Water Conservation and how Future Cities are dependent for their growth on it

The GOI introduced the Smart Cities Mission intending to create 100 smart and progressive cities across India by 2023. This translates into a heavy influx to these cities, which is likely to put greater pressure on urban city planners to ensure sustainable quality of life in these 'Smart Cities'.


The Indian urban population is projected to grow to 39% by 2036. That means 2 in every 5 Indian will live in cities by 2036. Not just this, according to the 2011 census, India had 7935 towns cities, and 300 of them had a population of over 1,00,000. Additionally, the GOI introduced the Smart Cities Mission intending to create 100 smart and progressive cities across India by 2023. This translates into a heavy influx to these cities, which is likely to put greater pressure on urban city planners to ensure sustainable quality of life in these 'Smart Cities'. The need for efficient management for energy, infrastructure, mobility, public services, air, and water is crucial. 

Let's look into the water scenario - the lifeblood for any human establishment. Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR) cites that India's per capita water availability is projected to decline to 1,465 cubic meters by 2025 and 1,235 cubic meters by 2050. Factors impacting this decline go beyond the population influx. There are other factors too, like climate change, deforestation, industrialization, etc. However, if these figures plunge below 1,000-1,100 cubic meters, India will be declared a water-stressed country requiring immediate attention.

At present, India's water demand already exceeds supply, and a large majority of Indian live without access to safe drinking water and clean water for their basic needs. This brings a burning need for a new approach that looks at water security, conservation, and usage mechanism from a long-term perspective. Therefore, judiciously utilizing a scarce resource like water for creating a sustainable and higher quality of life should form the foundation for any smart city's success metric. We can make it possible through a combination of strategic efforts leveraging advanced technologies to recognize abnormalities in water consumption and distribution patterns. Additionally, by intelligently planning and optimizing storage, usage, and eliminating waste could add revenue streams for the municipal bodies. Let's look at some of Water Conservation Best Practices for the Cities of Future: 

Metering and Measuring Water Usage

Metering and measuring the end-users' water usage can provide insights to optimize water conservation opportunities. These practices also identify faulty outlets and equipment and ultimately preventing wastage in a big way. Bengaluru's GK Meadow Apartments adopted IoT-based smart water meters. The society of 90 flats witnessed a 40% reduction in their water consumption with daily usage of 24,000 litres. 

Integrated Water Resource Management

The conventional urban water management systems commissioned in the early 19th century cannot meet present-day needs. Priorities have changed, and thus the need to adopt integrated and tech-enabled urban water resources management systems based on supply optimization, demand management, and balanced distribution is a necessity.

Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) in 2011 installed water meters for their consumers to improve the operational water management in the region. They became one of the first in the country to use technology-enabled integrated water measurement and management systems. They have since witnessed growth in revenues of INR 43 crores in 2019-20 from a low of INR 24 Crores in 2011-12. The PCMC Water Dept is now saving approximately 31,000 million litres of water per year while measuring approximately 90,000 million liters of water per year. 

Installation of Wastewater Management Systems

Forward-looking federal policies emphasizing water-responsive infrastructure designs in the smart city planning stage is another way of countering the impending water crisis. These should increasingly accommodate community-based water education on usage, storage, conservation, and recycling. The "Paani Bachao, Paise Kamao Scheme" launched by The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited in 2017 helped incentivize the farmers to save water.

Water Demand Management

Demand management promotes the development and implementation of planning, measuring, and protocols directed at influencing water demand and consumption to efficiently and sustainably use scarce water resources. Demand management focuses on alternative solutions to finding new water resources, emphasizing increasing water usage efficiency through rainwater harvesting, reducing water usage on sanitation, and implementing usage-based tariffs to curb wastage.

Artificial Intelligence for Smart Water Management

Maximizing water monitoring, usage, distribution, and conservation data is key to optimizing water utilities' operational and financial performance. Implementing sensors in water meters and water treatment plants to collect usage data and then proper analysis of that data allows AI and big-data analytics tools to recommend smart water management approaches, leading to better infrastructure planning and assistance inequitable distribution. This kind of data-driven decision making enhances service delivery, optimizes investments, and reduces operational expenses.

While water management experts may have followed the conventional way of strategizing for water in the smart city projects over the past few years, it is time to understand the potential of new-age and technology-enabled water conservation practices. That is the only way to ensure that cities of the future growth in a sustainable and scalable manner.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house