Chattogram Wasa is going to automate the billing system to solve the long-standing water wastage problem known as system loss or non-revenue sector.
Under a pilot project, 3,000 Pure Ultrasonic Digital meters will be installed in some areas in June this year. The initial cost of the pilot project has been estimated at around Tk5.8 crore.
Chattogram Wasa's daily water production capacity is about 45 crore litres, of which 25-30% is wasted either because of illegal connections or leakage reported as system loss or non-revenue sector.
Currently, Wasa can supply water to 57% area of the city. Those concerned said that if water wastage can be prevented, it will be possible to supply water to 70-80% of areas of the city.
Sources said Chattogram Wasa has been thinking of moving towards automation since 2019. Initially, plans were made to connect two devices – analogue and digital. But the authorities were looking for a fully digital device to operate the billing system, as there could be problems if the cable was cut.
At the beginning of 2020, five smart meters based on LoRa Gateway were experimentally installed. Following the success of the meter in one year of use, it was decided to take up a pilot project.
At present, three projects of Chattogram Wasa and Ground Water Treatment Plant produce an average of about 45 crore litres of water daily.
According to the latest MIS report released last November, 28% of the total water produced is system loss or non-revenue water, which was 29% last year. The amount of non-revenue water in water supply and sanitation organisations in different countries is 5-10% of the total production.
A Chattogram Wasa investigation in 2020 showed 3.89% of the water produced was wasted due to leakage problems.
As such, the daily non-revenue amount of water is about 12 crore litres and Chattogram Wasa is losing more than Tk45 crore in revenue every year.
Chattogram Wasa still calculates the bill by taking meter readings by visiting every house. About 42 Meter Inspectors collect bills from 78,000 connections. Due to these reasons, there are allegations of not getting accurate calculations of water usage.
There are other allegations that meter inspectors in collusion with WASA officials show less reading and provide illegal connections in exchange for illegal financial benefits from customers. WASA officials hope that digital meters can prevent this wastage and corruption.
Chattogram Wasa Chief Engineer Maksud Alam told The Business Standard that if 7% of the water produced is wasted through leakage the remaining 20-21% of non-revenue water must be due to man-made errors or meter readings.
A meter inspector is responsible for collecting data for 2,000-2,500 meters, which is tough. Hopefully, if the project is successfully implemented, water wastage will be prevented and Chattogram Wasa's revenue will increase, he added.
Regarding the progress of the project, Chattogram Wasa officials said tenders were invited on 11 January. In addition to providing smart water meters with automated meter reading features, the contracting firm will also be responsible for installation and maintenance.
Submission of tenders was completed on 30 January. At present, the work of evaluating the companies is going on. Sample meters will be sent to the Bangladesh University of Engineering for testing. The firm will then be given time to make the meter as per prescribed quality.
If these processes are completed, smart meters will be installed in 3000 connections by June this year. Initially, the bills of residential and commercial customers of the Mehedibagh and Golpahar areas of the city will be calculated with this digital meter.
The digital system will also have a payment gateway for online bill payment.
Engineer Shafiqul Bashar, Systems Analyst, Chattogram Wasa ICT Circle, told The Business Standard tender participants are now being evaluated. When all the process is completed, the work order will be given.