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Measure and monitor: New task for Jal Jeevan Mission's 100% tap water goal

The Jal Jeevan Mission has estimated usage of water at 55 litre per capita per day
From the 3,500-metre altitude, sub-zero temperatures in Stok village of Ladakh to the remote forests in Namsai district, Arunachal Pradesh, the Jal Jeevan Mission is literally traversing the length and breadth of the country.

While the target of achieving 100 per cent tap-water connections for all households is still four years away, the government is gearing up for another big challenge: How to measure and monitor water supply and consumption.

“We have to make up our mind on how to monitor and at which level, because the cost-effectiveness of this exercise has to be worked out,” a senior government official told Business Standard.

The Centre has asked states to make provisions for installing a sensor-based monitoring system — something like a water meter — in village households.

The Jal Jeevan Mission does not cover the expenditure of installing water meters in households.

The government is concerned that for a country of the size of India, the cost of monitoring could become very high. There are over 600,000 villages in the country and over 1.7 million habitations.

The Jal Shakti ministry is planning to rope in international experts to help access the right technology at an affordable cost to measure water supply and usage.

“Once we adopt a particular kind of technology it would be open for all. We are trying to bring in global players who have expertise in sensor-based technology,” the official added.

The ministry has also set up a committee of former officials and technical experts to decide the specifics of the monitoring and measuring exercise. The committee will study ways of capturing data on water supply, and define standards and protocol.

It will develop a governance framework and implementation plan for smart measurement and monitoring water-service delivery systems in rural areas.

It will decide upon the best technology that can be used, whether it should be deployed at the level of households, villages, or habitations, and ways to make it most cost-effective.

States including Gujarat and Bihar have started using sensor-based technology to measure the quantity, quality as well as regularity of water supply in their villages.

The Jal Jeevan Mission has estimated water usage at 55 litres per capita per day. Through a monitoring mechanism, the government wants to find out if there is any course correction required in terms of the supply and demand of water in any area.

For instance, if there are any leakages or “non-revenue water”, the monitoring mechanism will be able to flag it.

“Our target is not just to provide taps. We don’t want a situation where there are taps but no water. At the end of the day it is all about service delivery. Every household should get adequate water,” the official said.

Experts are worried that while tap-water connections for all households is a good idea, it could lead to huge demand in the country, which will strain the already stressed groundwater resources.

“We need to think of groundwater governance in a scientific manner. Existing sources are drying up,” said A K Gosain, department of civil engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and a member of the panel that has drafted the Ganga protection law.

The government has so far provided over 58 million tap-water connections, covering around 30 per cent of the rural households. So far, Goa is the only state in the country with 100 per cent tap water coverage. Bihar, Puducherry and Telangana are expected to have full coverage by the end of 2021.

The cost of the Jal Jeevan Mission is estimated to be around Rs 3.60 trillion, of which the Central share is Rs 2.08 trillion.

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