Delhi, the sprawling metropolis of India, grapples with a complex and expansive water supply network. This intricate system encompasses over 15,000 km of pipelines, which transport water from treatment plants to underground reservoirs before finally reaching the homes of millions of Delhiites. However, this journey is not without its challenges.
A substantial portion of the water seems to vanish en route, raising concerns about unaccounted-for water, leaks, and pilferage.
Unmasking the Scale of the Issue
Data released by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) sheds light on the magnitude of the problem. On certain days, particularly alarming figures emerge from various water treatment plants. Take, for example, the Chandrawal water treatment plant, which supplies water to Central and North Delhi. On the last two days of August, over 60 million gallons per day (MGD) of water, constituting more than 60% of the plant's total production, remained unaccounted for. Astonishingly, this water supply was zero on only six days of the month.
Throughout August, the average unaccounted-for flow from the Chandrawal plant stood at 20.9 MGD. To put this into perspective, the Economic Survey of Delhi prescribes a standard water supply of 60 gallons per person per day. With a population of approximately 15.71 lakh people potentially reliant on this unaccounted water, the implications are significant.
Monitoring the Invisible Drainage
To tackle this pressing issue, the Delhi Jal Board has implemented a comprehensive monitoring system. The heart of this system is a network of 2,691 flow meters installed across the city. These devices are instrumental in measuring the flow of water at different points along the supply chain. The data collected is relayed to a control room at DJB headquarters, which was established in 2019, for real-time monitoring.
The meters primarily calculate water supplied and water distributed from the treatment plants to underground reservoirs. However, there remain 180 meters yet to be installed on lines leading to the inlets of the primary underground reservoirs.
The Wazirabad and Nangloi Conundrum
The issue of unaccounted-for water is not confined to the Chandrawal plant alone. Water treatment plants in Wazirabad and Nangloi also report significant losses in their supply chains. Given the critical importance of water in a densely populated metropolis like Delhi, these losses cannot be ignored.
In total, Delhi's nine water treatment plants collectively produce a staggering 870 MGD of water daily. Unfortunately, nearly 94.28 MGD of this water remains unaccounted for by the time it reaches secondary reservoirs. This translates into an enormous quantity of water that could potentially serve the needs of Delhi's residents.
A Deadline for Accountability
Speaking on the issue, DJB Vice-Chairman Somnath Bharti while talking to the media emphasised the urgency of addressing unaccounted-for water. He revealed that production and distribution from the nine water treatment plants are now closely monitored in real-time from the control room. Furthermore, the installation of 1,537 additional flowmeters is scheduled for phase 2, with a target of completion by December. He also added that the Delhi Chief Minister has set a strict deadline to ensure that every drop of water is accounted for.
As Delhi battles the complexities of urbanisation and the growing demand for resources, ensuring the efficient distribution of water becomes paramount. The unaccounted-for water issue serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by one of the world's largest cities. With a dedicated monitoring system and ambitious targets set by the government, there is hope that Delhi can quench the thirst of its residents while curbing wastage and losses in its water supply network. The path ahead is challenging, but the city's future depends on water, making its preservation and efficient distribution an absolute necessity.