Cutting water loss remains a pipe dream

Water leaks from a Pheo pipeline at Baramunda in Bhubaneswar. 
Picture by Ashwinee Pati

Bhubaneswar: The Public Health Engineering Organisation (Pheo) suffers a daily loss of nearly 150 million litres drinking water a day (MLD) during transition - described as "non-revenue water" or water that didn't generate any revenue for the organisation.

Pheo had appointed a consultant in December to come up with plans and suggest measures in its bid to cut losses. However, six months on, it is still to take any steps to address the issue.

"The consultant is also working for other public health divisions of the state. It will compile the data and suggest comprehensive plans for respective cities. It has so far completed the work in nine cities and towns and will do the same for Bhubaneswar next," said a Pheo official.

Pheo supplies nearly 295 MLD of drinking water to Bhubaneswar households a day, but loses nearly half of it because of pipeline leakages, water theft by private tankers and unauthorised connections. The consultant was hired to assess this loss using mechanical listening sticks and electronic ground microphones.

After getting data on the exact loss of water and its primary reasons, the consultant will then provide plans to reduce the loss using different methods. "The agency is working in phases and Bhubaneswar is part of the second phase," said another Pheo official.

Pheo superintending engineer C.R. Jena said despite the loss, they had enough water to supply to city households. "According to the city's population and its per capita requirement, there is no scarcity of water. But if we save the water, we would be able to channelise it to uncovered areas," he said.

The city administration is executing 37 drinking water supply projects under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation scheme. These include construction of overhead and underground water reservoirs and laying pipelines to uncovered areas.

However, there are no plans to increase the daily supply. As a result, if Pheo want to supply water to every household, including those yet uncovered, it will have to cut its losses.

"The amount of water we supply at present is enough for a population of about 15 lakh. The city's present population is about 10 lakh and we hope that by reducing the non-revenue water, we would be able to get the uncovered areas under the water supply network," said Jena.

Pheo will also install automatic meter reading machines in houses across the city to calculate the use of drinking water and charge consumers accordingly. According to the proposal, domestic consumers will pay Rs 3.94 per thousand litre of water, while commercial establishments will pay Rs 13.03 per thousand litres of water. At present, Pheo calculates the bill according to the number of taps installed in each household. The general bill of a household is Rs 70 per month.


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