Water bought by the operators at a nominal cost is sold for a much higher price

At the city’s sole drinking water production facility at Aruvikkara, near here, two things work round the clock — the water pumps and the water tanker filling facility from where more than 30 lakh litres of water is purchased daily by private water tanker operators.

Kerala Water Authority (KWA) personnel manning the filling point say more than 400 tanker loads of water are sold from the facility every 24 hours. Quantity-wise, this translates to more than 30 lakh litres of water a day. But that is only part of the water-business story.

The tanker operator purchases water from the KWA paying Rs.30 for 1,000 litres. At present, there is no ceiling on the quantity of water that an operator can purchase in a day. When this water reaches consumers, its cost rises exponentially. In high-rise apartments, which are bulk consumers of water, the selling price of 17,000 litres of water is Rs.2,000 to Rs.2,500.

Consumer request

Before the actual purchase of water, each tanker operator is expected to produce a request from the consumer for whom he is purchasing water.

The request is expected to contain the address of the consumer and the quantity of water required.

“By now, many tanker operators have copies of the letterheads of many organisations, including hospitals, residents’ associations, and apartment complexes. Given the volume of sales, it is next to impossible for KWA personnel to verify the genuineness of these requests,” one KWA engineer who has served at Aruvikkara said.

Water diverted

This means that at least a portion of the water meant for domestic consumption or for hospitals ends up being sold for construction purposes or for other non-domestic purposes.

“It takes some time for tankers to go to the city, discharge the water, and return. Some tankers come back very quickly for the next load; they do so many times a day. It is clear that they are not servicing domestic customers,” one KWA operator at the filling station said.

KWA engineers who spoke to The Hindu said the problem could be tackled to some extent by insisting that the requests for water come directly from consumers and are renewed periodically.