Solution Exchange Consolidated Reply: Strategy for Improving Urban Drinking Water Supply: 24/7 Water Supply is too expensive

A consolidated reply of experiences and examples shared by various members of the Solution Exchange Water Community

From Nitya Jacob, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), New Delhi

From David Foster, Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad

Posted 2 March 2009

The quality of service in urban water supply in most Indian cities remains low, notwithstanding high subsidies and major investments in the sector. Leakage rates are high, most of the poor are not even connected to the water lines, and the rate of water borne disease is among the highest in the world.  Further, despite high subsidies, when coping costs are included (household pumps, storage, and treatment, as well as lost time), the real cost to the consumer for this water is often higher than in other Asian countries that offer significantly better service.

To overcome these problems many organizations have sought to increase the water supply available through water tankers and public stand posts.  Others have focussed on Point of Use (POU) in-home treatment systems or sought to develop self-sustaining water kiosk systems where residents can purchase 10 litre containers of water at a nominal price. You can read more on the debate at (DOC; Size: 32KB).

The discussion process

The pros and cons of a 24/7 water supply were discussed at the Water Community’s Annual Forum held on 23-25 July 2008 (for more details please visit; PDF; Size: 600KB) and it was felt that the discussion should be taken up by the Community. As a follow-up this discussion will focus on the role of continuously pressurized (24/7) water supply.  No longer a “pipe dream”, 24/7 water has been provided in the last few years in Navi Mumbai, Mysore, Badlapur, Hubli-Darwad and Jamshedpur.

Some of the preconceptions I would like to challenge and discuss in response to proposals for 24/7 water supply are:

  • “24/7 water supply is wasteful as it requires too much water and would not be sustainable for most Indian cities”
  • “24/7 water is too expensive for India . The poor can’t afford it and the rich don’t need it”
  • “24/7 water supply, even if it could be achieved, would be inequitable to the poor, far better to ration water by hours of supply so that rich and poor alike have equal access”
  • “24/7 water supply is a needless luxury good, no one needs water 24 hours per day”

I will like to discuss each of the issues around 24/7 water supply, given above, to determine if they are genuine obstacles, major but surmountable challenges, or only simple misunderstandings.

Issue # 2    “24/7 Water Supply is too Expensive.”

Background: To the extent that continuous (24/7) water supply is even recognized as being technically possible, it is normally associated with wealthy countries like the U.S., Japan or the U.K. and/or wealthy individuals.  Therefore, according to this line of reasoning, 24/7 water is only possible for the rich. 

This kind of thinking certainly has logical appeal.  If 6 hours of water per day is barely affordable, for example, then obviously 24 hours per day would cost 4 times as much and would be well out of the reach of most people in a poor country like India.  Perhaps one day when India also becomes a wealthy country then 24/7 water would also be possible.

I seek the Community’s inputs on the following:

1. What do families with and without a metered connection pay for water (including water bills plus in home storage, pumping and treatment)?

2. What does it cost (per kilolitre of water) to produce, treat, and distribute this water and how much is recovered through user fees?

3. What are the other implications of intermittent water supply, e.g., impact on health, incomes, standard of living, etc?

The results of this discussion will feed into the on-going policy debate at the Administrative Staff College of India and help us to develop a framework on continuously pressurized water supply for cities.

Responses were received, with thanks, from

1. Vishwanath Srikantaiah, BIOME, Bangalore (Response 1) (Response 2)

2. Dinesh Kumar, Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad (Response 1) (Response 2)

3. A. Narayanamoorthy, Centre for Rural Development, Alagappa University, Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu

4. Jagannatha Rao, Centre for Sustainable Development (CSD), Bangalore

5. B.K. Singh, Mission Biofuels India Pvt Ltd, Jaipur

6. Jasveen Jairath, Water Sector Professional, Hyderabad (Response 1) (Response 2)

7. Anjal Prakash, SaciWATERs, Hyderabad (Response 1) (Response 2)

8. Manoj Kumar Sharma, Society for Integrated Land and Water Management, Palanpur, Gujarat

9. Venkatesh P., Bangalore Medical College , Bangalore

10. David1, Administrative Staff College of India , Hyderabad (Response 1) (Response 2) (Response 3) (Response 4) (Response 5) (Response 6) (Response 7) (Response 8) (Response 9) (Response 10)

11. Jyotsna BapatIndependent Consultant, New Delhi

12. Johnson Rhenius Jeyaseelan, WaterAid India , Lucknow

13. R. SreedharEnvironics Trust, New Delhi

14. N. Lakshmi NarayanaDakshinaya Institute, Guntur

15. B.L. Kaul, Society for Popularisation of Science, Jammu

16. Mihir Maitra, Independent Consultant, New Delhi

17. Rahul BanerjeeKhedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath, Indore

18. Arunabha MajumderJadavpur University, Kolkata

19. Nandkishore PurohitRajasthan Council of Primary Education (RCPE), Jaipur

Summary of Responses

The second part of the discussion on a Strategy for Improving Urban Water Supply covered the costs of 24X7 urban water supply. The cost of water treatment varies hugely depending on the quality of raw water, the distance of the source and the method of treatment. There is a general consensus that 24X7 supply is more expensive than an intermittent supply, and will not reduce consumption of water. However, intermittent supply can impact the health of consumers as it is more prone to contamination.

In most cities of India water treatment costs several times more than the water tariff. The received wisdom is that charges should cover the cost of treatment while the State provides for the capital costs; however, water pricing seldom reflects even this. The tariff ranges between Rs 2 and Rs 8 per 1000 litres (kilo litre or KL) in most cities, and is well below the cost of water treatment. This also does not cover the cost of treating wastewater. One estimate places the subsidy for a household consuming 25 KL of water a month in Bangalore at Rs 450.

In Delhi, the Delhi Jal Board has divided water charges into two parts, fixed and volumetric. The fixed domestic charge starts at Rs 40 per month for built-up areas of up to 200 sq m and peaks at Rs 600 for industrial connections. The volumetric charges for less than 6 KL per month is Rs 0, and this goes up to Rs 10 per KL for households drawing more than 30 KL per month. Industries pay five times that amount.

In Kolkata, the production of producing and distributing 1 KL of water is Rs 7. Charges for the same quantity start at Rs 3-4 per family per month for household connections, to Rs 5-6 per KL for institutions and peak at Rs 12-15 per KL for industrial connections. However, the costs are extremely variable. In Gujarat, it costs Rs 60-80 per KL.

Examples from abroad also indicate very variable costs of treatment. In Male, the capital of the Maldives, treated water costs Rs 250 a KL. In Israel, water from desalination plants costs Rs 24 per KL (USD 0.5 per KL) and Rs 48 in Saudi Arabia.

Most urban households have already made large investments in water sumps, pumps and other devices to ensure they can store water from the intermittent municipal supply. The discussion brought out this huge investment and raised the question of what people would do with these devices if provided 24X7 water supply.

The most contentious issue revolved around the wastage of water that would result from the continuous water supply. Nearly all Indian cities have water distributions networks that are prone to leakages and illegal extraction of water. They lose as much as half of the water that is treated and pumped into the pipes. Putting water round the clock in these systems would result in enormous wastages. It would also encourage people to waste water.

Before implementing a 24X7 water supply system, therefore, it is necessary to bring leakages down to 10 per cent, or even 5 per cent. This would make such a system viable by reducing losses. It would also help keep water charges reasonable, otherwise the utility would have to raise these sharply to cover the cost of treatment and distribution. In turn, this would affect poor people’s access to water in cities.

Examples from different parts of the world indicate that 24/7 does not mean less consumption unless tariffs are hiked phenomenally to reduce consumption. Prices have to be high to contain demand, but price elasticity depends on the income of the consumer group. Low-income consumers have relatively low price elasticity, so a small increase in tariff will cut their water use, but the system is different for higher income groups. An important principle while fixing urban water tariffs, therefore, must be the ability to pay and not only the cost of water.

If the current tariffs are a fraction of the cost of treatment and supply, there is a need to examine the subsidies implicit in water supply systems. Most of the families connected to the municipal supply are from the middle and upper-income groups, and they enjoy the benefits of the subsidy. The poor living in slums are not connected, and pay a much higher percentage of their monthly income for water. One estimate says the poor pay 10 times more for water than the rich.

Even though most consider 24X7 water supply as a luxury, it may actually work out cheaper than intermittent water supply situation if you factor in the cost of domestic water storage. There are many tariff regimes that can ensure the burden on the poor.

However, a well-managed system can deliver the goods equally to rich and poor. This comes out sharply in the case of Ramagundam, Andhra Pradesh. Initially, the municipality charged consumers a flat rate of Rs 50 per month for intermittent water supply. They overhauled the system, installed meters and improved their billing systems before starting a 24X7 water supply and charged Rs 50 a month on an average. However, they system degenerated and now they are back to a situation of intermittent water supply but the tariffs have doubled to Rs 100 a month.

Further, there is little correlation between hours of supply and management of the utility, even though the issue came up several times during the discussion. In Singapore, water supply is publicly managed, but it is privately owned in Paris . In the UK , most urban water systems are private while most of those in the U.S. are public. Contrarily, in Gujarat, intermittent water supply has only led to farmers drawing more water when the supply is available.

There is some evidence about the health impact of intermittent water supply. One case points to the increased incidence of jaundice due to the intermittent municipal water supply. In another, the rusted water supply pipes allow pathogens to build up inside and these enter the household water systems when the supply is switched on. However, most Indian cities have an intermittent supply and there is no evidence to say there is an epidemic of water-borne disease.

Implementing a continuous water supply system for cities, then, involves much more than increasing water supply. It begins with the political will to plug leakages, cover all parts of the cities including slums, meter connections and collect charges, and finally reduce the subsidies in the tariff regime.

Comparative Experiences

Andhra Pradesh

Change in Management leads to Collapse of 24/7 Water Supply, Ramagundam (from  David Foster, Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad; response 2)

Prior to providing 24/7 supply, Ramagundam charged residential users a rate of Rs. 50 per month. After extensive leak repairs, installing meters and improving billing and collection efficiency, it was able to provide 24/7 supply with a tariff of Rs. 50 per month. This system operated well for a while until there was a change in management and the system collapsed. Ramagundam is now back to intermittent supply, flat rates, and a tariff of Rs. 100 per month.


Jyotigram Yogna fails to Conserve Water (from Manoj Kumar Sharma, Society for Integrated Land and Water Management, Palanpur, Gujarat)

Jyotigram Yojna was introduced in the state, which involved separating the power feeder line for agriculture, from that for domestic power supply. This was to ensure that agriculture only gets 8 hours of power supply, thereby reducing water consumption. However, many farmers installed higher capacity motors to use more electricity in order to pump groundwater when supply was available. This showed that intermittent supply does not necessarily lead to water savings.


Singapore provides 24/7 Water without Additional Costs, Singapore (from David Foster, Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad; response 2)

Despite having very limited supply, Singapore has evolved as one of the best-managed water supply systems in the world.  It has achieved this by conserving water and achieving one of the lowest rates of leakage (less than 5 per cent). By doing this it provides continuously pressurized 24/7 water that is safe, sustainable and affordable.  People can drink water right out of the tap without any additional cost for household storage, pumping or treatment. Read more.

