Latest data on water consumption released by Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has revealed that Bengaluru wastes 49 per cent of water received by Cauvery River. This water is supposed to be used for domestic use of Karnataka. Of the total amount of water supplied to Bengaluru, 49 percent of what is called ‘non-revenue water’ or ‘unaccounted for water’, i.e. water lost in distribution is wasted by the city, according to the BWSSB.
Bengaluru’s population density, 13 times higher than Karnataka’s average, consumes almost half of Cauvery water reserved for domestic use in Karnataka. Bengaluru’s water loss is the second highest among Indian metros and comes after Kolkata, which wastes 50 percent of the water it gets. The wastage figure for Mumbai is 18 percent, New Delhi wastes 26 per cent and Chennai wastes 20 per cent. Across the world, cities lose only about 15 to 20 percent of their supply, said the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) study, which projected Bengaluru’s losses at 48 percent three years ago.
Dr Krishna Raj, Associate Professor and Head, Centre for Economic Studies and Policy (CESP), who authored the study conducted by ISEC, speaking with the G’nY correspondent asserted that “definitely the city is wasting 49 per cent of water through both theft and leakages. However, the city has recently taken measures to reduce the unaccounted for water with the help of Larsen and Toubro (L&T) who has been working on identifying the sources of water leakages and theft. The international standards suggest that 17 per cent of water leakage is acceptable for any water utility”.
A study conducted by ISEC titled – ‘Where All the Water Has Gone? An Analysis of Unreliable Water Supply in Bangalore City’ had the objective of assessing the efficiency of water supply in Bengaluru city in terms of water pricing, reliability, accessibility, etc. The paper attributed the wastage to two types of distributional losses, which are damages and leakages in the water supply system and, unauthorised water connections.
Of the 270 thousand million cubic ft (TMC) of Cauvery water allotted to Karnataka by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, roughly about 80 per cent is used for agriculture and industry (down from over 90 percent in 2007). This leaves about 20 per cent for rural and urban domestic use, of which Bengaluru records the highest demand.
If unaddressed, the situation is only likely to worsen. In nine years, the city’s demand (currently 1,575 MLD) is estimated to rise by 71 per cent, while the supply (currently 1,350 MLD) will rise only by a third, thereby tripling the demand-supply gap, according to the ISEC study of water demand and availability.
Though after Stage IV Phase II of the Cauvery Water Supply Scheme (CWSS) was commissioned, Bengaluru supposedly is receiving 1,350 MLD of water daily. For the city’s population of 8.5 million (Census 2011), this quantity officially raises per capita water availability to 158.82 litres per capita per day (LPCD), which is more than sufficient to meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Central Public Health and Environmental Organisation (CPEEHO) standards.
But, in the last five years, ISEC has recorded large water losses which in turn offset any efforts for increasing water supply through various stages of Cauvery river water supply projects. Thus, efforts to enhance per capita water availability from 65 LPCD to 150 LPCD to meet WHO and CPEEHO standards remain unfulfilled.