Non-Revenue Water – A Fundamental Challenge in India’s Water Utility Sector
Published by : Industrial Automation
Nideshna V., Senior Consultant, Industrial Practice, Frost & Sullivan shares insights on the occasion of World Water Day (March 22nd).
Non-Revenue Water (NRW) is an issue with almost all water supply utilities in India. It includes physical and commercial losses and free authorised water for which payment is not collected. The major issue affecting the Indian water utilities is the significant difference between the amount of system input volume (SIV) into the distribution system and the amount of actual water billed to consumers, which is the NRW. Average NRW in India is around 38%; just above the global average range of 30% to 35% reported by the World Bank. Mexico and Denmark have 51% of non-revenue water, respectively, the two extremes. A challenge in many utilities is pinpointing the breakdown of NRW components and subcomponents, which makes it difficult to determine the best course of action to reduce NRW.
Though there have been developments in leak detection technologies, their adoption in India has been sluggish, primarily due to the limited revenues that municipalities generate. However, with privatisation on the rise, many water utilities are expected to deploy leak detection systems to improve water networks and reduce NRW. The high rate of NRW in India creates a high business potential for deploying Smart Water Meters and Grids.
Smart Water Meters paving way for the Digital Transformation in the Indian Water Utility Sector
Digital technologies such as Smart Water Meters have been very effective in curbing water loss and reducing NRW globally. An increase in revenue generation for water utilities through improved billing efficiency, enhanced water conservation, and resource optimisation, are the major water drivers of the smart water meter market in India. Government initiatives such as the Smart City projects are also creating demand for smart water meters. There is a steady rise in demand for IoT-enabled Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) smart water meters because of its multiple benefits such as leak detection, real-time data collection and monitoring, and machine-to-machine communications.
AMI systems would drastically reduce the time spent on manual data collection processes; this helps the short-staffed water utilities to focus on critical roles such as improving their service to house connections and undertake predictive analytics for improving system efficiency.
A recent Frost & Sullivan analysis reveals that the demand for smart water meter can reach up to 500,000 units by 2025, from 220,000 units in 2019. The smart water meter market in India is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 14.7% during 2019-2025.
Municipal water corporations from Chandigarh, Pune, and Hyderabad have started to implement Smart Water Meters. Pune Municipal Corporation is in the process of implementing 275,000 (Source: https://www.expresscomputer.in/news/pune-municipal-corporations-pmc-implements-smart-water-meters/32818/) smart water meters over 3 years starting 2019. The success of these projects would also play a crucial role in the adoption of this technology by other municipal bodies.
Usage of smart water meters by utilities to bill the customers for actual water consumption would encourage apartments and multi-tenant buildings to install individual AMI meters. Such meters would help them track their water consumption patterns and implement water conservation methods to reduce water bills. This widens the prospective customer base for smart water meter solution providers.
Product suppliers need to develop end-to-end solutions using cloud-based real-time data analytics to generate more revenues, reduce asset maintenance costs and water production costs and reduce energy consumption. The market is expected to witness a more collaborative approach from different stakeholders such as product suppliers, software developers, and water OEMs to develop such end-to-end solutions.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): In the long-term, the water utilities would open up to advanced digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data Analytics and therefore SaaS solution is a critical growth area. The prospect of real-time data availability would result in mobile applications developed to track the demand and consumption data at the point of water entry and individual tap points through smartphones.
The adoption of digital technologies could also assist us in challenging times such as the COVID-19 global pandemic. With social distancing playing a crucial role in containing the communal virus outbreaks, digital solutions such as the smart water meters ensure service/business continuity with minimal human interventions.