How Mobility Can Solve India’s Perennial Water Shortage

Feb 7th, 2014 | By | Category: India, Learning, Water

water-shortageGlobal climate change, growing population and limited sources of supply have put effective water management on a high priority for governments across the globe. For effective water management, it is important to be able to capture, organize, analyze and report data meaningfully. Only with reliable data can planners identify ways and means to streamline the water management process towards forecasting demand and supply of water, optimizing usage and ensuring minimal (water and revenue) leakages. Before we look at how mobility can address the problem of water shortage, let us first look at the water management ecosystem.

The water management ecosystem
The water management ecosystem broadly comprises the following key components: Raw water source, water treatment plants, a network of clean water reservoirs, end users, distribution network of pipes and pump stations that connect all these and meters to monitor the flow of water at all stages. A quality control team monitors quality, while an administrative team manages the entire process of water management across all of the above components. It is important to capture information at each stage to ascertain the volume of water flowing in and out of each process element, normal loss of volume in processing, wastage, pilferage and actual consumption.

Challenges with the manual process
The manual process of capturing, organizing and processing information to make it available for planning and billing has several inherent challenges. Some of the key challenges include:
  • Slow speed of information gathering and processing
  • The process is prone to human errors – inadvertent or intentional.
  • It is prone to bias and manipulation.
  • Long bill calculation, distribution and collection cycles, resulting in delayed cash flows.
  • Non-availability of necessary data in time to analyze and make meaningful decisions.
  • Human limitations in collection of information at some stages, at desired periodicity.

The electronic water management ecosystem
As seen in the picture below, the information is collected automatically at most points with electronic meters and sensors to measure volume, pressure and speed at each point of the water management ecosystem, and logged into the data center on an ongoing basis. Some of the information is stored at fixed intervals (e.g. total volume of water processed on a given day) and some is based on triggers (e.g. significant drop in pressure in a very short time interval indicating a potential leakage or pipe-burst).

Key decision-makers and stakeholders are mapped and their information needs are documented. Custom templates are created to ensure everyone gets only the relevant information, in meaningful visual charts on dashboards, with the right periodicity or triggers. Analysis templates are created to identify available data points, ways to analyze it for meaningful conclusions and representations to align with the expectations of the key stakeholders. Data is analyzed and presented in a meaningful dashboard format in the form of charts, tables and alerts via e-mails, dashboard messages and SMSes. Information can be accessed via desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Some level of interactivity is also enabled for the user to experiment with the data in search of more insights. Information can be made available and presented on a need-to-know basis to internal stakeholders, regulatory authorities and also to customers through an interactive portal. The online portal can automate many processes like consumer registration, billing information access on-demand, transfer of accounts on change of homeowners, closure of accounts, payment collection, etc.


Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>

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