The Water Tanker Ecosystem
“Within minutes his boss arrived on the site and threatened everyone with dire consequences if we went ahead with the new system!”
“We were doing a trial run of our new digital flow meter equipment on our customers’ premises. Their monthly tanker spend goes up to Rs. 10 lakhs. They were planning to install equipment that can measure the volume of water actually delivered by each tanker.
As soon as the security guard connected the equipment to a tanker, the tanker operator immediately called his boss and we got the above frantic call from them. The customer succumbed to the threats and chose not to go ahead with the system.”
The current tanker water market in India, is a huge mess resulting in price gorging and abuse to the environment. There is a lot of scope to regularize this market so that everyone benefits – the customers, the tanker companies and most importantly, the environment. Let us take a look at the issues plaguing the current water tanker market.
A) No Volume Measurement
Typically, it is assumed that a typical water tanker is able to carry up to 10,000 liters of water. In the residential sector, there is no standard practice of actually measuring the volume of water delivered by a tanker. Most housing societies simply assume that the tanker has delivered 10,000 liters of water and pay accordingly. Some of the societies have devised innovative ways of water tanker volume measurement such as suspending a rope or climbing atop a height and opening the lid of the tanker to check if it is full.
However innovative, these are rudimentary ways and accurate volume measurement is not possible.
In addition, many a times we see that the lid of the tanker is not closed properly, the valves and cocks are leaking or the tanker is spilling water all along the road. This is pure wastage of water and can be easily prevented with the right equipment.
However, since no one measures the volume of water received and the supplier receives a fixed amount per delivery there is very little incentive for the supplier to stop the wastage.
B) Unregulated Mafia
In a country like India where the groundwater extraction is not properly regulated, tanker companies are owned by the local landlords. As cities are getting urbanized, farmlands are getting transformed into housing complexes for IT workers. The local municipalities are not able to expand their infrastructure at a similar pace and are not able to meet the water demands of these high-rise complexes. Hence housing societies have to call in water tankers from the local areas.
An entire industry has developed around this. Local land owners who are typically connected have drilled borewells in their ancestral lands and are extracting groundwater and selling it to those who want it via their tanker companies. In the summer months, the demand for water tankers is very high and supply is low. So, the tanker owners start dictating the prices and their territories which results in a very mafia-like situation where the housing society does not have much choice left in terms of whom they can buy their water from and for how much.
C) Unstructured Market
Given the above-mentioned factors such as local ownership of tanker companies, connections to politicians, heavy dependence on local availability – it’s not a surprise that this market is highly unstructured. There is no regulation on the quality or volume of water delivered. In times of high demand, sometimes tankers arrive very late into the night or in the early mornings. Sometimes, they are on backorder and need to be booked 2-3 days in advance. This extremely unstructured and unregulated market results in lots of inefficiencies for multiple parties:
- Residential communities are forced to accept the tanker mafia vendor of their area. Thus, they have to accept the quality, rate, volume and timings of water delivery dictated by him.
- In times of low supply, there is no central platform or visibility to check tanker availability.
- As there is no awareness or regulation of water quality the tanker companies are using old, dated, crude equipment with no incentive to upgrade
- Groundwater is getting more and more depleted resulting in disastrous consequences for the entire region
Clearly, there is a need for regularization and standardization in the water tanker ecosystem. This kind of system would benefit everyone. Here are some of the features and benefits of a standardized water tanker ecosystem.
Features and Benefits of a Digital Water Tanker system
1. Regular Volume Measurement with IoT devices
Equipment such as water meters and flow meters make it very convenient to measure the volume of water received from a tanker. IoT technology enables the customer to see the reading in real time, before the tanker leaves the premises; so that the tanker operator can be paid accordingly.
Since the readings are digitized and stored, housing societies can run daily/ monthly reports to get visibility into their tanker spend.
Another side benefit of measuring water received from a tanker would be that tanker owners would become sensitive to the water that gets spilled onto the road during delivery. Since they are getting paid based on the actual volume of water supplied, they will ensure that the tanker lids are shut and leaky valves are repaired so that no wastage occurs during delivery.
2. Regulated Water Quality
Water quality can be monitored at the source and the destination by using instrumentation such as real time TDS meters. This helps to reduce the occurrence of water borne illnesses and other damage caused due to hard water.
3. Centralized Platform for Tanker Ordering
A centralized platform for tanker ordering and visibility can create multiple benefits for all parties involved including suppliers and consumers. Tanker companies can serve customers beyond their immediate areas and customers would have a range of tanker companies to order from – thus cutting out on mafia.
If water quality, volume and delivery time stats are maintained, it helps to make the ecosystem professional and everyone benefits from regularized pricing and quality.
A formal system of recording orders and deliveries helps to create convenient schedules and avoid emergencies such as searching for tankers at the last moment.
4. Prevent Over Exploitation of Groundwater
Instrumentation such as DWLR or IoT Piezometer can help to record and keep a track of the volume of water extracted from the ground. Currently there is no system to track the amount of water that is extracted from the ground. This has already created trouble for the farmers as they are unable to find adequate water for their crops. In a few years, as the extraction and selling of groundwater continues unchecked, it will have disastrous consequences for the entire economy.
Thus, we have gone over the flaws of the current water tanker market and also seen the benefits that can result from making small changes to the system. The instrumentation required for this is available in the market today. The need for a coherent system now becomes of utmost importance.