Officers of Kerala Water Authority’s Non-Revenue Water Management Unit and anti-theft squad cut water connection to a large construction site at Palarivattom on Saturday after it was found that more than 100 construction workers staying in the building were using an unauthorised connection for their drinking water and other needs.

Though the illegal water connection went into a large complex under construction, water was not being used for building purposes, said an official of the Water Authority. However, water was being collected throughout the day for use by inmates of the building. The official said that this could just be the tip of the iceberg of widespread water theft in Kochi. The city has nearly two lakh connections and these cannot be properly monitored because of the shortage of hands in the KWA.

The city has just one squad comprising five persons and the squad cannot handle more than two to three detailed inspections a day. However, the squad has detected more than 20 cases a month since it came into existence in July 2012. The instance of water theft detected at Palarivattom on Sunday is typical of the city where a construction company buys small plots of land in an area with several buildings. The buildings are then demolished for setting up business complexes or residential apartments. Though it is mandatory that the water connection is cut once a building is demolished, the builders often aggregate the connections in the buildings and continue to draw water illegally.

The anti-theft squad came into existence after it was found that a massive quantity of water pumped for supply to the city area was not being billed. According to estimates, the Water Authority pumps 164 million litres of water a day for supply to city areas. However, only 110 million litres are billed. Even after making allowances for 25 to 30 per cent leaks and transmission loss, the quantity of non-revenue water raised the suspicion of the authorities. The Water Authority is introducing a new billing system, using a new software to tidy up the billing process to plug further leaks in revenue.

More In: Kochi