Related Resources 

Recommended Documentation

From Anjal Prakash, SaciWATERs, Hyderabad; response 2

Water for All - The Synthesis Report

Report; by James Wicken, Rabin Lal Shrestha, Tawheed Reza Noor, Ziaul Kabir, Biraj Swain, Depinder Singh Kapur, Belinda Calaguas and Girish Menon; WaterAid; London; March 2006;

Available at (PDF; Size: 512KB)

Looks at ADB supported water supply and sanitation projects in three countries in an attempt to study how sustainable water supply and sanitation services can be ensured

Water for All? Implementation of ADB's Water Policy in India: A Review

Report; by Renu Khosla, Shveta Mathur, Sumit Chakraborty, A.S. Dhamija and Abdul Rahim; WaterAid India; New Delhi; 2006;

Available at (PDF; Size: 1.71MB)

A research on water supply carried out under a three-country study programme to provide an independent input for the ADB initiated Water Policy Implementation Review

From Sunetra Lala, Research Associate

Economic Losses for Urban Water Scarcity in California

Paper; by Marion W. Jenkins, Jay R. Lund, and Richard E. Howitt; University of California, Davis, California, USA;;

Available at (PDF; Size: 150KB)

It demonstrates the practicality of developing reasonable economic loss functions for urban water supply studies, rather than conventional notions of water supply

Everything You Know about Water Conservation is Wrong  

Article; by Thomas M. Kostigen; Discover-Science, Technology and the Future; USA; May 2008

Available at

Explains how thinking about water differently should be a moral imperative, and discusses the geopolitical implications of agricultural exports and its relationship to water

When the Rivers Run Dry: Water - The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century  

Book; by Fred Pearce; Beacon Press; 2006; Permission Required: Yes, paid publication

Abstract available at

Addresses how the world is running out of the water. The book contends that the Western water “footprint” on the rest of the world is a major problem

Globalization of Water

Book; by Arjen Hoekstra and Ashok Chapagain; University of Twente; Blackwell Publishing; December 2007; Permission Required: Yes, paid publication

Abstract available at

Reviews the relationship between globalization and sustainable water management, explores the impact of international agricultural trade on local water depletion 

Recommended Contacts and Experts  

Prof. Srinivas Chary, Administrative Staff College of India, Andhra Pradesh (from Anjal Prakash, SaciWATERs, Hyderabad; response 1)

Urban Governance, and Infrastructure Development, Administrative Staff College of India, Bella Vista, Raj Bhavan Road, Khairatabad, Hyderabad 500082, Andhra Pradesh; Tel: 91-40-66533000; Fax: 91-40-23312954;

Has led several research and consulting assignments in the areas of policy development, municipal reforms, 24-7 water supply, universal sanitation, etc

Recommended Organizations and Programmes

Marsden Jacob Associates for Australian Conservation Foundation, Australia (from Dinesh Kumar, Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad; response 1)

Level 3, 683 Burke Road, Camberwell VIC 3124, Australia; Tel: 61-3-98821600; Fax: 61-3-98821300;

A consulting company, undertook a detailed analysis for cities in Australia which provides cost comparisons of different water supply and demand management options

From Jagannatha Rao, Centre for Sustainable Development, Bangalore

Centre for Sustainable Development, Karnataka

Public Utility Building 21/F, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Bangalore 560008, Karnataka; Tel: 91-80-57603839, 65603839; Fax: 91-80-25323020;

Is involved in a study with the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board to understand the costs and implications of water supply in Bangalore

Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board, Karnataka

1st Floor, CBAB Complex, Cauvery, Bhavan, K.G. Road, Bangalore, Karnataka; Tel: 91-80-22945100; Fax: 91-80-2215417;;

Makes provisions for water supply, sewerage and disposal of sewage in the Bangalore metropolitan area

From Anjal Prakash, SaciWATERs, Hyderabad; response 1

Parivartan, New Delhi

Parivartan, 5B, Navkala Apartments, 14, I P Extension, Patparganj, New Delhi 110092; Tel: 91-11-22727430; parivartan_india@rediffmail.com

It is a non-governmental, non-profit making, voluntary organisation, which claims that the total water supply in Delhi is much less than 250 lpcd as is usually claimed

Jamshedpur Utility and Services Company Ltd. (JUSCO), Jharkhand

Sakchi Boulevard Road, Northern Town, Bituspur, Jamshedpur 831001, Jharkhand; Tel: 91-657-2143507; Fax: 91-657-2424219; gsbasu@tatasteel.com

India’s only comprehensive urban infrastructure service provider, also responsible for piped water supply in the town of Jamshedpur

Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), Andhra Pradesh

Bella Vista, Raj Bhavan Road, Khairatabad, Hyderabad 500082; Tel: 91-40-66533000; Fax: 91-40-23312954; Contact S. K. Rao; Director General; 

Has pioneered management education in India, to synthesise managerial theory and practice, and is looking at issues of 24/7 water supply at the policy level

From Anjal Prakash, SaciWATERs, Hyderabad; response 2

Asian Development Bank, New Delhi

4 San Martin Marg, New Delhi 110021; Tel: 91-11-24107200; Fax: 91-11-26870955; adbinrm@adb.org

Source of financial assistance to Asian countries, conducted a study on the access to sustainable water and sanitation services for the urban poor in India

WaterAid India , New Delhi

C-3 Gate 1, Above Nursery School, Nelson Mandela Marg. Vasant Kunj, New Delhi 110070; Tel: 91-11-46084400; Fax: 91-11-46084411;;

A leading independent organization which enables the world's poorest people to gain access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene education

UN-HABITAT, Tamil Nadu (from Anjal Prakash, SaciWATERs, Hyderabad ; response 1

5th Floor (East Wing), Thalamuthu Natarajan Building , ( CMDA Building ), Egmore, Chennai 600008, Tamil Nadu; Tel: 91-44-28411302; Fax: 91-44-28516273; infohabitat@unhabitat.org

United Nations agency mandated to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities, and works in the area of provision of safe drinking water, etc

From Sunetra Lala, Research Associate

World Bank, New Delhi

70 Lodi Estate, New Delhi 110003; Tel: 91-11-24617241; Fax: 91-11-24619393;


Source of financial assistance to developing countries, including India and has evolved participatory approaches for water management in both rural and urban areas

Delhi Jal Board, New Delhi

Room No. 401, Varunalaya Ph-II, Karol Bagh, New Delhi 110005; Tel: 91-11-23556103;

Delhi Jal Board is responsible for the supply of 678 million gallons a day of filtered water to the capital as well as disposal of its sewage

Public Utilities Board (PUB), Singapore

40 Scotts Road, Environment Building, Singapore 228231; Tel: 65-62358888;

As the national water agency, PUB is responsible for the collection, production, distribution and reclamation of water in Singapore

National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi

Core 4B, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road , New Delhi 110003; Tel: 91-11-24643284; Fax: 91-11- 24617513;; Chetan Vaidya; Director; Tel: 91-11-24643284;

Features success stories on urban water supply and sanitation service delivery by urban local bodies, including their financial and overall sustainability

Recommended Portals and Information Bases

India Water Portal, Arghyam, Karnataka (from David Foster, Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad; response 3); Contact Deepak Menon; Product Manager; Tel: 9980010962;

Discusses the hidden cost involved behind providing ‘free water’ and why household connections are usually a much better way to provide water than public stand posts

Related Consolidated Replies 

Strategy for Improving Urban Drinking Water Supply: Issue 1 - 24/7 Water Supply is Wasteful, David Foster, Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad. Water Community, Solution Exchange India,

Issued 17/09/09. Available at (PDF, Size: 184KB)

Seeks inputs regarding whether a 24/7 water supply encourage people to conserve water and if a well-managed continuously pressurized water supply system requires more water

Responses in Full 

Vishwanath Srikantaiah, BIOME, Bangalore (response 1)

I am sure that it will be good to include a table of tariffs along with the hours of supply as a measure that will inform us to what exactly causes people to reduce water consumption when it is 24/7. Is it just reliability? Or is it the costs? Or a mix of both?

Male in the Maldives made a mess of its groundwater aquifers and used rainwater harvesting not efficiently and then had to resort to desalination for its pressurized supply. The cost of water is 5 $ a cubic metre approx Indian Rupees 250 /- a kilo litre. That would perhaps explain the reason it is 80 lpcd because a family of 5 would consume 12 kilo-litres and would have a bill of Rs 3000 /- peer month. Pretty much a safe inducement for low consumption of water and nothing I am sure to do with the reliability of water supply.

Similarly Singapore too more than doubled its water tariff from1997 to 2000 and has been surviving also partly on cheap water from Johor Malaysia to keep costs down. Singapore 's water in terms of embedded energy is one of the highest in the world and the carbon emission cost now externalized from water is also one of the highest.

In general David makes the point that somehow 24/7 means less consumption or less lpcd. New York for example has 24/7 water and per capita consumption is more than 250 lpcd so does the town of Guelph in Canada . City after city in the USA have 24/7 and consumptions ways above 300 lpcd too. Sydney , Australia has 24/7 supply and consumption was close to 600 lpcd. Smaller townships in Bangalore which manage their own water 24/7 report consumptions of anywhere between 250 to 600 lpcd even when they buy water from private tankers at Rs 30 to 35 a kilo-litre. These are of course high end consumers with affordability.

So let us not fool ourselves that 24/7 means less consumption unless tariffs are hiked phenomenally and work as an incentive to reduce consumption – it is not bad in itself but something that has to be recognized. Further Surat municipality for example does NOT supply water 24/7 yet its consumers have hardly or no cases of water borne disease. 

Just wanted to place my views as we go along to this next level of discussion.

Dinesh Kumar, Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad (response 1)

Let me first congratulate David Foster for having begun the discussions on this hot topic.

  • The annualized cost per cubic metre of water through desalination works out to be US $ 0.50 now (in Israel as reported by Saul Arlosoroff, Chairman- National Water Commission, and "Mekorot", Israel ) and 1.0 in Saudi Arabia . The US companies which set up large plants in Saudi were un-nerved when Israel set up cheaper desalination systems for their country. Of course, the cost of supply system has to be added to this. So, location would matter a lot. If we use, saline groundwater, the cost could reduce significantly as membrane cost would be lower.
  • In north Gujarat, our cost per cubic metre of water (for not so optimally designed system) for two villages was Rs. 60-80. 
  • Vishwanath is quite right when he says that prices have to be generally high for the demand to respond to tariff changes, and simply 24/7 water supply will not ensure reduced consumption. But, "what exactly that price would be" (where the demand respond to price changes) is also determined by the income level and climate. At low incomes, the price elasticity of the demand would be high and vice versa (as many research studies show). This means, a substantial reduction in demand could be achieved with slight increase in price in low income situations. Hence, we will find that these "prices" are also affordable and hence socio-economically viable. Also, in hot & arid climate, it would be difficult to achieve much demand reduction through prices alone.
  • The figures available from a detailed analysis carried out for cities in Australia (Marsden Jacob Associates for Australian Conservation Foundation) provides some cost comparisons of different water supply and demand management options. I am afraid such figures (which David is looking for) are not available for  India .  The cost per cubic metre of water obtained for Australia was 0.10-1.5 AUD for storm water reuse; 1.5 AUD for groundwater use; up to 5 AUD for loss reduction; AUD 1.3- 9.30 for long distance pipeline; AUD 0.35- 3.00 for dams & surface water; AUD 1.15-3.5 for seawater desalination; and finally AUD 2.15 - 12.3 for roof water collection tanks. Here, you can see the wide range for long distance pipeline and roof water tank. In the first case, the cost is a function of the distance. In the case of RWH tank, the cost is a function of the amount of rainfall, roof area; and the pattern of rainfall. For large roof areas, for high rainfall, and for large tanks under more or less evenly distributed rainfall, the cost per cubic metre could come down to the lowest (i.e., 2.15 AUD). 
  • We should also remember that we should not simply compare the cost figures to take investment decisions. Most of these options have limits in terms of the amount of water they could supply or save. So, a combination of various alternatives will have to be used in many situations, especially when demands are large.  

I am stopping it here, hoping that it will generate more discussions in the coming days.

A. Narayanamoorthy, Centre for Rural Development, Alagappa University, Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu

I have been reading lot of important points on the improved urban water supply, which are very interesting and useful for researchers like me. I completely agree with Dinesh Kumar that the investment decisions on supplying water especially to domestic sector should not be based on the cost of water.  The ability to pay principle must be adopted while fixing the water tariff.

Another important issue that is generated through this portal is that whether 24/7 water supply would reduce the consumption of water or not.  I do not think that mere 24/7 supply alone would reduce the consumption of water, as it is determined by a number of supply and demand factors.  Surely increased supply of water would allow the consumers to use it inefficiently, if pricing is not fixed appropriately.  Why should we discuss about 24/7 water supply in India, where water supply in most of the cities is only 2/24?

Jagannatha Rao, Centre for Sustainable Development (CSD), Bangalore

The discussions have provided us with a lot of useful information. We would like to contribute by providing information regarding some of the initiatives taken from CSD in Bangalore towards mitigating problems with respect to urban water supply. The city of Bangalore is meeting its water requirement mostly through more than 60 km of water pipelines from the Kavari River and the rest through exploitation of ground water. Certainly cost of supply of per cubic meter of water is very high. Now, we have initiated a study in collaboration with Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board to understand the costs and implications of water supply, meanwhile to educate consumers through lifestyle changes in water use. The study has been initiated in residential areas on daily and weekly monitoring of water use through attitudinal changes for which tools have been developed. We will be happy to share more information on this.

B.K. Singh, Mission Biofuels India Pvt Ltd, Jaipur

Taking the question raised by A. Narayanamoorthy “Why should we discuss about 24/7 water supply in India where water supply in most of the cities is only 2/24?” even further I am of the opinion that it is only dream that potable water will be available 24/7 in most of the parts of the country, both rural and urban. It is not possible, it will be better if we work on the issues mentioned below:

  • Increase awareness to masses on conservation of drinking water as it the very precious
  • Working towards institutionalizing peer pressure among members associated with common taps
  • Water supply departments must fix the timings to supply water, which need to be communicated to water users. For example it is fixed in Jaipur city that in the morning it is from 5 to 6 am and in the evening from 5 to 6 pm. There are also examples where water supply schedule is not fixed e.g. Beawar in Ajmer district
  • Drinking water budgeting on family level as it is being done in arid parts of the country
  • Heavy subsidies on water conservation and purification
  • Heavy pricing for water must not be the strategy as it is very much essential for life and in turn will not be accessible by poor citizens.
  • Micro examples of conservation by NGOs/institutions etc, which are successful must be collected, disseminated and made operational on a macro level.

Jasveen Jairath, Water Sector Professional, Hyderabad (response 1)

24/7 supply in some pockets of cities/habitations does not warranty their efficacy in the whole unit since water can be guaranteed to a part at the expense of the whole. It is thus not an issue of simply replicating micro success at the macro level. It has been mentioned by Vishwanath that 24/7 in Mysore is not working in the city and we are not sure about the situation in other cities where such claims may be made. We need more detailed data on established functionality. I know that in Hyderabad it has been implemented only in two middle class residential localities. Translating it to the entire city will raise a whole lot of planning issues.

If there is no planning for managing domestic water and sewerage treatment of entire new areas coming under HMDA what is the confidence in bringing about changes in inhabited areas? All construction activity in the last 5 years has been undertaken without concomitant provision of watsan. Can we think of planting 24/7 in the midst of such chaotic urban governance? Can 24/7 water supply keep chasing such haphazard expansion of water demand that is dictated by real estate interests pushed by politician/bureaucratic lobby?

As in the case of sewerage why can’t decentralized storages be explored with local regulation of water use? This will enable macro monitoring of water allocation across different localities and better able to detect as-symmetries in access to a public service at given cost.

Do we have comprehensive data on total water availability for urban centres, existing water allocations, preferentially in terms of cost and guaranteeing supply to corporate sectors, SEZs, institutions etc?

Anjal Prakash, SaciWATERs, Hyderabad (response 1)

I am writing to you in the middle of the National Workshop “From Infrastructure to Services: Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor’ being organized by Water Aid and UN Habitat in Bhopal. I was fortunate to hear the presentation from David Foster on the Hidden Costs and benefits in Water Supply leading to the argument for cities to have 24X7 water supplies in India. The argument is well crafted – David Foster made us calculate how much does it cost for the poor to get water from a far off place (rather than having water from their tap – most probably 24X7) and the graph automatically calculated that rich are paying far less than the poor that poor pays more, that an improved water supply will decrease the health burden, etc.

Well, this argument is nothing new and anyone who is working in Urban WatSan wouldn’t differ from the argument that a larger proportion of poor person’s income goes in getting access to water supply and that there are many advantages for having water supply and safe sanitation bordering on health and other related benefits. However, there are issues of the affordability of the poor for an improved water supply. When David calculated the cost of water that poor pay using a simplistic estimate based on the cost of fetching water being equated with wage rate employment, one wondered how to calculate the opportunity cost of the poor from gainful employment.

People live in low income settlements without access to water and sanitation only because they can’t afford to live in settlements where accessing these basic services cost. They can’t afford largely because they do not have opportunity for gainful employment. How could we equate daily wage of a woman if there are no opportunities for her to be gainfully employed? There are other issues of city wide pipe systems not being strong enough to supply 24X7 water. Engineers at the workshop, debated that the infrastructure in Indian cities are not equipped to handle 24X7 water supply and that a superior system (city wide) needs huge investment where will this money come from? People like Dr. Avinash Jutshi and Dr. Kulkarni (of Bhagirathi) argued on these lines.

Another issue was the comparisons of Delhi and Paris which gets 250 and 150 lpcd respectively but the hours of water supply varies between one digit to 24 hours respectively. So a 24X7 water supply can happen even in 150 lpcd scenario and when Paris can do this, why can’t Delhi? Now, there was almost an agreement that even the government system doesn’t know the calculation of water demand and supply in any city – I wonder who calculated 250 lpcd water supply in Delhi and how? Is it as simple as water supply divided by population? If yes, then what about productive use of water other than domestic sector? What about non-revenue water? Has that been taken into account? Organisations like Parivartan has argued before that the total water supply in Delhi is much less than 250 lpcd as claimed and it is mainly due to accounted water. Does comparing two cities with different agro-climatic conditions, water availability and management scenarios and different history of economic development proves the case?

Despite these issues, I support David Foster’s argument that we need 24X7 water supplies for the obvious reason that there is no harm in thinking of a superior system. So where is the problem? Dr.Foster raised number of myths that goes against the argument of having 24X7 water supplies. These myths are also listed in his 4 statements that he has provided us to discuss one by one.

I asked him to let us know which cities in India or south Asia have implemented the idea of 24X7 water supply and what evidences we have if this has worked well there. From my understanding, I do not know any well operational city-wide initiative for 24X7 water supplies in India . JUSCO’s example was given as a passing remark where this has been achieved. Having born and brought up and being connected to Jamshedpur, I do admire the status of basic services there but we shouldn’t forget that it is a planned city where people are directly related to one establishment (Tata Group of Companies) and that makes the service much easy. However, even in JUSCO operated areas, the unaccounted water is about 20%. JUSCO doesn’t operate in entire Jamshedpur city but only in the areas which is controlled by Tatas. The moment you go out of JUSCO area, there are problems of water supply. If JUSCO can make it happen in their area so efficiently and with profit, why can’t they extend the same services in areas outside Tata town?  At a conceptual level and for academic discussions, 24X7 water supplies definitely is a good idea but the fallacy lies in the concerns that lead to non-operationalisation of this idea. 24X7 water supplies in India is not devoid of issues of governance, inequity, urban planning, decentralization, integrated planning and urban poverty.

To many people I spoke to in the workshop, the apprehension was of the back door entry of privatization of utilities in the name of 24X7 water supply and the urban poor. I have very limited understanding on this issue but I would like the group to keep me and others informed on the policy prescription that follows the agreement on a city-wide 24X7 water supply arrangement. I would be happy to know that the policy prescription of 24X7 water supplies actually doesn’t lead in favour of the privatization of utilities.

Further, Prof. Srinivas Chary of ASCI who was chairing this interesting session informed the group that the idea has been tried in Mysore , Latur, Hubli and Dharwar cities of India and that it is working well. I should stand corrected if I got this wrong from Prof Chary but if it is true, I would be glad if the group shares their experiences and the nuances of how is this noble concept been working in these cities, what benefits poor have been extended to this request is especially for people who are working more closely in these cities.

Manoj Kumar Sharma, Society for Integrated Land and Water Management, Palanpur, Gujarat

After going through the points raised by many colleagues on the issue of 24/7 versus restricted water supply, I would like to make the following observation.

While there does not seem to be any well-documented study of the impact of intermittent water supply over 24/7 supply, some of the learning from power supply restriction in agriculture may be useful. The Government of Gujarat introduced Jyotigram Yojna 3-4 years ago in the entire state, which involved separating the power feeder line for agriculture, from that of domestic power supply. By doing this they wanted to make sure that agriculture gets only 8 hours of power supply. The reason was that earlier, some large farmers used to tap electricity from single phase supply for agriculture (from the common feeder), after three phase supply was cut off to cover the deficits. 

Many expected that energy consumption in agriculture would come down due to Jyotigram scheme. But, contrary to this belief, what had actually happened is that many farmers installed higher capacity motors to use more electricity (in order to pump more groundwater) when supply is available.  This kind of power theft is difficult to be detected in raids than that of direct tapping from feeder line. Rampant under-reporting of connected load is seen, thereby heavy pilferage and increased revenue losses. This was also confirmed by Gujarat Electricity Board’s data on agricultural power consumption at the state level, which increased quite a bit.

To sum up, the learning for urban water supply is that we need water rationing and not restricting the hours of supply of water.

Venkatesh P., Bangalore Medical College , Bangalore

I agree with Jasveen Jairath about uncontrolled urbanization and WatSan not matching the speed. It could be said in another way wherein I reiterate the point that the politicians/bureaucrats power play has given rise to mindless construction which has not considered the WatSan issues. In fact in Bangalore there is a written order to those who constructed residential complexes/houses with capacity of 50 and more have to construct their own rainwater harvesting and sewage treatment system in their place. Unfortunately for two reasons: (1) Lack of space due to complete utilization of the available space without considering the points of WatSan (2) The existing rules are just confined to the books of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) which is not being implemented either due to lack of awareness of such conditions/lack of communication of the same to the people, more so in case of the residential apartments and households.

David FosterAdministrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad (response 1)

It was great to meet with so many of you at the Water Aid National Workshop on Water and Sanitation last week in Bhopal.  Unfortunately, while it was wonderful to have the opportunity to discuss water and sanitation issues with so many of you first hand, it also put me far behind in responding to some of the most recent questions and comments regarding 24/7 Water on Solution Exchange.

With this in mind, I want to briefly review the comments and responses regarding impact of 24/7 water supply on water requirements and then move directly to our current topic regarding the impact of 24/7 water supply on water affordability.

Impact of 24/7 Water Supply on Water Quantity Requirements

I want to first reemphasize that well managed 24/7 Water Supply requires 24/7 Management including all the elements we have discussed in terms of leak detection and repair, metering and appropriate tariffs, efficient billing and collection, and good public education and awareness.  To the best of my knowledge, no one has been suggesting that simply turning water on 24 hours per day would be a reasonable strategy much less that it would somehow magically reduce water requirements.  What we have sought to consistently demonstrate is that when 24/7 systems are properly designed, operated and maintained, they need not require any more water than the typical intermittent supply system currently operating in India.

Sadly, not all systems that provide 24/7 supply have done a particularly good job of leak management and this includes some systems in New York as well some early attempts in India.  However, I firmly believe that every well managed system, also provides 24/7 water supply. The very best quality, most efficient water supply systems all over the world provide 24/7 supply.  Once again, I reiterate my challenge to help us identify a single safe, sustainable, affordable urban water supply system that does not provide continuously pressurized 24/7 water.

Impact of 24/7 Water Supply on Cost of Providing Safe and Sustainable Water

Before responding to specific cost questions on 24/7 water supply it is important to first review the various costs that we all pay for water.  While we tend to focus on the water tariff which, in most Indian cities averages between 2 and 8 Rupees per kiloliter, this is actually a relatively small portion of the total costs that are paid.  Most of the readers of this email here in India pay far more for the underground storage in our homes, the roof top tanks and the pumps to move the water from ground to roof top.  In fact, most of us pay more for the power to pump that water than we do for the water itself.  And, sadly, most of us still can’t drink the water when it gets there (despite the fact that it was already treated in the central treatment plant) 0D because the water was contaminated during distribution.  Consequently, we must also pay for an aqua-guard or boiling or some other form of treatment in our homes.

Ironically, although most of us look on 24/7 water supply as a luxury, in most cases 24/7 supplies actually cost less IF YOU COUNT ALL THE COSTS.  Continuously pressurized 24/7 supply costs far less precisely because when the water is properly managed it arrives with sufficient pressure to reach the third floor of most homes and arrives with sufficient reliability and quality that no further storage or treatment is necessary.  Intermittent Supply only looks cheaper only because the water authority hides those costs and hands them off to the consumer. 

With this in mind, I challenge each of you to calculate your total cost of providing water to your families (including the coping costs of storage, pumping and treatment costs) and I believe that you will quickly find that you are paying far more than people who live in cities providing 24/7 service.

In addition, not only does intermittent supply cost the homeowner more, but it also costs the city more:

  • Intermittent supply actually requires larger pipes because an entire day’s supply of water must be distributed during just a few hours instead of over a 24 hour period.
  • Intermittent supply subjects the entire pipe network to shaking or “water hammer” each time the water main is turned off and on thus significantly reducing the useful life of pipes joints and valves.
  • Intermittent supply also reduces the useful life of most water meters by continually subjecting them to repeatedly being wet and then dry and thus allowing mineral deposits to build up on the surface.
  • Intermittent supply reduces customer satisfaction and thus reduces willingness to pay and typically leads to lower efficiencies in bill collection.

Finally, as we will discuss later in the section under equity, intermittent supply places a special burden on the poor precisely because they cannot afford the various storage containers, pumps and treatment systems employed by their wealthier neighbours.

In addition to these summary comments, I will also seek to respond to each of the great questions raised in the course of this solution exchange.

David FosterAdministrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad (response 2)

Vishwanath Srikantaiah has raised some excellent issues regarding 24/7 water:

1)  What exactly causes people to reduce water consumption (the water demanded at their homes) he asks?   It turns out to be a combination of at least three factors:

a. The reliability: That is, knowing that they do not need to hoard water because there will be a continuous supply of good quality water.

b. The public awareness and public discipline:  In some areas, where public awareness and discipline are very strong, people will be careful to conserve water even without meters but in most areas reliable volumetric meters combined with appropriate tariffs are often required to remind people of the real value of water and to enforce public discipline.

c. The existence of reliable meters, appropriate tariffs, and efficient billing and collection:  Interestingly, this does not normally require very high tariffs when these systems also include a good public awareness program.  One of the most effective systems is an increasing block rate or “Telescoping” tariff.  Such tariffs can start by imposing no charge on the first 3 kl (kiloliters), then increase to Rs 3 for the next 3 kl then Rs 5, Rs 7, etc.  While the tariffs will vary considerably depending; among other things on the leakage rates, the distance that water must be transported, and the requirements for cost 0D recovery; in most cases 24/7 water actually costs less than intermittent supply and the rate for the highest tariff block does not normally need to be more than 2 to 3 times the average cost in order to really promote conservation.

It should also be noted that there are a wide variety of possible tariff systems.  Some cities provide reduced overall rates in low-income areas or for BPL families with cross subsidies coming from commercial and APL consumers.  Other cities provide more uniform tariffs.  In many cases when the 24/7 system is first installed demand for water initially does go up and then, when people learn to read their meters and conserve water, demand usually goes back down to an average of between 100 and 150 LPCD.  This was the case with demonstration programs in Ramagundam (SEE # 7 below), Kukapalli and most recently in Navi Mumbai.

2)  Vishwanath goes on to point out that there are many problems in the Maldives.  I would not dispute any of this.  My only reason for referencing Male was simply to demonstrate that even when water supply is extremely limited, analysts have concluded that the most efficient way to distribute it is still via 24/7 supply. I was in no way defending the mess they may have made regarding rainwater harvesting or ground water management.  In fact, I have consistently said that these sources should be considered and carefully managed.

3)  Similarly regarding Singapore, this is universally regarded as one of the best-managed water systems in the world.  Despite having very limited supply, Singapore has responded by conserving water and achieving one of the lowest rates of leakage (< 5%) and it provides continuously pressurized 24/7 water that is Safe, Sustainable and Affordable.  People can drink water right out of the tap and they do not have to bare any additional cost for household storage, pumping or treatment.  Finally, if Singapore’s embedded energy cost in its water system is high because of its need to transport water from Malaysia or to use desalinization, I need to ask Vishwanath if he really feels that employing intermittent supply in Singapore would in any way improve the safety, reliability of this water supply or reduce its cost or energy intensity.  If they have had to raise the tariffs it is because of legal requirements to recover the cost.  Even Singapore’s worst critics cannot provide any evidence that the increase in tariffs is a consequence of 24/7 supply or that switching to intermittent supply would in anyway improve overall performance.

4)  As to Vishwanath’s points regarding 24/7 supply in New York and in Canada, let me repeat once again:  I am not claiming that all 24/7 systems are well managed.  I am saying instead that all well managed systems (those providing safe, sustainable and affordable water) also employ 24/7 supply.  Obviously, different parts of the world have different priorities.  Canada, parts of the U.S. and parts of Australia have abundant water and water conservation has not been as high a priority.  Similarly parts of the U.S. and major parts of Australia are much more water stressed and there you will find that they manage water much more efficiently.

5)    While I have heard great stories regarding the clean up of Surat, most of those concern improvements in solid waste management.  Frankly, I have never heard anyone claim that there are no incidents of water borne disease in Surat.  (Remember, we are not simply talking of Cholera and Hepatitis here but every other disease including childhood diarrhea).  None-the-less, I will make every effort to visit Surat in the next few months and I will ask Vishwanath to visit Navi Mumbai or Badlapur and then we will compare notes.

6)  As to the claim that tariffs will need to be “hiked phenomenally” to prevent people from using too much water, the facts just do not support Vishwanath on this matter.  In what city providing 150 LPCD have those tariffs been “hiked phenomenally”?  Not only does 24/7 water supply not require the extra coping cost of household storage, pumps and treatment but the volumetric tariffs can be structured to provide “lifeline rates” for the poor while having average rates that need do no more than the recover the cost of operation and maintenance.  If the tariffs in your city currently cover those costs, then you would probably see no increase in average tariffs at all.  If, however, your current tariffs are well below the cost of operation, then you need to ask yourselves whether it is really appropriate to continue to use government money to provide such high subsidies to APL families when most of the BPL families are not even connected to the water lines.

7)  To illustrate this last point, let me tell the story of Ramagundam in Andhra Pradesh.  Prior to providing 24/7 supply, the municipality charged residential users a flat rate of Rs. 50 per month.  Then, after extensive leak repair and installing meters and improving billing and collection efficiency, Ramagundam was able to provide 24/7 supply with an average tariff of Rs 50 per month.  By all accounts this system operated quite well for a period of 18 months until there was a change in management and the system collapsed.  Sadly after the management changed and the water meters were ignored, Ramagundam is now back to intermittent supply, flat rates, and average tariffs of nearly Rs 100 per month.

David FosterAdministrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad (response 3)

A. Narayanamoorthy raises 3 important issues regarding pricing and 24/7 water:

1. He raises an important question regarding whether the price of water should be based on the cost or on the ability to pay.  As it turns out, we should consider both cost and ability to pay but unfortunately, most current systems consider neither.  Almost all cities in India currently provide large subsidies in the name of protecting the poor; the poor get little benefit from those subsidies, as most are not even connected to the water lines.  Rajiv Ghandi’s point about most of the subsidies not reaching the poor was certainly true about the water sector.  And, for those who think the poor are taken care of through “Free” water provided at public stand posts and by water tankers, I will suggest that you take a look at the following website: As this site describes, the real cost of water to the poor under our current systems is typically at least 10 times as much as the cost of water to the rich.

Fortunately, when household connections with water meters are made available even to poor families, they can be assured of an adequate supply at an affordable cost. Not with standing this need to provide affordable water to the poor, urban local bodies will still need to recover the cost at least of operation and maintenance or else their water systems will continue to deteriorate.  As discussed previously, because of poor maintenance most water systems in India currently waste at least half of the water during distribution and many lose far more. This means that those cities are also wasting 50% or more of the power used for pumping and 50% or more of the labour used for maintenance. For these reasons it is critical that tariffs also be based on the cost of supplying water so that the pipes can be better maintained and these leaks can be reduced.

Once again, however, using reliable meters and efficient billing and collection systems increasing block rate or “Telescoping” tariffs can be developed.  In this manner these costs can be allocated in such a manner that water is still affordable for the poor while higher income families and those who insist on using large quantities of water pay more.

2. The second issue is whether the mere provision of 24/7 water would reduce consumption and, as we all now know, 24/7 supply without good management would actually lead to more waste of water.

