder city administrators are striving to ensure every drop of water supplied to residents reaches the customer and is billed accordingly.  Non-Revenue Water (NRW) is the problem of losing potable water in the distribution network itself, which implies, the resource is neither billed nor consumed – a great loss for administrators and people alike.

India is one of the world’s most affected countries by the water crisis. With 200 cubic meters of storage capacity per person, the per capita water availability here is low as compared to other countries. There are several reasons for India’s water problem, of which Non-Revenue Water is a significant one. High levels of NRW indicate a poorly managed water utility and results in heavy losses. There are many factors leading to NRW, including pipeline bursts, meter inaccuracy, high pressure within the water reticulation system, etc. Poor operations and maintenance and a lack of active leakage control coupled with poor quality of underground assets add more to the problem.

Role of technology in reducing NRW

With new technology breakthroughs and advancements in sensors, it is now possible to reduce the Non-Revenue Water. Geospatial technology in combination with sensors, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence can be of great use in creating asset databases for reducing water loss and improving water distribution systems.

Water distribution networks in India are incredibly old and thus are prone to damages and leakages. To overcome the challenge, service providers can map the entire water supply infrastructure. Ground Penetrating Radar can be used to map underground assets like pipeline networks, valves, and inlets. The data derived can be put on one single GIS platform for analysis and to create hydraulic modeling that will be helpful in detecting problems and take preventive measures accordingly.

Thrissur Municipal Corporation applied a similar technique to meet the challenges of increasing water demands of the city and ensure that no water is lost in the supply process. Thrissur Smart City first did the survey of underground assets using Ground Penetrating Radar and mapped the entire city using drones. Data derived from GPR and drone survey was put together on a single GIS platform that helped build hydraulic modeling of the city where predictive analysis were also added to better understand the water distribution network.

Similarly, Hyderabad Metropolitan Region adopted a SCADA model utilized for daily water supply status that includes water consumption details, information about tankers plying around the city, etc. Also, the SCADA system has been implemented for bulk water supply.

SCADA stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition and is a distributed computer system used for operations and management of water distribution system through continuous monitoring and automation. SCADA system allows to continuously compare the actual hydraulic state of the system with its optimal hydraulic state, and take suitable counteractive steps required.

Smart water meters have also been remarkably effective in curbing water loss and reducing NRW. IoT enabled smart water meters measure the flow of water through sensors and image processing methods and provide real-time information that is helpful in improving billing efficiency thus increasing revenue generation. They also help in water conservation and resource optimization.

IoT enabled smart water meters detect leak, provide real-time data collection and monitoring and enables machine-to-machine communications. They also significantly reduce the time spent on manual data collection processes which saves time and allow service providers to focus on improving service to house connections and undertake predictive analytics for improving system efficiency.

Water meters are helpful to consumers as well as it tracks their water consumption patterns and executes water conservation methods to reduce water bills. This amplifies the potential customer base for smart water meter solution providers.

Water is vital to human sustainability, but far too often it is wasted, polluted and taken for granted. In a scenario when India is struggling through the issue of water scarcity, Non-revenue Water can be a huge loss. Here technology can be a great tool that will help in efficient water management and for maintaining municipal water supply systems that can use water asset carefully and creatively for premeditated urban planning.