PAGE - 2
The purpose of any water supply system isto satisfy the needs of communities. Thesuitability of any water resource to meetthe demand hinges on the specific require-ments of the communities that will use it.The amount of water consumed by a com-munity depends on many factors. Externalfactors include climate: more water isneeded in hot weather than in cold. Somefactors may be cultural, e.g., the restrictionon water during Ramadan in Muslim coun-tries, or behavioural, e.g., washing prac-tices. These patterns are not unrelated towater availability, but they do not neces-sarily reflect the level of actual or potentialsupply. For instance, although hot weatherduring the summer season tends to in-crease demand, requirements may actuallydecrease if most people go on vacationduring that period. This situation is oftenfound on hot summer weekends in cities;the fewer people in town compensate forincreased consumption per person. Water demand also depends on wateravailability. People adapt to availablevolume and, although there is some inertiainvolved in modifying habits, increasingsupply volumes usually produce some in-crease in consumption level (other factorsbeing equal). The rate of consumption ishigh also due to lack of metering. Thesingle most important factor affecting wa-ter demand is the existing infrastructure forits supply, i.e., conduction, treatment, stor-age, and distribution systems. A key ele-ment is the ratio of service connections tothe number of households. Householdswithout connections normally (but not nec-essarily) consume much less water, andconsumption per person increases with thenumber of connections. In many countriesin Asia, the number of new connectionslag behind the number of new households,especially in the fastest growing cities inthe poorer countries.Leakage of water from the distributionsystems artificially inflates the rate of con-sumption. Although leakage occurs in anysystem (On the order of 10–20% of thewater in the system), in obsolete systemsthis proportion can increase to 30–40% ormore, e.g. in Bhopal and Indore, leakageis estimated to be as high as 50%. It
Managing Demand for Sustainable development of Water Systems in Asian Cities
would be difficult to find any large city inthe region not experiencing this problem.In some cities, leaked water is lost; in oth-ers, it finds its way into aquifers and maybe at least partly retrieved (at a cost). Poli-cies of the water management authoritiescan be used to regulate use as well. Meter-ing and pricing policies are probably themost important in affecting consumptionand demand. Water utilities should askthemselves a number of questions:
Is there adequate control (metering) ofconsumed water?
Are pricing policies equitable for allneighbourhoods?
What are the policies for different uses(domestic, industrial, agricultural, etc.)?
Does cost differ with different levels ofconsumption?
Are there different prices for peak periods?
What policies address leisure use of water,e.g., swimming pools and watering gar-dens?
Finally, the technological efficiency ofwater use can affect demand. Appliancesand fixtures designed to provide water area factor to be considered. To a large ex-tent, “water-using technology and not theuser’s behaviour, determines the amount ofwater used”. In spite of the importance ofreducing unnecessary or wasteful waterconsumption, little is done in this regard. Although water can be expensive for peo-ple at the lower income levels, the pricecharged to consumers is still below the costof supplying it when capital investments,maintenance, and other expenses areconsidered. Well-off urban residents of the Asian cities take for granted their access tolarge volumes of water at a low cost, evenwhen wasting water may mean inade-quate supply to less-affluent neighbour-hoods. However, wastage is not an exclu-sive practice of the urban upper classes;waste occurs throughout the social spec-trum, including the urban poor. Water is avaluable resource and its true economicworth must be recognized by decision-makers and consumers alike. Only withthis awareness will it be possible to bringdemand levels in line with the actual andreasonable needs of the populations.
Level of Demand in Asian Cities
Water demand cannot be measured onlyby the level of consumption. Consumptionis always below potential demand be-cause of interruptions to the service, lowpressure, insufficient connections, etc. Onthe other hand, if conservation measureswere applied, consumption could be sig-nificantly reduced. Methods to bring abouta reduction include:
Reducing leakage to eliminate up to 20–30% of false consumption;
Introducing water-saving technology, suchas smaller toilet tanks and low-volumeshower heads; and
Changing water-consumption patterns,e.g., through adequate pricing policies orvoluntary life-style changes, to stop wastefulpractices or decrease consumption duringpeak periods (systems are overdesigned tomeet infrequent but critical peak loads).
Actual consumption could be reduced bymore than 50% in many Asian cities, sim-ply through adequate maintenance, appro-priate policies, and greater public aware-ness. Conservation alone could probablycompensate for current deficits and a por-tion of future expansion in many cities ofthe region for a few years. However, con-servation efforts cannot bring more waterinto the systems. There is still a need toprotect present water sources and find newones, both natural and artificial, i.e., recy-cled wastewaters.
The Demand Side of the Equation
The water problem has two sides: supplyand demand. Many of the supply prob-lems in Asian cities would be solved, orwould be less acute, if more sustainablepolicies and strategies were implemented.Consumption is much greater than re-quired to simply provide water for urbanactivities and dwellings. Wastage takesplace at all levels in the water systems:leakage from the pipelines, wasteful atti-tudes encouraged by lack of metering orinadequate pricing policies, inappropriatewater-appliances, etc. To improve thesituation, therefore, both sides of the prob-lem must be attacked: increase supply andreduce demand. In both areas, improvedmanagement strategies are needed.