3. The third issue raised by Narayanamoorthy is why should we be discussing 24/7 water at all when most cities only supply 2/24?  This is an important question but it is a little like saying why should we try to cure disease when so many people or sick?  Or, why should we try to improve nutrition when so=2 0many people are hungry?  If you have been fallowing this discussion you will realize that most of those same cities that now provide only 2 hours per day could provide Safe, Sustainable, and Affordable water for all their citizens if they were only willing to convert to a well managed continuously pressurized 24/7 supply system.  Remember, of course, that 24/7 supply does not simply mean opening the valves 24 hours a day on a leaky poorly managed system.  It means providing 24/7 management including: good leak detection and repair, reliable meters and efficient billing and collection, and good governance and public awareness.

Jyotsna Bapat, Independent Consultant, New Delhi

Here is an idea - it sounds quite outlandish at first, but take a minute and think through it. May be there is merit to it. How about taxing waste water that comes out of a building complex or household colony? But sources of waste water can be taxed and then the amount divided equally between all residents to pay the tax.

This will achieve two purposes - the residents will be encouraged to reuse and recycle their waste water instead of throwing it away and using fresh water every time for flushing or gardening, etc. Secondly, it will help to deal with any dispute about water quality or availability issues as criteria for levying water tax.  I was just wondering about this possibility.

David FosterAdministrative Staff College of India , Hyderabad (response 4)

I appreciated Vishwanath Srikantaiah’s questions but failed to adequately respond to his comment regarding the carbon footprint or the embedded energy of a water system.

He rightly point out that some water systems can be very energy intensive and in fact for most water supply systems the energy cost is the first or second biggest expense that they incur. Furthermore, this embedded energy is even greater in intermittent systems than it is in well managed 24/7 systems.

To understand this comment first think of the small pump that you and most urban citizens have in their homes and then multiply the energy consumption of that pump by the many millions of such homes throughout India.  Yes, it is true that 24/7 supply may require some additional pumps to be operated by the urban local body but these pumps will be large efficient pumps that can be operated in off peak hours and will require far less energy than the millions of small inefficient pumps.

David FosterAdministrative Staff College of India , Hyderabad (response 5)

B. K. Singh raises many valuable points that many of you may also share. And yet (as you might suspect), I reach a totally different conclusion.  He concludes that 24/7 supply is only a pipe dream and that “it is not possible.” Before responding to his comments let me first remind you that most countries in Asia and many in Africa and the Middle East have found that well managed continuously pressurized 24/7 water is quite possible and their citizens are already enjoying the benefits of Safe, Sustainable and Affordable water.  These countries include many that have less water per capita than India and many that have far less money and less expertise. Furthermore, they have found that Intermittent Supply is not only no solution to the problem of water shortages, Intermittent Supply is itself a major cause of the water supply problem.

Please allow me to briefly review why I believe that Intermittent Supply contributes to that problem:

1. Intermittent Supply (limiting the hours of supply and turning the valves on the water main off and on throughout the day) is a terrible way to ration water.

a. It actually leads to the waste of water by shaking pipes (creating a “water hammer”) and increasing the leaks,

b. It encourages people to hoard water one day and throw it out the next when fresh water becomes available the next day,

c. It causes people to “let the water run down the drain for a few minutes” when it first comes on because the water is noticeably contaminated and discoloured, and

d. It makes it more difficult to find leaks as the most effective leak detection systems work best during “off peak” hours.

2. Intermittent Supply actually costs more because it imposes major additional coping costs:

a. On the consumer in terms of in home storage, pumps and treatment and

b. On the city in terms of increased cost for larger pipes and more frequent replacement of pipes, valves, joints and meters.

3. In addition, as we will discuss in the coming weeks, Intermittent Supply, also leads directly to contamination of the water supply during distribution and imposes inequitable burdens on the poor because they can not afford the coping costs (storage, pumps, treatment) purchased by higher income families.

Not-with-standing these problems, I fully agree with many of Singh’s other points including:

  • Need for increased public awareness,
  • Role of incentives for conservation,
  • Need to protect the poor, and
  • Need to replicate and institutionalize many of the great micro examples and pilot projects developed by NGOs.

Finally, while I fully agree with B.K. Singh on the importance of at least these last several points, there is no reason why we cannot work on those issues while we are working on the provision of 24/7 water supply.

David FosterAdministrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad (response 6)

I greatly appreciate Anjal Prakash’s questions and support and only wish that he had raised more of these questions with me in person at the Water Aid National Workshop where we could have worked together to provide appropriate answers.

The simple model he is referring to is available at the same website that I mentioned earlier: As Anjal rightly says, this is primarily a means of reminding critics that so called “free water” can be pretty expensive,  This is true  whether the person carrying the water is a young girl who should be in school or an adult trying to exist on a severely limited income.  The "opportunity cost" is simply your best estimate of what they could do with the time saved and its value.

Anjal is also correct in saying that there were serious questions as to whether Indian cities could provide the infrastructure for 24/7 water.  When it was pointed out, however, that cities in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Uganda have provided this level of service, then most participants began to think that India could do this also.  Likewise, the examples from Jamshedpur, Hubli and Navi Mumbai further caused participants to recognize that 24/7 need no longer be a pipe-dream.

Anjal was not alone in being surprised that Paris has long provided 24/7 service with only 150 LPCD while many cities in India produce far more than this and still provide only a few hours of service per day.  This confirms that for most cities it is not the just quantity of water but the quality of the management.

Although there is still limited experience in India with 24/7 supply, experience from other countries clearly demonstrates that this service can be provided in old as well as planned cities, rich and poor communities, and in countries with both limited water supply and those with abundant water supply. Furthermore, even the limited experience in India already demonstrates that 24/7 supply can be provided in slum areas at affordable rates.

Finally, regarding the question of links between 24/7 water supply and privatization, there are plenty of examples of both public and private 24/7 systems.  The answer is that the hours of supply per day do not dictate the form of ownership.  The highly regarded system in Singapore is public while the one in Paris is private.  Most urban water systems in the UK are private while most of those in the U.S. are public.  These decisions regarding ownership of water supply grew out of the local history, culture and systems of governance but the real issue is not whether the system is public or private but whether it is efficiently managed and provides safe, sustainable and affordable water to all.

David Foster, Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad (response 7)

Jasveen Jairath has every right to be skeptical.  Like you Jasveen has heard far too many schemes that did not work out and learned that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Nonetheless, I ask all of you to see if we are really talking about 24/7 supply in “some pockets” of cities/habitations. Rather than a few “pockets” we are talking about all urban areas of Canada, U.S., Europe, Japan, most major cities in South America China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and South Africa, and even capital cities in Cambodia, Uganda and Kenya.  Even more important, when you carefully examine these pockets, in most cases they are not indulging in some “luxury” at the expense of their neighbors. The amount of water actually provided in areas with 24/7 supply is usually no more than what was previously provided (on a per capita basis) when the areas were provided just a few hours of water at a time.

When you look at a world map it quickly becomes apparent that India and Pakistan are conspicuous by their failure to provide Safe, Sustainable and Affordable 24/7 water supply.  You don’t have to take this on faith. Google any major city of your choice and check out their water supply.  Just remember   when you compare the costs per kiloliter in these cities remember that people living in cities with 24/7 water normally do not need to pay for in house water storage, pumping and treatment.

While it is true that I mistakenly included Mysore on the list and it is also true that Hyderabad has thus far only introduced 24/7 water in middle class residential areas, Navi Mumbai has already included many of its slums in its 24/7 network and it is already providing this service to over 5 lakh people.  Furthermore, millions of poor people all over the world are receiving 24/7 water.

While Jasveen makes some strong arguments on the need for better urban planning in Hyderabad, none of these arguments provide reasons for supplying water through intermittent supply.

Finally, I fully agree with Jasveen regarding the need for better data regarding water availability and projected water requirements for urban areas.

David FosterAdministrative Staff College of India , Hyderabad (response 8)

I will look forward to talking with Jaganatha Rao regarding his important study with BWSSB regarding the costs and implications of water supply.  In particular I hope that he will be able to also help estimate the coping costs that most people in Bangalore incur in getting their water.  By coping costs I am referring to the cost of household storage, pumping and treatment.  In most cases we believe that these costs not only far exceed the cost of pumping water from the Kavari river but in most cases these costs would be unnecessary if BWSSB provided continuously pressurized (24/7) water.  Furthermore, I believe that if he calculated the energy consumption from all the small inefficient household pumps we would find that 24/7 water would also significantly reduce not only the cost of water supply in Bangalore but its carbon footprint.

I also fully agree with Venkatesh and Jasveen about the need for better building regulations and better enforcement of those regulations.  One such rule employed in many countries is to require builders and developers to first provide all necessary infrastructure (including water, sewer, drainage, roads, and power) before new residences could be occupied.  While I agree with the desirability of providing a better regulatory framework,  I do not see this as a valid argument in favour of Intermittent Water Supply or as an explanation as to why Intermittent Supply would cost less than properly managed 24/7 supply.

I would also like to thank Manoj Kumar Sharma for his valuable comments.  Like him I believe that many useful lessons can be derived from the power sector. Water, like energy, is a valuable commodity and it must be rationed in some fashion.  Typically in the power sector we refer to this as "demand management" and many of the same principles apply.  The goal is to provide adequate supplies to the poor while still providing incentives to limit excessive use.

Another valuable lesson learned from the power sector has to do with ways to reduce theft.  In the Ahmedabad Slum Electrification Project they found that when it became easier for the poor to get legal electricity, the theft rate went way down.  It seems quite plausible that the same thing would happen with regard to water supply.  High connection costs and burdensome procedures can be a leading contributor to theft.

Johnson Rhenius Jeyaseelan, WaterAid India, Lucknow

The discussion on this same topic in Bhopal urban workshop was useful and good. In intermittent supply especially during summers we have seen outbreak of diseases like jaundice due to the municipality intermittent water supply and the worst affected are the poor; this is one of the high hidden costs. Municipalities cost any scheme higher and reason all knows and they will cost a 24/7 water supply too very expensive. Hence, awareness should be raised among them. 

Secondly, the political class should be detached from implementation of any 24/7 supply scheme as they may to win votes by decreasing water tariffs to unreasonable levels or raise it to unaffordable levels to make the scheme a failure, especially if the scheme is implemented by an opposition party during its earlier stint in power. During assessment and designing phases, consumers should be part of the process through interface camps and public hearings for transparency. I would like to hear about more case studies of the success of this scheme.

R. SreedharEnvironics Trust, New Delhi

First let me apologize for joining the discussions so late. My colleagues and I have been involved with the first coping cost studies in Dehradoon way back in the nineties with EHI and did one more attempt in this decade to work with some interest from the ADB.

1) There is a mind-set problem of thinking that when piped-water in several cities comes for only few days a week, where is the water for 24/7.

2) Utilities and the government take a convenient route and water-rationing seems to be the more convenient route to make people think that water is scarce.

3) Many activists unduly think that 24/7 means privatizing water supply.

The problem based on our experience is that intermittent water supply is a boon to the local staff of the operating agency and they have a strong vested interest in not allowing it to happen. Local politicians also join them as they can modulate flows to suit their interests. Destruction of pipes (due to reasons David has succinctly pointed out) calls for emergency purchases and there is money to be made. I think these must be clear after the course of this discussion and further can we not have 24/7 in places where source is not an issue at all.

