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Intelligent water, wastewater management to remain key in smart city initiative

Chennai : By 2050, 60 per cent of India’s population will live in cities as per a report of the Union Urban Development Ministry. As a result, majority of our cities will be overwhelmed and the residents will require more resources to maintain their living standards.

It is estimated that some of the major cities in India will also run out of water due to this drastic increase in population. The country might not be able to meet the demands of its cities’ residents with the limited supply of essential resources in future. Hence, the concept of Smart Cities is an ideal solution to overcome this issue.

The term ‘Smart City’ simply refers to a citizen friendly and sustainable city. Though it is easy to define the concept, a true Smart City requires various intelligent, efficient technologies and solutions to make it a reality.

Intelligent water and wastewater management will play a key role in ensuring a city is truly smart. Smart Cities will need to not only plan and implement systems that can provide clean water on a 24X7 basis, but also have efficient wastewater disposal and treatment facilities. These cities need to ensure that they build in disaster mitigation systems to protect themselves against flooding and probably even drought or situations that can lead to lack of water.

This means that these cities will need to develop sustainable sources of water through proper care for its reservoirs, rain water harvesting, water treatment and water reuse. One of the common factors that cause water loss in many Indian cities is water leakage.

A recent water leakage and water management example is the city of Mumbai. In 2016, the residents of Mumbai faced an acute water crisis due to pipeline leakage. As a result, lakhs of litres of water was wasted within 12 hours. Though this issue was fixed then, in 2017, the same issue occurred again at Mulund West in Mumbai, leading to several litres of water being wasted yet again.

These incidents not only wasted water but also affected the lives of the city's residents badly. Hence, for a proper functioning and safe living, Smart Cities require leak detection systems and proper water management systems to avoid such situations. Smart Grids and Smart Water Meters are also necessary to increase the users' awareness and improve the efficiency of the infrastructure management. Smart Meters can also help transmit water consumption data to facilitate billing.

These issues can be solved with the help of smart solutions like Demand Driven Distribution (DDD) systems. With the help of such systems, cities can effortlessly monitor grid patterns with remote sensors to enable water pressure using software algorithms. This system helps in reducing water and electricity consumption by up to 20 per cent, which will in turn ensure longevity in the water pipes since they will be less prone to cracks.

Smart Cities’ water distribution and water management systems must be capable of monitoring and networking with other critical systems. Real-time monitoring of water systems is very important. When the systems connect to each other and share relevant data, it results in additional benefits like energy savings.

Energy and water have a significant inter dependent relationship commonly known as the water-energy nexus. Smart Cities will need to carefully consider how much energy is being used to transport, treat and reuse water. For example, pumps account for 10 per cent of world’s electricity consumption.

If all the inefficient pumps are replaced with efficient ones, easily five per cent of the world’s energy could be saved. This is a key method by which the cities can ensure they are energy efficient and sustainable as well.

Solar power is another technology that Smart Cities can adopt. It has been widely used in the rural areas where electricity is not available or the supply is irregular for irrigation and drinking water pumps. However, these solar pumps can be adapted for the city environments as well, thereby using a renewable source of energy and bringing down the cities’ CO2 emissions.

Another area where the Smart Cities need to focus on is wastewater disposal and treatment. Most of the times, partially or untreated wastewater is discharged into our existing water reservoirs.

According to the International Institute of Health and Hygiene, New Delhi, around 62 per cent of the total sewage generated in India is discharged directly into nearby water bodies. Smart cities, therefore, need a continuous surveillance of the network in order to control the flow of wastewater.

Every building – whether residential or commercial or industrial - must be connected to the municipal wastewater network in order for it to be treated. This treated water should then be reused in an appropriate manner.

The Government needs to involve corporates in not only promoting the Smart Cities campaigns but also leverage their expertise and involve them in the strategic planning and implementation as well. Especially technology companies who work in the sustainability area in water and energy.

Above all, for a Smart City to be successful, its citizens need to adopt a sustainable mind-set. Individuals will need to start adopting eco-friendly practices and products. This awareness needs to be created from the school level itself.

The Smart City initiative is undoubtedly one of the key developments for building a sustainable and developed country. Living in a city with best infrastructure and facilities is a dream for every citizen. This dream, however, can come true only if we all play our part by being responsible citizens.

Mahathi Parashuram is Regional Head - Public Affairs, Communications & Relations, Grundfos Asia Pacific Region.

(Disclaimer: India Water Review does not take any responsibility for the views expressed in the article. The article published also does not in anyway reflect the opinion of India Water Review.)

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