See how this drought-stricken village in Maharashtra is building a sustainable water supply

Wed, 2019-01-02 18:17 -- SCC India Staff

water supply

Shirpur, one of the drought-prone areas in Maharashtra, has always witnessed insufficient water supply, depleting rainfalls and extreme summer heat. Yet dripping pipes, spilling water on the roads, washing vehicles with oodles of water was a common sight in the town.

As no one was accountable to pay as per their consumption, there was excess water usage and the high number of unauthorized connections resulting in the theft of water. Due to the intermittent supply, the pipeline network was vulnerable to bursts and leakages and very little attention was paid towards repairs, as timely information was never available. Moreover, it took more than two months to take meter readings, prepare and distribute bills, thereby consistent delay in collections.

Thereby, reeling under the constant pressure for effective demand management and building a sustainable water supply that generates revenue, the city council implemented a 24x7 water supply scheme that launched in 2013.

“In 2013, we set out on a mission to create a sustainable water supply for the entire town and we were on the lookout for a solution that not only solves the problems of today but also ensures smart water management for years to come. After careful evaluation and scrutiny, we selected the ultrasonic metering technology and the AMR system offered by Kamstrup, and we have been extremely satisfied with their performance so far”, says Amrishbhai Patel, MLC, Shirpur.

Smart metering was a critical component for achieving fair billing, managing revenues with respect to the cost of production and other expenditure. SCCI’s partner Kamstrup’s ultrasonic smart metering technology came out to be a clear winner amongst many others, primarily due to the accuracy and reliability our meters offer throughout their lifespan. Additionally, the Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) solution drastically reduces the manual effort and error, therefore improving process efficiency and reducing costs.

“Since the beginning of meter installation in 2014, we were actively involved with the council as a change management partner. We conducted training sessions and reading trials for the council employees to empower them with grievance handling mechanism, and even prepared demos for the citizens to ensure transparency and trust between the council and its citizens”, says Suneel Bhambere, Director, Kamstrup India operations.

A holistic solution
In its endeavour to give each household clean water 24x7, the Shirpur Municipal Council wanted to efficiently measure, monitor and manage consumption and introduce fair billing mechanism for their residential and commercial customers. Shirpur is the first-ever smart water-metering project at the city level in the country until date. Their focus was on the quality and durability of the meters and a dependable Automatic Meter Reading solution with long-term operations and maintenance and Kamstrup checked all the boxes.

“The government directive is to provide 135 LPCD to each citizen and a key success factor in achieving this has been the installation of Kamstrup smart meters. Seeing the performance of the meter and its durability, we have taken insurance for all the meters that not only benefits the municipality but the citizens are also reassured of any obligations”, says Amol Bagul, Chief Officer, Shirpur-Warwade Municipal Council (SWMC). Additionally, smart alarms help detect any incidents like the leak, burst, etc.

Challenges
The installation started in 2014 and there was no looking back for the council and for Kamstrup. The company encountered the issues relentlessly – one of the interesting ones was narrow lanes and dense housing infrastructure, which made it impossible to install the meters in the traditional horizontal position. Nevertheless, thanks to the ultrasonic technology, Kamstrup meters work perfectly well in any direction; therefore, the meters were installed in a vertical position. The Operations and Maintenance (O&M) began in January 2017 and with that meter data collection also started. It took a lot of collaborative effort with the council and the contractor, Balraj Tech for physical meter/consumer data verification, creating DMA and sub-DMA for master data preparation for efficient meter reading and reporting purposes.

The rigorous activity that went on for the next 6 months resulted in the following:

  • Comparative analysis of water consumption pattern post meter installation
  • The difference in water consumption of residential and commercial connections
  • Consumer segmentation as per high, medium and low water consumption
  • Based on the above analysis the council formed the billing policy based on telescopic rates

Value creation at each step
Shirpur began the official cycle for water bills from April 2018 and they are already seeing tremendous results. The smart meters supplied by Kamstrup measure water consumption with pinpoint accuracy and overcome all the shortcomings of traditional meters like air measurement, low flow challenges, the lifetime of the meter, recalibration and repair every few years.

“With Kamstrup meters and AMR system, we are recording monthly reading and issuing quarterly bills on a volume consumption basis. Therefore, it is easier to track and customer complaints have reduced a lot”, says Ulhas Agarwal, HOD – Water Supply, SWMC. There is ease of operation in day-to-day tasks and supply process efficiency seen within the council that translates into an increased level of service from the field service department and boost employee performance and morale.

“Earlier we used to supply 120 lakh liters of water per day, but now we need to supply only 80 lakh liters every day, therefore, we are saving a lot of water. Moreover, we used to take two months to issue water bills but now with AMR system, it takes only four to five days including reading, billing and bill distributions. Hence, saving a lot of time,” says, Madhav Patil, City Engineer, SWMC.

Conclusion
The case of Shirpur’s smart water management is a learning lesson to all the municipal corporations, councils, water supply boards and even smart cities. In the last two years of meter reading, the council has realized many unauthorized connections and converted them to authorized one, thereby adding accountability at each step. A lot of effort went in generating awareness about water conservation, consumption-based billing, and it has benefited the citizens as well as the council. The number of high volume consumers shows a sharp decline and the otherwise low consumption consumers are seen on the map due to the transparent and automatic meter reading mechanism