We are convinced that the coping costs are high and people are willing to pay if supplies are improved. But this requires decentralizing the supply systems to be able to supply to manageable zones, re-doing pipelines (as most cities do not even know how their distribution pipelines are spread), a strong political will to change the situation including tackling the staff. If there are takers we could demonstrate that it is feasible and be community controlled with the support of the existing utility and this can be done without much hype.

N. Lakshmi Narayana, Dakshinaya Institute, Guntur

It is interesting to note the impressions of several members on 24x7 water supplies. Before this I made several basic questions. Hope that you have seen them and noted all those basic issues. The first criterion is to understand the need and plan based on this demand which is commonly known as need-based support/service/supply. I could not attend your session at Bhopal which is the point for igniting the minds. I would like to receive the copy of the same. The basic questions which need to be answered before planning for the service/support/supply are: Who wants this? Is it really needed? At what cost? Are the basic resources (water both surface & underground) available? Quantity, quality and cost of the infrastructure need to be developed? Does the concept need to be approved by administrative authorities?

In the particular case of Hyderabad I have a few questions: Who is asking for this and was any survey was done? Are 24X7 water supplies required? Are the water resources sufficient? Does the city have the required infrastructure? Can the authority make it possible? What is the status of 24X7 initiated in some parts of Hyderabad ? What is the quantity and quality of the same if supplied?

Certainly, on the long term basis, water works for the empowerment of people and thus for their development and finally the development of the area and nation itself. But the need of the hour is how to solve the water crises connected with domestic, irrigation and other needs?  Despite several innovative concepts, still we do not have a clear concept to deal with all these basic issues and needs. I will be happy to contribute more on this issue if some one is really interested to work at the grassroots level as 70% of our population is in the rural villages and are still struggling for basic survival. I look forward for understanding the issues based on the needs of the people who want it.

Anjal Prakash, SaciWATERs, Hyderabad (response 2)

I would like to thank David Foster for his response. At the National Workshop, the time was extremely limited. Within that time frame, I made a few interjections and then felt bad on monopolizing other’s time. Since the debate was already on at WesNet, I found this as an appropriate forum to pen down the points and take it forward for a much larger community. I am sure you would appreciate that the discussions you are steering is getting intense and would yield good results for everyone. So it is not a ‘personal’ issue to be sorted out between both of us.

On calculating how much does a bad water supply costs the poor, I have no disagreement. There is a large pool of literature especially from political economists critiquing opportunity cost theory and on the reductionist idea of equating things in mere economic terms. The point is that if we calculate the cost equated in economic terms, we can’t justify the equation because there is no definite cost that can be associated with a person without understanding the opportunity they have. For any one who is not convinced that the poor pay more for basic services proportionate to their income, this argument is fine in a simplistic format just to make them understand but there are problems in doing this for more concrete understanding of life and society. Therefore, I think the debate between you and I are not to convince me if we should have 24X7 water supply. I had already said that 24X7 Water Supply is a superior form of service and we should go for it. The question largely to go a step further and see where and how do we do this and what safeguards poor has in this ‘superior’ model of water supply. The hitch lies there.

I am happy to hear that Afghanistan, Cambodia and Uganda have provided the 24X7 water supply probably to its urban centers. I have limited understanding and so I need to know more on how they have provided 24X7, for how long are they running it, and what implications it has on the poor. If poor and marginalized have got 24X7 access to water supply without ‘paying’ more than they used to pay before, I would be most happy to hear that. The problem is that most of the documents don’t give us clear picture on how poor is benefited by the water sector reforms in any of these countries. If you have literature that has supported this from poor’s perspective, let’s share this in public domain and discuss from there. Each case, I am sure will be unique with different political economy at play. Painting them with one 24X7 brush is something, I would be very careful about. Citing cases will not help unless each case is read and discussed. This is mainly because your argument is coming from poor’s perspective and not much on efficiency standpoint which was largely the case sometime before and have been contested quite heavily. I have already written about Jamshedpur’s case which I know personally about and raised issues of 24X7 water supply there…this is quite different from the WSP’s documentation and portrayal of JUSCO’s case and this is the perspective one is talking about. I am not sure about Hubli and Navi Mumbai so I had requested the group to give us a feedback especially from their professional experience in working closely at these places. We still don’t know what benefits poor got in Hubli (navi Mumbai will be a different case), Dharwar, Latur etc. In case you have any literature on this, kindly send it to me or share with the group. I would be going to Uganda in November and would definitely take time out to give a feedback to the community on the status of 24X7 water supply and benefits reaching the poorest and marginalized.

On comparing Paris with New Delhi, the point was to be careful in assessment when two cities have different levels of economic development, agro-climatic conditions and water use scenarios etc. etc. Paris can have 24X7 water supply because it is not New Delhi and vice versa. Why is Paris not New Delhi is a question well understood. The point David is that each country is different (as they operate with different political economy) and within a country, each city is different. They need to be understood and propagated in a context. You also agree that we do not have much success on 24X7 in India and we can only learn from other countries who match in our criteria (definitely not Paris !) only to learn lesion. How do we do this, is very localized especially in India where  water is a state subject and each state has it own track record of service delivery. However, my question was also on the claims that have been made on “24/7 supply can be provided in slum areas at affordable rates” in India (ref: your email below). We need to know the evidence of how it has been done. Since you are researching on this issue currently, I look forward to receiving some literatures on this to examine how poor has been benefited.

My point ‘ poor’s benefit’ is repeated because you are entering 24X7 water supply from this route so I consider ‘benefits to the poor’ as entry point and not having 24X7 water supply to limited area as the criteria of success. Let’s scan the interventions from this perspective and take the argument ahead. I am sure privatization agendas will have a lot to contribute against the “benefits going to the poor’. Finally, on hours of supply not being dictated by forms of ownership (read privatization), I must inform the group about a study done by Water Aid in 2005  “Implementation of Asian Development Bank’s Water Policy in India”. A three-country (Bangladesh , India , and Nepal) provided an independent input for the ADB’s own initiated Water Policy Implementation Review. WaterAid as part of a “knowledge partnership” with ADB conducted this study during 2005 (with funding support from ADB). I need not say here what ADB stands for in utilities all over Asia as it is self evident. The process of this study involved active engagement with a range of researchers, NGOs, sector specialists and ADB staff. In India (so don’t reject this as critique by CSOs). In India, this study covered four Integrated Urban Development projects, at different stages of implementation, in three states (Karnataka, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh) with a close look at the access of sustainable water and sanitation services for the urban poor. The study reveals a low level of implementation with regard to developing a comprehensive water policy, promoting accountability and autonomy of service providers and strengthening women’s ability to participate. Medium level of implementation is evident in participation of the poor and addressing their needs, optimisation of agency functions, promotion of sustainable plans for capacity building, developing and adoption of water action agendas and encouraging involvement of civil society and adoption of cost recovery mechanisms. The debt analysis of the cases shows that there is complete divergence between pre-feasibility projects and actual policies followed by the ULBs on tariff revision. Feasibility studies have made unrealistic projections and recommended tariff rises of nearly 8.4 times. Cost recovery on capital costs and O&M is being attempted, further burdening cities and overstepping ADB’s water policy regarding cost recovery. ULBs have not been involved in making financial projections.

Kindly visit the following documents for reference on the above: and

I would be traveling from tomorrow onwards so I will write back (in case there is any question) in the fourth week of March.

Dinesh Kumar, Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad (response 2)

This email is not targeted at any particular response. But, I thought of writing this 3rd mail to express some concerns relating to the nature of discourse now underway on “24/7 water supply Vs intermittent supply”.

1. Worrying too much for the poor:  I do not think, and for that matter no one might consider, that water sector reforms are only meant for the poor; it should benefit the society at large, and so the poor too (the concern could be either sustainability, or economic efficiency or equity). After all, due to poor water supply, a large section of the population mostly those from lower middle class, also suffer a lot. Sector reform is too broad a term.. It can mean many things. So, the impact would depend on what is actually being done under sector reform—the policies we frame, especially water pricing & water allocation; the directive reforms including rights reforms; organizational restructuring; new institution development; the change in legal framework; the governance systems--. Even the impact of privatization of water supply has been quite mixed (even within Latin America ) in terms of benefit to urban communities at large, and to the poor. The only concern should be it does not make matters worse for the poor, if it does not help them significantly. In that context, 24/7 water supply is just one of the interventions in urban water management, and should not be confused with “water service privatization”, thereby making judgment about their impacts. Further, the impact of “24/7 water supply” on wastage & leakage is quite debatable, but not that on the access of the poor to water for basic needs.

2. Political economy Vs practical policy: there is a lot of “scare-mongering” about how political economic considerations will make it difficult for us to adopt measures, which we are convinced about as “sound principles and practices”. This is a totally un-necessary. Many times, it is the same political economic consideration which motivates governments to take drastic steps to improve the situation (the CNG introduction in vehicles, Delhi metro rail are examples).  The challenge is to convince the political class & bureaucracy about the benefits of doing certain things right (be it 24/7 or metering of water/electricity), which will bring them more votes. Perhaps one reason why governments go for populist policies is that they are (mis) guided by views and numbers cooked up by vested interests. For instance, it is a widely-held view that free electricity though supplied for a few hours, would benefit the poor and rise in power tariff would ruin farm economy. This is totally ill-conceived and recent analysis shows that it is the other way round. We need to do more and more research to show how 24/7 supply could benefit everyone including the poor, and make economic sense (in terms of economic cost per unit of water supplied to the consumer) without depleting more water, or otherwise.

3.Comparison between India and other Countries: it has now become a fashion to look around and start citing examples from other countries, to write judgments about the effectiveness of a certain approach in this part of the world. On one hand, there are no “straightjackets”.  On the other hand, within India you will find all sorts of conditions that exist in every other part of the world, whether developed or under-developed (we have Ethiopia and also Southern California ).. The fact that many of the best practices in water management were tried in developed countries does not mean that they cannot be tried in some parts of India to find success. We already know that one of the only four profit-making metros (out of the 138 in the world) is in India .  We have built some of the most complicated water resource systems which posed great engineering challenges. While we are quick to write obituaries of certain approaches, and “water management solutions” without even trying them, we merrily replicate certain other “solutions” without having an iota of evidence to the effect that they had worked in some part of the world!

4. Methodologies Vs Perspectives: I understand that there are methodologies and analytical procedures for estimating the real cost incurred by the poor in accessing water and the actual “social cost and benefits of water supply provision, provided we start looking at things from a practical view point. But, what is needed is empirical research to show how people are impacted by lousy water supply schedules under different supply regimes. This is perhaps what David Foster is doing, and therefore commendable. Well, we can have new perspectives (it could be political economic, political ecology, hydrological, techno-economic, environment/ecological, social, ethical etc. But doing that should help us take decisions. Perhaps, what Singapore is doing vis-à-vis investments in water supply may be ethically (at global level) incorrect if we look at the data on WATSAN condition in eastern India ! The government is not going to wait till we come out with a consensus on which perspective is right, and what methodology is most appropriate. In sum, we need to get our numbers right to make any policy suggestions and has to at a reasonably fast. I have provided the findings based on some quick analysis we did on the linkage between hours of water supply and average per capita hourly and daily water consumption. It definitely has limitations. More of such analysis is required to build a case.

