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Software for managing Bengaluru's water supplies

A state of the art water management system, which can change how the water supply in the city is managed, is now ready for Bengaluru.

Researchers at IISc, in collaboration with IBM and Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewage Board (BWSSB), presented the software at the 12th International Conference on Computing and Control for the Water Industry in Italy. The proceedings have been published in the international journal Procedia Engineering.

This press release was carried in The Hindu (IBM, IISc. chip in for smart water management in city).

“In cities with complex water networks, like Bengaluru and Bombay, incorporating ‘smart’ networks can translate to huge savings in water, and as a consequence in revenue”, said Professor Mohan Kumar from the Civil Engineering Department at IISc, one of the authors of the paper.

Owing to rapid population growth, Bengaluru faces severe water problems, because the supply is simply not sufficient to meet the demand; roughly only half the demand is being met. In addition, more than a third of the water supplied is unaccounted for, most likely lost due to leakages, wastage and unauthorized consumption.

The water supply relies on hundreds of valve men turning valves on and off, on the ground. Due to the absence of a feedback mechanism, engineers at higher levels cannot effectively monitor the valve settings followed by the valve men; and as a result, the effect of changes in valve settings on the water supply throughout the city.

To facilitate the changeover to the new system, BWSSB has installed around 500 ultrasonic flow meters at critical points on the water network. Ultrasonic flow meters use sound waves to measure the velocity of a fluid flowing through the pipe and thus calculate the volume flow. They measure how many litres of water flows through in one second and also the total flow in that section since initialization. While previously this data would have been in analogue form, as part of the current implementation, it is stored digitally in real-time adjacent to the instrument until it has to be transmitted.

At stipulated time periods, this data is transmitted through mobile networks to a central server. Data transmission through GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) is nearly free which aids in their widespread use, making real-time data more readily available from everywhere.

“The availability of real time data means that administrators at BWSSB do not have to wait for complaints to be lodged regarding disruption in water supply”, said Amit Merchant. “When the water level drops below a certain level, alarms will be sounded at the appropriate wards and the problem can be rectified more quickly. The responsive system will lead to easier management of water supply.”

The software analyses data stored in the central server and makes it available for end-users through web and mobile devices in a form easy to comprehend.

The software uses data from the Water Information Hub (WIH), which is a centralized operation centre for water management. It contains a map with locations of flow meters in the city, as well as other relevant components of the water distribution system: major transmission pipes, sewerage pipelines, valves, manholes, overhead tanks and ground level balancing reservoirs for the city, marked by administrative boundaries of division and sub-division.

There are two types of users who can access the WIH. A privileged user can change settings while providing access to users based on roles and responsibilities. A normal user, who is usually an executive engineer or an assistant engineer, can monitor the status water supply, in real time, in the section of the city assigned to him. To do this, all he has to do is to switch on the computer, and open the WIH.

WIH also helps in tracking activity of valve men all over the city. If valve settings are mismanaged, the water flow data is available to the engineer for rectification in 24- hour format reports. They can also set the necessary thresholds for alarms to go off after determining the operating range of water flow in particular sections of the network.

WIH also provides a portal to produce water equations using flow meter data as parameters. For an enclosed pipe network, ideally, the water flowing in is equal to water flowing out. An inflow which is larger than the outflow indicates water loss due to leakage or theft.

Usha Manohar, a PhD student in the Civil engineering department at IISc, worked on the water balance equations. “By plugging the readings into the equations, the amount of water lost in each division is found out. This comes out to an average of 40%,” she said. By looking at areas with the highest water loss, corrective measures can be taken.

The water equation portal can also be extended to determine equitable water distribution. Flow meters positioned at the boundaries of a division or sub-division calculates the water flowing in and out of the region, the difference of which gives the amount of water supplied to that division. Dividing this by the population provides an indicator for water supplied per capita. This can be tuned to allocate equal amounts of water per person or per connection by division and sub-division.

The business layer, where the management of the system happens, helps in automation and customization. It provides reports to users in various formats, provides key performance indicators and creates rules that can trigger alarms when violated. It helps in codifying standard operating procedures so that all processes are carried out evenly across the organization. These standards help in tracking efficiency. This also ensures that acquired knowledge is not lost by subsequent batch of engineers.

The various layers are integrated allowing for data to flow easily between the components. There is a security layer which ensures against external threat and data misuse. This has identity management, role based access and data integrity as its key features.

This system has been implemented across the city, barring a few regions. “The system”, explained Professor Mohan Kumar, “still has a long way to go. With addition of pressure gauges and water level sensors, it will have additional capabilities. Successful instrumentation across the city will surely help in cost savings through judicious water management.”

About the authors

U Manohar and M S Mohan Kumar (http://cistup.iisc.ernet.in/files/mohankumar.pdf) are from the Department of Civil Engineering at IISc. Amit Merchant and P Vyas are with IBM and P N Ravindra is with the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board (BWSSB).

Link to the paper: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877705814001283