The provision of safe, reliable and affordable water supply through efficiently managed arrangements is a key goal for the water supply sector. It is being increasingly acknowledged that these objectives are difficult to achieve through conventional water supply networks without targeting continuous water supply through a constantly pressurized system.
It is now well established that intermittent water supply leads to health risks for users due to the higher likelihood of contamination of water pipelines through joints and damaged segments during periods when the system is not pressurized. The absence of sound technical and managerial systems associated with intermittent supply makes supply and demand management extremely difficult. This prevents effective estimation or control of the amount of water produced, transmitted and distributed. Intermittent supply of water also causes great inconvenience to households, especially to women and children who most often bear the brunt of the hardship associated with inadequate and unreliable water supply. To cope with these shortcomings, customers revert to expensive coping strategies such as building expensive underground sumps and overhead tanks, and installing booster pumps, treatment devices etc. Households, especially the poor, who are unable to afford such expensive investments, often have to rely on purchasing water at elevated prices from private suppliers.
The technical and managerial shortcomings associated with intermittent water supply lead to a steady decline in the quality of service over time. The poor and deteriorating service undermines the commercial environment for the service provider, as unsatisfied customers are unwilling to accept water tariffs imposed on them. The adverse financial health of the service provider resulting from this situation reinforces the trend of declining service quality.
The CPHEEO Manual on Water Supply and Treatment also recognizes the shortcomings of intermittent water supply. It states: "The intermittent system suffers from several disadvantages... does not promote personal hygiene.... water is stored during non-supply hours in all sorts of vessels which might the water mains through leaky joints.... difficulty in finding sufficient water for fire fighting purposes.... taps are always kept open in such system leading to wastage when supply is resumed..... This system (intermittent supply) does not promote hygiene and hence, wherever possible, intermittent supply should be discouraged."
Given the health imperatives and other inconveniences caused by intermittent water supply, it is unfortunate that virtually no city in India has continuous water supply. The experience of several cities in developing countries, many with per capita incomes lower than India's, has proven that continuous water supply is Possible through fairly straight forward and widely practiced institutional, technical and financial innovations. Recognizing the need forover coming the short comings in the existing system to attain the goal of continuous water supply in urban Indiain a planned manner, the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) has, with the support of the Water and Sanitation Program- South Asia (WSP-SA), drafted these guidance notes. They have been prepared not just to highlight the short comings of intermittent water supply but also to elucidate a planning process that would enable exercise of choices aimed at addressing these problems.
Recognizing the need forover coming the short comings in the existing system to attain the goal of continuous water supply in urban India in a planned manner, the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) has, with the support of the Water and Sanitation Program- South Asia (WSP-SA), drafted these guidance notes. They have been prepared not just to highlight the short comings of intermittent water supply but also to elucidate a planning process that would enable exercise of choices aimed at addressing these problems.
These guidelines are designed to sensitize State Governments, Urban Local Bodies and service providers to the policy and operational issues that need to be addressed as they reform urban water supply. These Guidance Notes should be considered as a guide to best that will continue to grow and transform through incorporation of the actual experience of cities across the country, as they endeavour to improve their water supply arrangements. They are not aimed at being a set of rigid, exhaustive prescriptions, and should be adapted to the cities' specific circumstances.