5. Absence of water supply professionals: we need to hear something from the public health engineers about their views about the merit and difficulties of introducing 24/7 water supplies from a practical view point. This would add immense value. It looks like not many of them are members of this community.

My humble submission is that if we provide some concrete evidence to prove or reject David’s hypothesis that would help the community a lot.

B.L. Kaul, Society for Popularisation of Science, Jammu

I have read with interest the discussion on the subject-Urban Water Supply-24/7.While I consider it a basic right to have water for all the hours of the day ,it is also a fact that most cities can not afford to do so for a number of reasons. Perennial shortages due to an ever increasing population, lack of enough storage facility, occasional deficient monsoons or even their failure and to cap it all wastage of water. Due to lack of education taps are left open both at home and in the lanes by the people and if water is made available for 24 hours a lot will go into drains.

During summer impure water is supplied by municipalities or public health engineering department resulting in infectious diseases. The old rusted galvanised iron pipes are partly responsible. They allow bacteria and viruses to collect inside them. All these pipes need to be replaced by High density polyethylene pipes. But HDPE pipes are not favoured by engineers for the simple reason that these can not be sold in black market as compared to G.I. pipes for which there is a ready market. There is also the political angle. If water is supplied freely to the consumers people will stop going to the politicians. So the deficiency and complaints must continue to remain so that politicians remain in demand!

Mihir Maitra, Independent Consultant, New Delhi

A 24x7 supply of treated domestic water to a large city no doubt is an ideal situation. But this is not likely to happen in the big cities of our country, because of many serious technical and management constraints, some of which are:

Raw water is usually brought to the “Water Works” from a long distance source through large diameter pipe using a number of heavy-duty pumps in parallel operation for intermittent hours (8-12 hours). There is a limit to the quantity of water that can be pumped due to inherent limitations of pumping systems. However, this limitation does not apply to piped gravity flow which is not very common. 

Raw water in the “Water works” usually is made to pass through a settlement tank, a coagulation tank and a storage tank for supply (pumping) after chlorination. Owing to shortage of space, the size of these tanks is rather finite. Hence the “Water Works” collect only that much raw water as it can treat, store and supply than so much on the actual demand. Once such systems are installed it is not always feasible to keep expanding their capacity even though the demand keeps increasing. Also, when the Chlorinator breaks down and the stock of Chlorine cylinder/bleaching powder gets over, the water is often supplied without Chlorination thus defeating the very scope of supplying adequately treated water.

In an ever expanding city, for political exigencies, the delivery network is allowed to expand much larger in coverage than what the system could supply 24x7; resulting in water supply in different parts of the city 2 or 3 times a day on rotation. These prompt many households and others in the low pressure areas to resort to direct pumping from the nearby secondary supply line eventually emptying the pipe storage and entry of bad water through leakages.  Also, in my opinion, the reported losses of 30-40% in some distribution systems are more due to pilferage than so much of actual leakage.

Even in the Gangetic plain where groundwater is available in plenty, many Municipalities supply domestic water from a number of large diameter deep tube wells. The installed pumps on the tube wells however are not run for 24 hours but only for 12 hours (6 hr. morning + 6 hr. evening) a day. Since the number of overhead tanks fall far short than the number of tube wells, the water is usually pumped directly to the households.

To convert any existent intermittent system back to 24x7, it would require first to restrict the coverage/supply area and then charge the whole supply lines with 24 hr supply for which extra water is required which the “Water Works” cannot handle. Once the system is fully charged, the incremental supply would eventually stabilize with the actual consumption.

It is therefore obvious that if any 24x7 system of supplying treated water is to be installed: a) it should be a new system, b) the coverage area has to remain fixed, c) would require regular supply of good quality meters, d) would require trained workforce to read, raise and collect water charges, e) the authority should have the right to punish a defaulter/pilferer and f) be actually able to supply treated water. Large metropolis of India famous for their inadequate infrastructures is therefore beyond such luxury.

Rahul BanerjeeKhedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath, Indore

In India, we find it difficult to ensure even 24x7 electricity supply let alone water supply. The basic reason is that there are tremendous losses in transmission and distribution and theft and waste. These problems are there in water supply also not only for drinking water but also for irrigation water from dams. Even though the main canals remain charged throughout the season most of the farmers do not receive water when they require it in sufficient quantities because some of the farmers take more. These are problems that are associated with centralised systems of production and delivery where invariably the rich and powerful corner resources. Thus the costs of 24x7 water supplies would be tremendously high due to the losses taking place which will have to be borne by the system. It is easy to say that Paris has 24x7 water supplies but without going into the details of the subsidies involved in running this system one can’t take this at face value. In India, all municipal water supply systems are heavily subsidised and I have a feeling that this holds for Paris also. While Paris is in a position to provide these subsidies, Indian cities are not.

If it is the aim to ensure access to water for the poor then special supply systems should be designed for them separate from those for the rich because in the present dispensation there is no hope of the rich allowing the poor to have anything.

Jasveen Jairath, Water Sector Professional, Hyderabad (response 2)

We need non-leaking pipes for an efficient delivery system whether it is 24/7 or intermittent or any other management model. I cannot imagine how one can disagree with it so let’s leave it out of the discussion as an agreed point. We need some form of metering for all models as we need to regulate water access by different consumers the specifics can be discussed, so lets drop that also as more or less agreed point. I say this since both the above are some how linked to 24/7 only the key contentious issue is distribution and access to water from a given quantum i.e. – regulation. Given that currently there is no control on demand (existing levels as well as its growth over time due to wild urbanisation) - it is difficult to design a 24/7 system - where only control is through pricing structure. Such a system will have to be based on unlimited supply to meet uncontrolled demand a somewhat of an untenable situation.

24/7 could be feasible in a controlled laboratory situation where water supplies and consumer set is a finite figure. When the spiral of urbanisation defies planning, regulation, and control poor water supply will be part of poor urban services where poor will loose and influential elites will monopolize whatever is available. This is not to argue for "any benefits" of the present system in fact to pose the discussion as 24/7 versus present condition is itself questionable as it preempts getting on board innovative approaches based on a social/citizen move for demanding comprehensive urban planning - based on assurance of basic services for all where integration of centralised supply with decentralised utilisation systems under citizen committee control can be visualised. 

Safe, affordable and sustainable water supply to all citizens cannot be reduced to managerial/technical and financial issue only; there is a political constituency that has a vested interest in water governance. These forces have to be neutralized/made ineffective through a citizen movement - that is an activity with clear political overtones. The limitations of price induced regulation have to be recognised and there the need for integrating it with non-price measures may be explored.

David FosterAdministrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad (response 9)

Mihir Maitra has provided one of the most thorough and most challenging comments we have received.  However, although Mihir raises some serious problems, he still does not demonstrate just why India is unique in facing any of these challenges.  We have never claimed that 24/7 water supply was easy only that it was more efficient, safer and well worth the effort. 

Remember, it is not just India that faces rapid urbanization, in fact, India has actually urbanized much more slowly than most countries in Africa, Asia or Latin America and it is India that is only 28% urbanized when most of the world is more than 50% urbanized. Furthermore, cities all over the world face the same problems of having to pump water long distances.  And yet most of these cities still manage to achieve 24/7 water supply.  We really need to stop looking for excuses and start asking how China , Philippines , Uganda and Kenya are able to respond to many of these very same challenges?

Similarly, while there will need to be additional investments in pumps, storage tanks and chlorination systems, it is usually far cheaper to build large municipal facilities of this type than to compel millions of individual households to purchase and maintain small inefficient pumps, storage tanks and treatment systems of their own.  We need to recognize that intermittent supply represents a false economy that simply passes huge costs on to consumer every time it fails to provide adequate service.

I must take serious issue with Mihir Maitra regarding his last paragraph in which he claims that 24/7 water is a “luxury” beyond the reach of Indian cities.  I have been asking our members for nearly 4 weeks now to identify a single efficiently run intermittent supply system that provides safe sustainable and affordable water to its consumers and not a single member of this internet exchange has yet come forward with such an example.  If 24/7 costs less than an intermittent supply system and requires no more water, how can it be termed a luxury?

I suspect that Mihir is right in believing that a significant portion of the UFW (Unaccounted for Water loss) is due to pilferage rather than leaks but whether this water is stolen or simply spills out into the streets it still represents a loss of badly needed revenue to the municipal water board.  Furthermore, thefts and leaks are often closely correlated: Thieves are rarely very concerned about whether water leaks out from their illegal connections. 

Finally, I also fully agree with Mihir that a well managed 24/7 system will require working meters, a well-trained workforce and the authority to punish defaulters and pilferers.  A growing number of Indian cities are already showing that they can do precisely those things and we should refuse to accept this as an excuse for failing to improve such a vital urban service.

David Foster, Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad (response 10)

As Lakshmi Narayana has asked so many good questions, I am going to change the format slightly and list each of his questions preceded by a “Q” and then immediately after that question I will include my response preceded by an “A”.

Q. It is nice to know that you have ignited the minds of the people connected with water.  Before this I made several basic questions. Hope that you have seen and noted all those basic issues. After hearing so much are you still interested to get more reflections?

A. Absolutely!  I am always interested in good questions and comments whether the individual happens to agree or disagree.  The most important thing is to have a good discussion and to learn from each other.

Q. The first criterion is to understand the need and plan based on this demand which is commonly known as need based support/service/supply.

A. Yes, any service or supply must respond to a basic need but just as in many cases people did not “know” that they needed smallpox vaccinations or polio vaccinations, in a similar fashion many people do not yet know that intermittent supply is a major contributor to disease or that 24/7 supply can actually be the best way to provide Safe, Sustainable and Affordable water.  In these cases, health officials, water and sanitation officials and community organizers need to provide real leadership.

Q. I could not see your presentation what you made at Bhopal which is the point for igniting the minds. I am happy to receive the copy of the same as an attachment either paper or PPT.

A. I will be happy to provide copies of my powerpoint presentations or papers on 24/7 water to anyone who wants one.

The basic questions which need to be answered before planning the service/ support/supply are:

Q. Who wants this?

A. Everyone who really understands that continuously pressurized (24/7) water can really provide better quality water at no extra cost and without increasing overall water requirements wants it.  Sadly, many people still do not realize that this is possible.  In particular, every woman who spends hours each day collecting water for her family wants it.  Every parent who has seen a child get sick or possibly die because of waterborne disease wants it.  Everyone who has had to miss work or school because of such disease wants it. Conclusive evidence on the demand for 24/7 water is also provided by the fact that in most homes today people try to approximate some of the benefits of 24/7 service by installing an underground tank, a rooftop tank, a pump for moving the water and a treatment system.  Ironically, they do all of these things at great cost in order to simulate 24/7 supply while all of this could be provided at far less cost if the city provided adequate service.

Q. Is it really needed?

A. Yes!  Anything that can reduce the disease rate, the time and the cost associated with obtaining such a basic necessity without increasing overall water requirements is needed.  If you still doubt this, ask anyone who now has 24/7 supply and understands its benefits if they really are willing to give it up and go back to having 90 minutes of water every other day as many homes now do in Hyderabad.

