New Delhi: To monitor the rural drinking water supply systems in villages, the Ministry of Jal Shakti has decided to take the digital route to use sensor-based IoT devices to effectively monitor the implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission in more than six lakh villages. For this, National Jal Jeevan Mission in collaboration with Tata Community Initiatives Trust (TCIT) and Tata Trusts recently completed pilot projects in Himachal Pradesh and other four states i.e. Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

A key feature of these pilots has been the use of frugal yet sturdy sensors, which makes the solution scalable and sustainable. One of the key challenges posed to the team was to develop a robust solution at a fraction of the water infrastructure costs (<10-15% of total scheme capex) without compromising on quality or functionality. These costs are expected to reduce further at scale. More importantly, majority of the vendors, including manufacturers, are Indian players, thereby giving a boost to Government’s AatmaNirbhar Bharat programme. The pilots went live in September 2020 despite challenges during CoVid-19 pandemic.

The Internet of Things (IoT) based remote monitoring provides near real-time information without any manual intervention by using sensors. This would not only allow effective monitoring and management on-ground, but also enable real-time visibility to State water supply/ PHED officials, and citizens.

With a futuristic vision to ensure regular tap water to every home, real-time measurement and monitoring is critical for rural drinking water supply schemes, with enormous gains in terms of operational efficiencies, cost reduction, grievance redressal, etc. Data will drive improvement in service delivery and instill transparency for precious natural asset such as water. Thus, making a strong social and economic case for deployment of such a system.

Rural drinking water supply design varies considerably across different regions of the country. These pilots were spread across diverse agro-climatic conditions – including areas in western Himalayas, desert regions to Gangetic plains (spanning extreme cold of -100C to severe heat of 480C. These pilots cover different types of sources such as groundwater based borewells, springs in hilly areas, and surface water (river and dams) and villages with a population of a few hundreds to several thousands. The pilots also demonstrated a first-of-its-kind comprehensive (source to tap) remote monitoring and control system in a completely off-grid (using solar and battery only) rural environment in Sirohi district, Rajasthan.

Several types of sensors have been deployed including flow meters, ground water level sensors, chlorine analyzers, pressure sensors, pump controller etc. to measure all the relevant aspects of water service delivery – quantity, duration, quality, pressure, and sustainability – in addition to providing operational efficiencies. The cloud and analytics powered IoT Platform is integrated with a GIS (Geographical Information System) providing a robust decision support system.

The pilots have led to several outcomes as it has helped identify distribution issues – such as outages, leakages, low pressure, etc. and led to resolution across sites. It recently alerted both officials and community regarding fast depleting groundwater levels, that led the villagers to build a source strengthening structure to recharge their borewell. Other benefits observed include efficient and responsible use of water by community and reduced cost of operations through data-enabled leak detection, predictive maintenance, and automation.

Villages have a small TV screen installed with a visual dashboard in local vernacular, that helps the VWSC/ PaniSamiti take corrective actions. This has also led to a positive behavioural change. Earlier, the water disinfection process was not carried out regularly in some of these villages. Now, the VWSC (PaniSamiti) sees a visual indicator on their village IoT screen telling when to disinfect water based on residual chlorine levels.

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Rahul Bhandari is Editor of TheNewsHimachal and has been part of the digital world for last 15 years.