Colombo faces water crisis by 2025

Published : 8:27 am  May 25, 2017 | No comments so far |  |  (2324) reads | 

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By Nabeela Hussain
Water couldn’t be supplied to residents in Colombo by the year 2025 under the existing conditions, Project Director of the Greater Colombo Water and Wastewater Management Improvement Investment Programme S. Abdul Rasheed said.

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“Research conducted under the programme found that nearly 50 percent of the water supplied to Colombo did not generate any revenue to the Water Board (National Water Supply and Drainage Board-NWSDB), with a vast majority of it being wasted during distribution.


Rasheed said the project was a race against time to establish a system, which would fully utilise the water supplied to the city and also pave ways to increase the amount of water pumped into the city to meet the rising demand.


At the moment Colombo has 140,000 service connections, which supply water to a resident population of 600,000 to a million. 
The Water Board pumps in 200,000- 300,000 cubic metres of water to the city each a day, which would be insufficient to meet the demand of 476,000 cubic metres forecasted for 2040.


Rasheed explained that the Water Board was incapable of meeting the demand, despite measures taken to fully utilise water pumped into the city, as it simply did not have the capacity to do so.


“We can increase the percentage of water that is utilised but to meet the demand that we have predicted in the years to come we will have to increase the amount of water that is pumped into the city,” he said.


An old distribution system, irregular pipelines at old condominium buildings, stand posts in tenement gardens (slum areas) and illegal connections were identified as the main reason for the under utilisation of water supplied to the city.

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“Being one of the first Asian cities to establish a pipe borne water supply in the 1800’s, the pipelines laid across the city were more than a hundred years old, corroded and patched up over the years to point of no return,” Rasheed explained.


Replacing these old pipes has been hindered by other issues such as the lack of data and inaccuracy of data that is available. 


“We do have some data and we are gathering data from other utility providers but most of the data we have is inaccurate. When there is a leak which needs to be fixed, we often find that the issue is not in the space identified in the maps that we have but at an entirely different location,” he said.

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Additionally, the provision of water supply in a haphazard manner over the years has also contributed to the crisscrossing pipelines across the city. 


“As we are gathering our data we will also divide the city into 69 areas, which will be managed individually and ensure that water supply and assistance will be provided immediately to residents,” he explained.


Traffic, the use of labourers instead of machines to complete delicate work and the working only during the night severely restricted the completion of the project. 

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“This is Colombo, sometimes we plan to lay a few kilometres of pipes a day which at times cannot be done due to various reasons,” he explained.


The Colombo Water Supply Improvement Project would completely revamp the water supply system in the city, but the project seemed to move at a slow pace due to the lack of data and the logistical issues faced during construction.

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