Q. At what cost?

A. In most cases, there will be no increase in cost and, in fact, when all costs are considered 24/7 water can actually be provided at less cost than what you are paying today.  Just remember that with intermittent supply you have to pay a tremendous amount for in-home storage, in-home pumping and in-home treatment.  None of those costs will be required once the city provides well managed 24/7 supply.  In addition, although the city will need to make a better effort to identify and repair leaks, these efforts will normally more than pay for itself in terms of water and pumping costs saved.  In Bangalore, for example Mr. Vidyashankar (previous director of BWSSB) estimated that he got a 25% annual return on his investments in leak repair.

Q. Are the basic resources (water - both surface and underground) available?

A. This will depend on the individual city, its resources and how efficiently they manage them.  Just remember that Paris provides good quality 24/7 service with only 150 LPCD.

Q. The quantity, quality and cost of the infrastructure need to be developed?

A. Absolutely!  Local officials, with the backing of local officials, need to begin as soon as possible to estimate the quantity, quality and cost of the current leaky intermittent water supply system and then compare it to the quantity, quality and cost of well operated 24/7 system.  If your local officials are not doing this analysis, you need to ask why?  In addition, you need to demand to know (file an RTI request if necessary) just how much water is currently being wasted?  If they claim that it is less than 50%, insist on knowing how they made that calculation.  If they admit that they are currently losing more than 50%, ask why they are wasting more than half of your water and more than half of the power used to pump the water?

Q. Is the concept presented to the administrative authorities who need to approve it?

A. Sadly, many cities have not yet even inquired about the possibility of converting to 24/7 water supply but at least 40 cities have already received approval under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

As you are staying in Hyderabad and are well experienced with water supply system, do you feel:

Q. Who is asking for this and was any survey was done regarding this?

A. A growing number of people are asking for this but no formal surveys have yet been taken.  This is because it takes so long to explain the benefits of 24/7 water that a simple survey would not be helpful.  One possibility, however, would be to conduct a survey in places like Navi Mumbai (where people have already been exposed to the benefits of 24/7 water) and then ask them.

Q. Is 24X7 required?

A. Continuously pressurized 24/7 water is required if you really want to have Safe, Sustainable, and Affordable water for all.  If, however, you are content with high rates of waterborne disease, high costs, and major inconvenience, then no, 24/7 supply is not required.

Q. Are the water resources sufficient?

A. In most cities, with proper management (including leak detection and repair, good meters and appropriate tariffs, efficient billing and collection, and good public awareness programs), they already have sufficient water for 24/7.  In some cities they will need to augment existing supply but those cities  would need to do that anyway regardless of whether they chose intermittent or continuous 24/7 supply.

Q. Does it have the required infrastructure?

A. No city should try to convert to 24/7 supply without first undertaking a major program for leak detection and repair.  This step, however, should be undertaken immediately regardless of whether they choose intermittent supply or 24/7 supply.  The Center for Science and Environment (CSE) estimates that the typical Indian city currently loses 51% of their water and many experts believe that estimate is still too low.  When you recognize that many other cities around the world keep these losses below 10% and some even below 5%, you realize that this loss rate is completely unacceptable, especially for a country that is water stressed as India is. Yes, regardless, of whether these cities choose 24/7 supply or intermittent supply, they should reduce these losses and install more reliable valves and meters.  They will not, however, need to install larger pipes for 24/7 supply.  In fact for 24/7 supplies the pipes themselves can actually be smaller because the water does not all need to be delivered in just a few hours.

Q. Can the authorities make it possible?

A. Yes, if the local stakeholders support the local authorities then they can make this possible.

Q. What is the status of 24X7 initiated in some parts of Hyderabad?

A. The program in Hyderabad is still only a small pilot project conducted as a study.  Unfortunately, it still does not include any BPL families.  As a study, however, it has still provided some valuable information.  When the water was initially made available as 24/7 service, the water requirements did initially increase but after a few months and after the consumers learned how to read their meters and understood their own responsibilities better, then the water requirements went back to where they were original.

Q. What is the quantity and quality of the same if supplied?

A. I do not have the latest data but I have been told that the quantity is required is approximately the same and the quality and reliability has significantly improved.

Q. Someone (people's representative) has promised to go for 24X7 and since two years nothing could be done as he made it without understanding the basics as indicated above.

A. That is quite possible but without knowing more details regarding your question I really can answer.

Q. Certainly, on a long term basis, water works for the empowerment of the people and thus for their development and finally the development of the area and nation itself. But the need of the hour is to solve the water crises connected with domestic, irrigation and other needs.  Despite several innovative concepts, we still do not understand the total concept to deal all these basic issues and needs.

A. Every trip, no matter how long, begins with a first step and a vision of the future.

Q. I will be happy to contribute more on this issue if someone is really interested to work at the grassroots level as 70% of our population lives in the rural areas and are still struggling for basic survival.

A. We look forward to your questions and comments.  Just remember that the improvements we are recommending for urban water supply will not be taken at the expense of rural supply.  In fact, in many cases they will provide valuable examples worthy of replication.  Although our focus has been on urban areas, there is no reason why a relatively compact village of 1000 to 5,000 people cannot have continuously pressurized 24/7 water supply.  My family in the United States , for example, lives in a community with its own 24/7 water supply, sewerage, waste water treatment and solid waste management and that community has only 5,000 people.

Vishwanath Srikantaiah, BIOME, Bangalore (response 2)

A bit of correction again in David Foster's inputs:

  • MYSORE does not have 24/7 yet. There is a project on the anvil with JUSCO but that’s just started.
  • HUBLI-Dharwad has 24/7 in about 10 % of the connections. Do not make it sound like the entire city has it though again there is a project to extend it to the entire city
  • In Badlapur 8 wards out of 34 wards have 24/7 according to the Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran website (which provides the water) and significantly it reports a net per capita use of 220 lpcd up from 130 lpcd before 24/7. Revenue water has also gone up to 33% from 28% before 24/7. Is this the norm then for 24/7 fully pressurized water supply?
  • In Navi Mumbai the per capita consumption of water is put at 176 lpcd. The purchase of Morbe dam at a cost of Rs 560 crores by NMMC seems to have helped 24/7 water supply.

Please let us get our facts right when we debate and discuss such an important issue. Surat is an example of a city of intermittent supply which does not have disease and pestilence knocking people off like flies and gets water to a large segment of people at affordable prices. I request David to please do visit Surat and take a look.

I am yet to get a response from David regarding

  • The cost per connection to get 24/7 in Hubli-Dharwad, Belgaum and Gulbarga
  • The extent of the subsidies in the projects and the tariff increase resulting
  • What happened to the sunk cost in sumps/pumps and overhead tanks already invested as a coping strategy?

I am also yet to hear from him on the water tariffs in Singapore and Male which he touted as success of 24/7.Did they or did they not go up substantially? Is it or is it not politically impossible for an India to replicate the 'democracies' of Male (then) and Singapore?  

This is not to question the need for 24/7 water supply which is definitely the gold standard for ALL water supply institutions in the country which they must definitely reach but to understand why we are not able to do that in India. Is it because we do not have the capacity in terms of human resources in our existing institutions? Do we need to change the current institutional setup? Do parastatals like the BWSSB/HMWSSB perform better than local bodies which run water supply? Is the political economy of tariff setting a roadblock to a better supply of water and better management of sewage? If so how can it be changed? Do we necessarily need regulators in the water sector like in the power sector to sanitize tariff hikes? Why is it that in the electricity/power sector after ALL the reforms we still continue to struggle with quality and quantity of power? Is there a lesson for the water sector here? Do we need better legal teeth say for example to manage groundwater before we reform one part of the water supply sector i.e. piped water? Is there a need for the clear articulation by what we mean by water as a human right before we bring in reforms in the sector?  

It is true that most likely the price of water will continue to be lower than all the coping cost investment but what do you do with the sunk costs already in place with say for example 200,000 bore wells in Bangalore and at least 500,000 sump tanks and 1 to 2 HP pumps for these sump tanks NOT to mention at least 500,000 overhead tanks. How does 24/7 deal with this? How does 24/7 deal with the entrenched class who syphon subsidies ( a household consuming 25,000 litres of water in Bangalore gets roughly Rs 450/- as subsidy every month and this is most likely to be a well off household.) and who have immense influence on tariff setting?

There are many of us interested in reforms in the water sector and for us these are also matters of concern that water supply and sanitation seem to be going down a precipice in the Indian context so let us discuss this issue in the light of the views of the house. As was pointed out by Dinesh we also seem to miss the water utility managers/engineers in the debate.  How do we address that?

Arunabha Majumder, Jadavpur University, Kolkata

I think 24/7 water supply will be expensive but still affordable. In 24/7 water supply, the operational cost will be higher as we have to keep the provision of a higher quantum of per capita water supply for which the costs will be higher. 24/7 water supply can be considered if the current water supply system is upgraded as stated below:

  • Unaccounted for water is restricted to 15 per cent
  • All water supply connections need to be metered
  • Slums are to be replaced by multi-storied buildings (for the economically weaker section) 
  • Abolition of street stand posts (as they leak and wastewater)
  • Minimum pressure at consumer points must be at least 7 metres
  • Awareness, motivation and people’s participation for bringing 'water users’ discipline' among the citizens

My comments on the questions are as follows:

1. Economically weaker sections may pay Rs 30 per family per month.  Other residential houses may pay Rs 3 to Rs 4 per 1000 litres. Institutional, commercial and housing society connections may pay Rs 5/- to Rs 6/- per 1000 litres. Industrial connections may pay between Rs 12/- and Rs 15/- per 1000 litres. 

2. The cost of production of water varies from place to place. In Kolkata, the production cost of water is Rs 3.50 per 1000 litres. The water distribution cost is Rs 3.50 per 1000 litres. That means total cost is Rs 7/- per 1000 litres.

3. Health has direct relationship with quality and quantity of water. Water safety is an important issue that needs to be considered and 24/7 water supply could play a big role in achieving water safety. Water quality deterioration may increase disease burden, illness time, productivity loss, economic loss etc.  Water safety may help in improving quality of life of the people.

Nandkishore PurohitRajasthan Council of Primary Education (RCPE), Jaipur

Kudos to David Foster! He has been extremely lucid in presenting the view point in support of 24 hr, pressurised water supplies.

I am in full agreement with his views, and would have loved to support his examples with my own field experiences, but for the shortage of time. However, briefly, I would like to refer to diametrically opposite experience of Kota City on the banks of R. Chambal and historically, it had a 24 hr supply, which has been now vitiated due to ad-hoc expansion of the Distribution system.

Another is a widely publicised success story of KFW supported Aapni Yojana, where the 24 hr supply is still being maintained in villages of Churu District, also in Rajasthan with as low as 40 lpcd service levels, (though some glitches have recently been reported. At other extreme is the case of Srinagar (J&K), which is not able to maintain a 24 hr supply, despite the Jehlum flowing right across it and production capacity sufficient to supply @ 150 GPCD  (not LPCD and Imperial gallons too) to the present estimated population, based on an assessment carried out by me in 2006!

These widely disparate experiences show the necessity of improving governance, strengthening the knowledge base of field engineers, creating continuous inputs for community awareness and sensitization.

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