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50 p.c. of Cauvery water lost in transit

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Divya Gandhi

Bangalore ranks fourth in the country in ‘unaccounted-for water’

Bangalore: In a city where piped water supply is largely erratic or absent, where women spend at least two hours a day fetching water from public taps and where groundwater is overexploited, here comes another shocking statistic: up to 50 per cent of Cauvery water never reaches those it is meant for.

Much of Bangalore’s piped water is lost in transmission, mainly due to leakage across the network of pipes, from distribution mains, service pipes to stand posts, according to the Environment Status Report for Bangalore prepared by Environmental Management and Policy Research Institute for the Department of Forest, Ecology and Environment.

Of the gross supply of 1,059 MLD sourced primarily from the Cauvery, only 550 MLD is billed, leaving 509 MLD as “unaccounted-for water” (UFW). This translates to 48 per cent of the water supply, making Bangalore’s UFW the fourth highest among cities in India, says the report, to be made public shortly.

The report attributes the water loss to poor operation and maintenance of the network by the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) as well as unauthorised connections. “Our study used BWSSB’s data until 2007. At the high rate at which UFW has been increasing, we can predict that the figure is currently 50 per cent,” C. Nanjundaiah, Associate Professor at the Institute of Social and Economic Change and author of the study, told The Hindu.

The gap between the production of water and its consumption has grown significantly in less than 20 years. Unaccounted water has increased from 16 per cent (62 MLD) to 48 per cent (509 MLD) between 1990 and 2007, even as the supply to the city has increased from 375 MLD (1990-91) to 1,059 MLD (2006-07).

This means that the per capita availability of water for domestic use is highly stressed: at just 75 LPCD (litres per person per day), the figure is half the World Health Organisation’s stipulated requirement of 150 LPCD. Groundwater, not surprisingly, is overexploited, and there are no few than 80,000 private borewells in the city. The 30 to 35 per cent of the population, representing urban poor, have limited access to water, and half of them are fully dependent on groundwater for drinking and cooking.

Water supply to the city is expensive, the report points out. As much as 65 per cent of BSWWB’s expenditure goes towards power bills for pumping treated water from a 100 km distance to the city (which is, besides, at a significant elevation) and in the distributing network. The cost of water production and supply is the highest in the country at Rs. 23.13 per kilolitre. Mumbai pays Rs. 2.17 and Chennai Rs. 5.73.

Rather than depending on water drawn from several km away, “conservation of surface and groundwater is the immediate need,” the report recommends. This includes rainwater harvesting, restoration of lakes, treatment of waste water, and the conservation of T.G. Halli reservoir which supplies 120 MLD annually.

A senior official from BWSSB who said he “was not aware of the figures” pointed out that unaccounted water had little to do with leakage in pipes, but because of unauthorised connections and public taps. “We have a situation where there are illegal connections every 30 feet. Even so, the percentage cannot be 50 per cent; it could be 37 per cent,” the official said.

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