The water body claims it has brought down the percentage of unaccounted water down to 37% after implementing a project for this purpose.

37pc of Cauvery water in Bluru unaccounted for but BWSSB says its project is working
news Civic Issues Tuesday, June 26, 2018 - 17:05

In 2016, the Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) faced a strange problem. It could not figure out what was happening to half of the 1450 mld (Million litres per day) of Cauvery river water entering Bengaluru every day.

The civic body then estimated that around 25% of the water in Bengaluru simply went missing because of 'physical loss' in the form of leakages in pipelines and during transportation. It could not determine how the remaining 24.25% was being used.

Alarmed by the high percentage of water unaccounted for in the city, the BWSSB had earmarked Rs 654 crores for the Unaccounted for Water (UFW) project in three divisions of the city - Central, South and West. 

The project initiated in 2013 was completed in 2017 and the BWSSB claims that the project has reduced the percentage of water unaccounted for in the city down from 49.25% to 37.27%, an almost 12% drop in two years. The drop meant daily savings of 154 mld of water for the city. 

As part of the project, BWSSB created District Meter Areas (DMA). "The DMA checks the accountability of water flowing in its connections. We can identify people who are using water without a meter, error in the meter and leaks including damage to pipes," says BWWSB Chief Engineer Kemparamaiah.

In all 83 DMA's were created in the south division, 84 in the west and 43 in the central division. Each DMA checks the accountability in around 1,000 to 2,500 connections.

Kemparamaiah credits two reasons for the drop in unaccounted water. The BWSSB's drive to replace old pipes with new ones and the water body's decision to form squads to monitor and settle commercial losses caused by various reasons. "We have set up two squads to track commercial loss of water. Commercial losses include those that occur because people take water connections and don't install meters or use water when it is not reflected on the meter," explains Kemparamaiah.

The squads monitor commercial loss of water every month and collects fines from residents found using water from unauthorised connections. "We try to settle the amount with the guilty persons by asking them to pay up the money they owe," says Kemparamaiah.

Amount of unaccounted water in Bengaluru || Source: BWSSB

BWSSB claims that they have brought down the number of unauthorised connections in the city down from 7900 in 2012-13 to around 1300 now. "Those who don't pay up will be charged with cases," he added. The BWSSB has filed 600 cases against people who have unauthorised connections and claim that 250 of them have been cleared after the guilty persons decided to pay up. 

He, however, admits that there is a long way to go before the water body reaches its intended target of 16% unaccounted water. "We have to replace more pipes but we restricted the changing of pipes since we had to stick to the budget outlined in the package. If we replace all old pipes, we are expected further reduction of wasted water by 10%," Kemparamaiah adds. The project has now been extended to three more divisions in the city - Bengaluru North, South East and part of Central.

Amount of money paid as fine for unauthorised water connections in Bengaluru || Source: BWSSB

Can rainwater harvesting recharge Bengaluru's groundwater?

Apart from reducing the amount of unaccounted water, Kemparamaiah believes that the city can save water by introducing more rainwater harvesting systems. In 2009, a bill was passed making it mandatory for properties that are 30 feet by 40 feet in size or above, have to mandatorily install rainwater harvesting system.

According to BWSSB records, around 1,54,000 properties have come up in Bengaluru since the bill was passed, of which 98,000 have installed rainwater harvesting systems. The BWSSB is monitoring and collecting fines from the other 55,000 properties where rainwater harvesting systems are not in place.

He believes that the fines collected are not incentive enough for houses to install rainwater harvesting systems.  “If it is a big building and they are paying fines of several lakh rupees then they will install rainwater harvesting systems as it is cheaper. But residents of small houses will not mind paying a little extra instead of going for rainwater harvesting. The penalty is not enough incentive for them,” he says.

He further stated that the onus is on the BBMP to introduce stricter regulations to ensure rainwater harvesting systems in Bengaluru are increased. “They (BBMP) can regulate the roads, parks, open spaces and they could do it large-scale. If implemented in all areas, we could try and recharge the lakes by 2020 and divert rainwater collected in the city to the lakes. Then the question of groundwater depletion does not arise,” he adds.

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