Though forced to let go off its bottling plant at Aruvikkara to the Kerala Irrigation Infrastructure Development Corporation (KIIDC), the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) has not discarded the idea of packaged drinking water as a way to boost its income.
A three-member committee assigned by the KWA to explore avenues of income generation has recommended the establishment of water bottling units alongside existing water treatment plants. According to a May 15 report by the panel, this could rapidly ensure higher income for the cash-strapped water utility.
The bottling plants would focus on 20-litre jars alone. Treatment plants would need to spare only a small percentage of treated water for the units, the panel noted in its report. In fact, the quantity of water required for packaging would be less than 0.2% of the total production in a KWA treatment plant. On the other hand, the additional income expected through this way would be more than 20% of the present revenue being collected from such conventional treatment plants, according to the report submitted by the panel consisting of KWA executive engineers Naushad A., Sunil Kumar M.K., and Santhosh Kumar R.V.
The financial health of KWA was deteriorating and the present income levels could not sustain the organisation for long, the panel noted. Besides, by setting up the Aruvikkara facility, the KWA had gained valuable experience in this area.
As other possible income generation methods, it also suggested Water Vending Machines and app-based tanker water supply as is being done by the KWA and Thiruvananthapuram Corporation in the capital city.
The recommendation, in fact, has legal backing. The Kerala Water Supply and Sewerage (Amendment) Act, 2008, empowers the authority to manufacture, market and sell packaged drinking water, mineral water, aerated water, or any other processed water and goods necessary for water supply and sewerage.
In February, a controversy had erupted over the State governments decision to lease out the KWA bottled water unit at Aruvikkara to the KIIDC. The governments rationale was that it would be unwise to divert KWA personnel and resources to a niche market like bottled water when the KWA was responsible for implementing Central and State-funded water supply projects worth 9,000 crore. However, KWA unions staunchly opposed this decision.