Smart water management: key building block of Smart Cities of future

Mahathi Grundfos

Sustainability and eco-efficiency today forms an integral aspect for city developers and state governments for the Smart Cities mission initiated by the Central Government. According to the 12th Planning Commission Report, 300 million Indians currently live in towns and cities. Within next 20-25 years, there will be an influx of another 300 million people in these urban areas. Therefore, it is high time for India to focus on systematic urbanization as it needs to consider factors like economics, evolution, aesthetic concepts, and the rapidly changing urban environments.

For a Smart City to be a reality, it should encompass intelligent, efficient technologies and solutions. Essentially, a smart city is citizen-friendly and is sustainable. From the water perspective, the success of a smart city will be determined once all checks and processes pertaining to drinkable water, efficient wastewater disposal and treatment facilities are in place. The water distribution system in smart cities’ must be capable of monitoring and networking with other critical systems that will help in real time monitoring. The smart cities, that are under construction and the ones that will be coming up in the near future, should have built-in disaster mitigation systems to protect the inhabitants and alleviate the disasters as much as possible.

While planning a smart city, various environmental aspects too have to be factored in. Smart Cities are more than just wired, data enabled cites; they are habitats that are able to provide for all its citizens and utilize resources in a sustainable fashion with the least impact on the environment. Most people are oblivious to the fact that pumps account for 10 percent of the world’s energy consumption. If all these inefficient pumps are replaced with energy-efficient pumps, we can easily save up to 5 percent of the world’s energy. Therefore, it is imperative for Smart Cities to adopt not only intelligent but energy efficient technologies.

In order to initiate change at this level, cities have to develop sustainable sources of water through proper care for its reservoirs, rain water harvesting, water treatment, and water reuse. Numerous Indian cities account for large amounts of water leakage since there are no processes or systems in place to monitor this. One of the most recent cases of mismanagement of water is Mulund (West) in Mumbai where the residents had to face acute water shortage due to leakage. It was later acknowledged that within a span of 12 hours, the city lost lakhs of litres of water. A bustling metropolis like Mumbai where life can come to a standstill due to excess or lack of water, is a sad reality that should encourage us to take water management solutions more seriously.

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

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.

Solar power is another technology that Smart Cities can adopt at a larger scale. Solar Pumps are a tried and tested success story across villages in India where there is dearth in electricity. The solar pumps should be encouraged amongst city-dwellers since Indian cities are one of the highest emitters of carbon dioxide and other toxic industrial gases.

Most importantly, irrespective of the location, water metering should draw immediate attention and needs to be addressed. The lack of proper pricing of water will result in having virtually non-existent sustainable solutions. Like the electricity board, we need to have metering of our usage of water and differential pricing. Around 16 percent of water is used in the cities – human beings consume 8 percent and another 8 percent is used by the industries. How can we ensure 24/7 water supply and reduce or eliminate non-revenue water (NRW).

Another important 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 existing water reservoirs. According to the International Institute of Health and Hygiene New Delhi, around 62 percent 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 industry 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 City campaigns but also leverage their expertise and intelligent technologies. It should also involve corporates in the strategic planning and implementation as well.

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. The Smart City initiative is undoubtedly one of the key developments for building a sustainable and developed country. Living in a city with the 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, regional head of Public Affairs, Communications & Relations at Grundfos for the Asia Pacific Region

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