In many cities across the world, rapid urbanisation and population growth have led to scarcity and rising costs of water. Today, 55 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and the proportion is expected to increase to 68 percent by 2050.[1] Scientists predict that water demand will exceed supply by 40 percent by 2030, due to the combined threat of climate change and population growth.[2] Moreover, water scarcity will likely worsen due to inefficient water management and treatment systems, resulting in water loss through a network of leaking distribution pipes and dilapidated infrastructure. These challenges demand a systemic change in urban planning and urban water management.

In India, urban piped-water supply is over 70 percent, while rural piped-water supply is around 30 percent. The Government of India (GoI) aims to cover the increasing number of habitations with uninterrupted 24×7 water supply: piped-water supply with all metered household connections (designed for 70 LPCD or more). The campaign seeks to ensure that at least 90 percent of households in India have access to piped-water supply; at least 80 percent households have piped-water connection; less than 10 percent use public taps; and other 10 percent use hand pumps or other safe and adequate private water sources.[3]

With these and other more ambitious targets, the GoI initiated the “100 Smart Cities Mission” in 2015 to integrate city functions, utilise scarce resources more efficiently and, overall, improve the quality of life of citizens. Water is a crucial element in these efforts. A ‘smart city’ is envisioned to improve safety and security as well as efficiency of municipal services by linking multiple systems within a network to facilitate data-sharing across platforms. The use of information and communications technology (ICT) is at the core of enhancing a city’s liveability, workability and sustainability.[4]

The Ministry of Urban Development has identified 24 key areas that cities must address in their ‘smart cities’ plan. Of these, three are directly related to water and seven are indirectly related to it. These include: smart-metre management, leakage identification, preventive maintenance and water-quality modelling.[5] More recently, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have also being incorporated in cities’ development plans. Water and sanitation (SDG6) are at the core of sustainable development and the range of services they provide are key to poverty alleviation, economic growth and environmental sustainability.[6]

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