In most cities, municipal water utilities do not charge for the true cost of water – you may have noticed this when you look at a BWSSB water bill, water appears to be very cheap. The price we pay as citizens with access to municipal water, is low when compared to what the utilities actually bear as their cost for water and this is because prices are deliberately kept low to ensure that this precious resource is available and affordable to all. Utilities are responsible for delivering clean water to the city, and their costs include everything from building infrastructure to collect water such as dams and reservoirs, treating water from the source, laying miles of pipe to supply it to the city, to maintaining this system so that it runs efficiently and effectively.
If you live in an apartment or a residential layout that does not get municipal water supply, chances are, you pay more for water. Communities that do not receive municipal water, costs are bound to be high because they usually rely on tanker water or borewell water and are subject to price variations depending on these private sources of supply. However, when water is metered and a clear tariff is put in place, the entire community can become more aware of its water consumption and devise ways to be more economical about its water use. By doing this communities can help to conserve water resources and lower its water costs.
One way to reduce what you pay is to better understand your community’s water consumption and its related costs. The first step to this is to calculate the water consumption of every household in the community using a water meter, and then by setting a water tariff.
In Bengaluru, BWSSB’s tariff starts from a mere Rs 6 per kilolitre while the utility incurs a cost of Rs 28/KL. Tariffs can change over time. It is one of the few cities in the country that calculates water based on how much is consumed.
Let’s see how we do this.
If you manage your own water, the production cost will include :
Based on these fundamental costs, here is a tool to estimate your community’s production cost for water. In order to calculate the exact cost, it is important for the community to maintain separate accounts for water-related expenses.
To figure out the consumption of individual households in a residential complex, meters need to be installed at the household level. With metering data, you can:
Using the data on production costs and consumption, the true cost of a unit volume of water can be calculated. This should become the basis for setting water tariff.
Setting a water tariff is essential, as it would:
In cities like Bengaluru, some apartments are retrofitting meters even though it is not required by law. Kaleem, Estate Management Officer at Krystal Campus apartments in Bellandur, Bengaluru, explains in this video how retrofitting meters benefits the community. In some new layouts, builders themselves are installing meters at the household level.
In this guide, we focus on consumption meters alone i.e., metering at the household level. But in general, metering can be of three types.
Before installing consumption meters in your apartment/layout, it is important to ensure effective communication within the community. Discuss all aspects of metering and tariff with the residents so that they reach an agreement. These reforms will be successful only when residents cooperate and work together to change in their approach to water. This is imperative.
Once meters are installed, the following processes should formalised within and across the community.
In sum, metering is effective only with perseverance, and a collective commitment to managing water using data.
Once metering data helps you understand consumption patterns and production costs, it is time to set the water tariff. Tariffs should be set in a way that encourages residents to use water judiciously – not just to save costs but also to help reduce wastage and conserve the resource.
Here are some ways to do this:
Fixing consumption meters in an apartment costs Rs 13,000-14,000 per household, as of early 2017. This amount includes meter cost and plumbing charges.
Meters typically do not require any maintenance, but they could suffer from technical problems from time to time. Two of the most common issues are:
You can resolve these challenges by: