The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) plans to provide 60 percent of Delhi's 17 million residents with round-the-clock water supply in the next five to six years.
The state-run water utility is already providing continuous supply to about 10 percent of the city's population through three pilot public-private partnership projects in the Malviya Nagar, Mehrauli and Vasant Vihar areas, said Delhi Jal Board CEO Debashree Mukherjee.
The move to involve the private sector in water distribution has drawn criticism from several quarters, but Mukherjee said it was a necessity for water management in the city.
"Once these pilot projects are in place, we are also looking to have similar systems to revamp our two oldest command areas, at Chandrawal and Wazirabad. This would take care of about 40 percent of the city of Delhi," she told a water conference in New Delhi this week.
Mukherjee said ensuring that water supply keeps pace with population growth is one of the main challenges the DJB faces. The DJB produces about 840 million gallons per day of water; peak demand in the city is 1.15 billion gallons per day. Levels of non-revenue water are high.
"Many things are linked to the fact that wastewater needs to be treated as a resource,” Mukherjee added. “In Delhi, we treat about 360 million gallons per day. We don't get to collect all our wastewater and so we don't treat all of our wastewater, a lot of which goes untreated into the Yamuna River.”
Of the 360 million gallons per day that the DJB treats, it uses 140 million. "This is a substantial amount by Indian standards, but if we look at our wastewater as a resource, we would like to increase this manifold," she added.
She said the utility is now setting water tariffs based on volume as part of its demand management strategy.
"So, if a family tells me that their water bills are high, the idea is that they are designed to be high. We see tariff in a water scarce situation as a means of demand management,” she said.
Over the four years since the tariff was revised, the utility has been able to meet some of its operation and maintenance costs and service some of its debt liabilities.
"We have tariffs at a level where we can reinvest to improve our aging pipelines and infrastructure and that reduces our physical losses. There has been a significant reduction in physical losses in the last three years, but we are looking at further improvement over next five years,” Mukherjee added.
The conference, “Promoting water use efficiency across urban sectors to address climate change,” was organized jointly by the CII-Triveni Water Institute and USAID India. It was held on October 9.
This story is brought to readers free in association with Singapore International Water Week.