Four step approach to achieve twenty four hour water supply - A report by WSP that draws lessons from diagnostic assessments in 6 cities across India


At the request of Ministry of Urban Development the Water and Sanitation Program-South Asia (WSP-SA) initiated a program to assess what it would take to move to a 24/7 water supply system. Through a rapid technical assessments, draft strategies were developed for the cities of Guwahati, Indore and Delhi. Parallel to this Government of Karnataka and the World Bank carried out distribution system diagnostics in three cities in Karnataka — Belgaum, Gulbarga, and Hubli-Dharwad. The result of these studies were discussed in national workshop organized by the Change Management Forum. The proceedings and deliberations of this workshop is elaborated in this document. 

 The document in its background note first spells out the factors that have contributed to the discontinuous water supply, which are as follows: 

  •  rapid growth in population and water demand (and in some areas, shortage of water)
  • inadequate water charges and billing/collection mechanisms, leading to insufficient revenues to repair, maintain, and replace infrastructure
  • intermittent and poor quality electricity supply
  • inadequate human resource development, including training in modern utility operations
  • inadequate demand-responsiveness and customer-orientation among service providers 

The problems arising from this kind of water supply system are: 

  •  serious risks to health, resulting from ingress of contaminated groundwater into the distribution system.
  • inability to practice efficient demand and supply management
  • operational inadequacies which unduly weaken physical infrastructure
  • customer inconvenience, which for many people, particularly the poor results in a loss of household income or productive time as at least one family member has to cope with securing water on a daily basis, limiting water usage to levels below what is required for safe hygiene and an unwillingness to pay for a sub-standard service.

The reports on the rapid diagnostic assessment conducted in three cities are elaborated in the next section. Following this the requirements to bring in 24*7 water supply is listed out. Based on this a four-step approach to a strategy for conversion of 24/7 supply was proposed in the workshop. 

  Step 1 involves the following- collection of data, defining service levels, preparing hydraulic models, choosing pilot zones, preparing and estimating the costs, preparing tariff plan, carry out customer awareness programme and training the staff in operating the new system.

  Step 2 involves legitimising unauthorized connections, convert and operate the system for 12 months, intorduce volumetric charging, collect collection and operation data and monitor the changes in customers attitude and behavior.

  Step 3 involves using pilot trial data to refine designs and strategy, re-visit key decisions in the strategy and check costs and financing plan based on tested consumption patterns and willingness-to-pay.

  Step 4 involves rolling out full-scale 24/7 conversion program.

  The document also contains answers to some of the frequently asked questions, when cities plan to work towards having round ‘o’clock water supply system.

  The conclusions drawn from the workshop are as follows: 

  1.  conversion from intermittent to continuous (24/7) water supply in India is both achievable and affordable – and essential to improved sector performance.
  2. the technical process for converting to 24/7 supply is not complicated; it is well-suited to phased implementation but requires careful preparation and planning.
  3. sufficient bulk water is available for 24/7 supply in much of urban India; some countries in Africa on 24/7 supply have only 40 to 50 liters per person per day.
  4. Only when a distribution network is continuously under pressure, contamination of water supplies can be eliminated. Meters will function with accuracy, leak detections can be checked and modern demand and supply techniques can be excercised.
  5. It should lead to increased satisfaction of the customer.
  6. volumetric tariff should be applied in areas with 24/7 supply.
  7. There should be awareness among people about water use and water charges under 24*7 supply scheme. 

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