In Deep Waters: Fixing India's Water Leakage Challenge

Ranganath NK, Area Managing Director - INDO Region, Grundfos A well-versed and experienced business leader, Ranganath has been serving as one of the linchpins of Grundfos since a very long time.

Water is a precious resource and the impending water crisis is the biggest threat we are posed with. A recent report by Niti Aayogclaims that India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and around 600 million people face a severe water shortage. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply and by 2020, about 21 cities are likely to run out of groundwater.

Groundwater is one of the most important water sources in India accounting for 63 percent of all irrigation water and over 80 percent of rural and urban domestic water supplies. If we continue using water as we are today, there will be a six percent loss in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2050 due to inadequate water, the NITI Aayog report highlights. In a country where water is the cheapest available commodity, extreme climate change, rising population, air pollution and lifestyle choices are affecting this natural wealth.

It is fair to say that we are in a situation of extremes. On one hand India is a diverse country with rich resources and on the other we seem to be marching towards a ‘day-zero’ situation. This water scarcity is bound to have a grave impact on the overall GDP, negatively affecting everyday life, farming and livelihood.

We are faced with the situation of unplanned growth, lack of understanding of how to manage water resources and poor awareness among common people about sustainable practices. Recycling and multiple use of water should be mandatory and though regulations exist, the adoption of rainwater harvesting and waste water management, however is not widespread. Amongst all this, the
biggest challenge is leakages in water distribution as they cause huge losses of water every day in cities all over the world. In India, water leakage, otherwise known as non-revenue water(NRW), accounts for 40-70 percent of the loss. Experts believe that intelligent leakage management solutions, if put into use can reduce water loss by at least 20 percent and minimize the use of energy.

People must inculcate in themselves a sense of responsibility for using water in a sustainable fashion and ensure that we conserve and recharge water resources

One of the effective ways to avoid wastage is implement a distribution network that operates based on demand. Such solutions use sensors in piping systems to regulate and manage water pressure, thus avoiding wastage of water and energy. Today with analytics, various data like time run, power consumed, pressure in the system, consumption pattern can be logged and analysed, and the inputs used to control the pumping system and the distribution network as a whole. Pressure management is essential for effective leakage management. The high pressure during times of low consumption increases the loss of water through leakages in the pipelines.

In the Cambodian province of Takéo, the control of water pumps and valves was being done manually. Using a combination of pressure gauges and a daily water use time table, the team would add or subtract pumps from the network through each daily cycle. More often than not, this process resulted in pipe damage, non-revenue water (NRW) water losses and wasted energy. This was resolved with the implementation of a well tested technology called Demand Driven Distribution by Grundfos that allowed distribution based on demand, using high efficiency pumps, smart controls and pressure sensors. The sensors measure pressure and flow based on local water consumption and send the information back to the controller at the water plant. Over time, the system learns to predict consumption patterns and adjusts overall system pressure. This is called adaptive technology.

Early stage pump leakage can be spotted with a combination of common sense, sensors for preventive maintenance, a system approach to optimization and analytics. Currently, all pumps and active components of pumping systems can be connected over the net and are able to talk to each other and adapt their working to ensure high system efficiency, even on part loads. Sensors in the system can predict breakdowns in advance enabling consumers to resort to preventive maintenance. This would also ensure that a city will not go without water or an industry’s production will not suddenly stop due to lack of water.

While technologically a lot can be done to avoid the water crisis, it cannot replace or compensate for wrong human behaviour. People must inculcate in themselves a sense of responsibility for using water in a sustainable fashion and ensure that we conserve and recharge water resources.