BWSSB has hiked the price of water, as well as reduced the number of slabs, with effect from November 2nd, 2014. The minimum water charge has gone up by almost 20% — from Rs 48 to Rs 57 a month and the monthly bill from Rs 83 to Rs 100 for domestic usage.

Sanitary charge has been reduced from Rs 15 to Rs 14. For water usage above 8,000 litres, sanitary charge will be 25% of water supply charges. This was 15% earlier. Even with this hike, if you feel you are forced to pay more for water, you are wrong. There are many others who pay more than you, for water.

To understand how, let us look at the new tariff structure.

Slab-wise consumption of water (In litres) Old tariff/kilolitre New tariff/kilolitre
0-8,000 litres Minimum Rs 48 (at Rs 6 per kilolitre) Minimum of Rs 57 (at Rs 7 per kilolitre)
8,001-25,000     Rs 9 Rs 11
25,001-50,000     Rs 15 Rs 26
50,001-75,000 Rs 30 Rs 45
75,001 and above Rs 36 Rs 45
Water Tariff for consumption of Bulk Domestic Consumers for High- Rise/Multistoried  Buildings/ Apartments/ Central and State Government Housing Complexes Villas/ Individual Group Housing    Rs 19     Rs 22

 

Water meter service changes have also increased. Non-domestic rates have also increased. For full details, click here.

Water charges per household (assuming a consumption of 18,000 litres a month)

An independent house, with BWSSB water supply: Rs 167. Rate: Rs 7-11 a kilolitre

An apartment: Rs 396 (this would be the average cost, as flats are usually not metered individually). Rate: Rs 22 a kilolitre

Apartments/houses in periphery (non-BWSSB-serviced areas), using tankers: Rs 1,050-2,100. Rate: Rs 60-110 a kilolitre.

WHO guidelines say water consumption per head is 125 litres per day, though consumption of 200-250 litres can be seen in upper income households. In slums, this could be as low as 20 Litres, says S Vishwanath.

Thus in a slum, where water is charged 3 Rs a pot, a family consuming 9,000 litres, would spend Rs 1,800 a month. Rate: Rs 200 a kilolitre.

Real cost of water in Bangalore

However, do you know what is the real cost of the water coming out of your tap?

Cauvery water is brought from 100 kilometres away and pumped up 300 metres at multiple pumping stations to Bengaluru which is at a higher elevation. BWSSB collects, pumps, treats, and stores water in its many reservoirs, and distributes it through the network of pipes across the city. In addition to this capital cost, BWSSB spends around Rs 370 crores every year on electricity alone, in addition to staff and maintenance costs. Water expert S Vishwanath, estimates this cost as: Rs 82/KL

Remember this is not even the true cost of water which includes the work in treating waste water and ecological costs of conservation of lakes and water bodies.

'Welcome step'
The hike in BWSSB's water tariff is a welcome development that was long overdue. BWSBB has been a national leader in professional delivery of water supply and sewerage services, and it is no accident that Bangalore has the largest number of metered water connections in the country.
Water is an increasingly scarce resource, and pricing it at its highest marginal cost is essential to conserving this vanishing resource. While we talk about LPG and petrol subsidies, the water subsidy that even the most prosperous Bangalore receives is much higher.
The higher price of water can also spur more people to do rainwater harvesting and efficient use of water. We must also recognise that people pay many times more for water tankers – a small increase in BWSSB tariffs could in fact reduce overall water cost for the city's residents..

- Pavan Srinath, head of policy research, Takshashila Intitution.

According to another calculation based on old tariff sructure, done by Public Policy analyst Pavan Srinath, which you can see here, the water subsidy a house in Bangalore gets is more than Rs. 9,500 per year!

Out of 1,325 Million Litres of water BWSSB supplies to the city on a daily basis, 40-50% are estimated to be non-revenue or unaccounted-for water. Read: What is lost to leakage and pilferage. No wonder BWSSB’s costs are more than Rs 80 crores a month while its revenues are barely Rs 50 crores.

How does BWSSB charge you?

So if you are one among the 8 lakh consumers with a BWSSB water connection, what does BWSSB charge you?

If you were a family of four, living in an independent house, consuming around 18 kilolitres a month, you would have paid Rs 138 as water charges. With the new tariff, you are going to be paying Rs 167. If you are an apartment resident, you were paying a base charge of 19 Rs a kilolitre, now you are to pay a base charge of Rs 22 per kilolitre. If you have a borewell, you have to pay extra to BWSSB, which is added as 'borewell charge' in the bill.

The remaining few million residents who don’t get Cauvery water, or get an amount less than their requirement, are dependent on groundwater, which pretty much comes from one of 4 lakh borewells across the city, most of which are not registered. At 325 borewells a square kilometre, and 40-50 new ones dug everyday, Bengaluru is one of the most ‘bored’ cities.

If you are an apartment in the newer areas, especially the 110 villages part of BBMP, including Sarjapur Road, Outer Ring Road, Whitefield and so on, you are probably dependent on tanker water supply. You would be paying anywhere between Rs 60 to 135 a kilolitre (i.e. Rs 360 - 800 a tanker of 6000 litres) 


Apartment blocks have come up around the city, and tankers are the source of water for many homes. Pic: Sankar C G.

You are luckier than many others

But even in that case, you should thank your stars for you don’t live in a slum. There the rates can go upto Rs 200 a kilolitre, as they pay Rs 2-4 for pot of water. The urban poor continue to pay the most for that scarce resource, often struggling against odds to get a few pots early in the morning for basic needs.


Water stored in pots at a house in Ejipura. Pic: Navya P K

According to a 2010 survey by NGIL/CSTEP, residents do not have individual connections in 27 out of the 35 slums, and manage with just a few common taps.

Never mind, you are affected whichever strata you are in, for experts say, 52% of the borewell water and 59% of tap-water in Bangalore is not potable.

As part of Cauvery Stage IV Phase II, 96 core area slums would get water network. One is not clear if and when the waters from Linganamakki, Yettinahole, Kanganahole, Kakkatuhole or Almatti dam will reach Bengaluru. For now, unless the government wakes up and really fixes the system, there is not much hope.