Despite appearances, the ongoing conflict over the sharing of Cauvery river water between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka is not an annual event. It is only in deficit years that the two states lock horns. The issue is especially crucial for Bengaluru because it is also about drinking water for Bengaluru. However, Bengaluru also has a persistent problem of water wastage.
As the discussions over water and water sharing continue, it is perhaps time that Bengaluru also looks inwards.
How much of water does Bengaluru use?
According to the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board, the city of Bengaluru requires 1450 mld (Million Liters per Day) of water on a daily basis for a population of nearly 8.5 million people. This is the figure as per the board’s assessment in 2016.
Officials say that the Cauvery is the only source of water for the IT city, for both drinking and all other purposes. Over and above this, the water board estimates close to 500 mld of water is being drawn by public and private bore wells.
On an average, 100L is the estimated per capita consumption.
Until 2007, Bengaluru's water usage was close to 900 mld. In 2007, seven City Municipal Corporations, one Town Municipal Corporation and 110 Villages were brought under the purview of the BBMP. Then, the water board was allotted an additional 100tmcft of water to cater to the extra demand.
Out of the 1450mld that Bengaluru now needs, 44.67% is for domestic use, 3.84% for non-domestic use and 5.20% for partial domestic connections. (Partial domestic connections means water used in buildings that have both residential and commercial establishments).
Another 1.56% amounts to water used by BIAL and other industries. In total, the usage of 50.75% of Cauvery water allotted for Bengaluru is accounted for.
Now, here is the figure that should worry Bengaluru administration and its citizens.
The remaining 49.25%, according to the BWSSB, amounts to Non-Revenue Water (NRW). This means that the water board does not gain any revenue out of this.
What is NRW?
The BWSSB makes no revenue for around 725 mld of the total 1450 mld in Bengaluru. So is this water getting wasted completely? Not fully.
BWSSB Chief Engineer Kemparamaiah says that of the 49.25% of NRW, 25% is ‘physical loss’. This means that this is the percentage of water that goes waste in the form of leakages-both in pipelines and during transportation.
The water board says they are not sure how the rest of the 24% is utilized as they do not have a concrete breakdown of how and where this water goes.
This commercial loss of water includes illegal pipeline connections and connections with faulty meters. This figure also includes free water distributed to underprivileged sections under various state government schemes.
“Other states and countries have alarming rates of physical loss of water, with more than 50% of water going waste in some countries. We are however, taking measures to reduce commercial water wastage,” Kemparamaiah said.
Bengaluru’s water loss is the second highest among Indian metros with Kolkata leading at 50%.
The board is concentrating on repairing pipelines in South division of Bengaluru that records one-sixth of the total commercial water loss of 24%.
Even after attempts at reducing NRW by replacing pipelines and faulty meters, the loss did not reduce significantly, a senior official pointed out.
The official also said that of the 54 reservoirs in Bengaluru, leakages have been found in 10 reservoirs, which amounts to an estimated loss of 15mld of water. Though the leakage was identified a few months ago, the water board is unsure how to go about with the repair procedures as they are all underground reservoirs, the official said.
Is there a solution?
Making rain water harvesting mandatory will go a long way in reducing the city’s dependence on Cauvery water.
Kathyayini Chamaraj, Executive Director of Civic Bangalore is of the opinion that the BWSSB must not limit itself as an entity that supplies water, but should ensure the restoration of lakes in the city.
“The board must also ensure that water is being effectively recycled and reused. The BWSSB’s model is not a sustainable one. For Bangalore to become self-reliant in water resources, the only way to do so is to reduce the dependency on Cauvery water,” she said.
According to Karthyayini, BWSSB can cut down on a huge percentage of commercial water loss if it encourages the installation of meters in households.
“It is not only necessary for the board to keep a regular check on infrastructure maintenance, but it must also educate the underprivileged section of the people about the benefits of installing a meter. Many people feel that having a meter would mean they have to pay the bills even when BWSSB does not provide them water. They are not aware that they are entitled to water, and that is it their right,” she said.