Urban India is experiencing a water and wastewater crisis unlike anywhere else in the world. In order to understand these problems we must first look closely at the urban water cycle. The source of the water that runs through our taps is usually a Dam or a Reservoir, sometimes located over 100 km away. From there the water is pumped over long distances towards cities, requiring a lot of energy to do so. Once it reaches the city it is filtered in Water Treatment Plants (WTP) for the removal of undesired organic and inorganic substances. The filtered water then enters the distribution network. At its destination, the water is then consumed for domestic and industrial activities. This produces wastewater which is estimated to be about 80% of the water that was consumed. This wastewater then travels through sewers to Sewage Treatment Plants (STP or WWTP) where it is treated for reuse.
However, the locations of these STPs have been planned mostly based on land constraints. Choosing easily available and cheap land as opposed to sites where maximum wastewater collection, through sewers, can be possible. The sewers are also poorly maintained which in many cases have not been mapped. This inadequate sewer system ends up collecting and treating very little wastewater, which is estimated to be about 15-20%. The rest pollutes our groundwater, lakes, rivers and seas. The water distribution network faces similar challenges. 40-50% of water is lost in distribution due to leaks and illegal taps (Non Revenue Water) which is also difficult to track accurately because of inadequate metering. Water loss along with water pollution forces us to go further and further away building dams and trying to source ‘new’ water when in turn our focus should be on redeveloping and maintaining our city’s internal assets and infrastructure.
Some of the problems faced by most cities in India
- Water requires an enormous amount of energy to transport from source to destination. Almost half of this energy is just wasted because of unmaintained water distribution lines.
- Most homes are not metered and therefore the exact amount of water loss, due to damaged and unmapped pipelines, is difficult to quantify.
- There is a large amount of underground water and wastewater infrastructure that is unmapped and so the condition of this infrastructure is also unknown.
- Sanitary sewer overflows (SSO) affecting the health of society and the environment are problems that are commonly faced.
- Most major cities are crippled every year during the monsoons because of clogged Storm Drains.
- There is very little reuse of wastewater, so instead drinking water gets used for activities such as construction, gardening, washing vehicles, etc.
- Pipeline rehabilitation planning is close to impossible because of a lack of data about pipeline health.
- The Agriculture sector, the biggest consumer of water, also struggles with a lack of accurate records of crop data and water consumption.
Fluid Robotics, a start-up founded in silicon valley, setup base in Pune in 2016 to develop advanced technologies for addressing these exact problems. Given the complexity of India’s underground infrastructure, the confluence of structural engineering, computer science and hardware engineering is necessary, if India is to solve the growing problems related to water consumption and wastewater generation.
The company’s patented technologies are being used in multiple locations in India. Through its projects the company has also made a significant impact on – river and lake rejuvenation projects, agriculture mapping projects, windmill blade defect identification projects, etc.
The founders of Fluid Robotics are highly qualified technologists and researchers who are very passionate about solving infrastructure related problems in India. The company has successfully demonstrated how data analytics is going to be the key to providing deep insights into the working of water and wastewater infrastructure.
Products & Services
Through the use of Robotics and Information Technology the following projects were executed for Mumbai city in relation to Powai Lake and Mithi River –
- GIS Mapping using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)
- Wastewater Audit for Treatment Plant Design
- Pipeline Survey using Robotic System
- Wastewater Diversion & Interception Consulting
- Pumping Station Analytics
GIS Mapping Using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)
Fluid Robotics begins each mapping project by creating high-resolution (2cm) GIS maps. Such maps were generate for both Powai lake and Mithi river. These included high-res contours along with accurate mapping of buildings, slums, pipelines, roads, bridges and all other infrastructure in the project area.
3D elevation models were then created to understand the topography and hydraulics of the region. These maps were used to accurately locate storm water outfalls carrying untreated wastewater into the lake and river. UAS surveying allows us to provide maps for such large scale projects with accuracy, resolution and execution time that is impossible to match with traditional surveys.
Wastewater Audit for Treatment Plant Design
Using sensors such as magnetic and ultrasonic the company accurately measures flows inside closed conduits such as water and wastewater pipelines as well as open channels. The company has measured over 300 MLD of wastewater flow in Mithi river alone, over 200 outfall locations, for analyzing pre and post-monsoon flows. Our data was directly used for the design of STPs as well as Interceptor drain designs. Flow rates, velocities and depth information was captured using the Fluid LabsTM platform. This information was reported in detailed form including daily minimums, maximums, averages and totals. Data was collected over a number of weeks to capture significant events and a range of conditions.
Pipeline Survey Using Robotic System
GIS mapping of underground sewers and storm drain lines was conducted. The areas chosen for mapping were nearest to the outfalls, to better understand the potential for interception and diversion of the wastewater. Pipeline data was digitized using FLUIDMRSTM, a proprietary system developed by Fluid Robotics. Studies were conducted to understand the condition and capacity of the pipelines. Based on sewer manhole locations, storm drain alignment and outfall locations potential sites for interception and diversion were identified. Fluid’s robotic systems identify structural and O&M failure modes in pipelines, while following stringent international standards.
Fluid Robotics recently garnered top recognition in the Best Water Automation & Instrumentation category for the FluidMRSTM system, at last month’s Water Awards in New Delhi. Sponsored by The Water Digest and Times Network, the awards were the twelfth such event, supported by the Ministry of Water Resources & River Development, UNESCO, and other top water-related entities in the country.
Wastewater Diversion & Interception Consulting
Flow data along with sewer capacity calculations were used to conduct further studies on the feasibility of different flow control mechanisms, for diverting the wastewater from the storm water drain to the sewage pipeline network.
Interceptors for carrying the diverted flow to the sewage pipelines were also designed.
Pumping Station Analytics
Fluid Robotics has also developed software applications for analyzing the data generated by Mumbai’s pumping stations, which were expected to handle the diverted wastewater.
Several parameters were studied regarding the working, efficiency and suitability of the pumping stations. Several insights which were previously unavailable were made possible using the results of the analysis.
Given the complexity of the problems at hand, the confluence of – structural engineering, computer science and hardware engineering will be necessary, if India is to solve the growing problems related to the construction sector and especially in the water and wastewater domain. Fluid Robotics (India) has successfully demonstrated how robotics and information technology are going to be the key to providing deep insights into India’s growing infrastructure sector.