Head of a family of six, she no longer has to stay home for four days every month just to collect drinking water. That was when she depended on water supplied by the city corporation, which came once in eight or 10 days - at odd hours. She now gets water round the clock.
Sundaramma's is one of 13,000 households in Hubli-Dharwad that need not wake up at an unearthly hour to store water, leaving hundreds of men and women, earning daily wages, free to spend more time earning a bit more.
Jagadish Sawant, who drives a water tanker in Hubli's Gandhi Nagar, is not worried about storing water for his family any more. Instead, he worries about supplying water to areas that are deprived of daily supply.
Hanumanth Kamble does not need to wake up at midnight; he has recently shifted house to the Golden Park area, where drinking water is available 24 hours a day.
A World Bank-funded Karnataka Urban Water Sector Improvement Project (KUWASIP), taken up for the twin cities of Hubli-Dharwad, which had thirsted for regular water supply for decades, has brought clean water to the doorstep - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Along with Hubli-Dharwad, select localities of two other cities in North Karnataka, Belgaum and Gulbarga, have also benefited.
KUWASIP is the first phase of a long-term programme, to be implemented in phases, to reform urban water supply and sanitation. Initiated by the Karnataka government as a pilot at an investment of Rs 237 crore (Rs 2.37 billion), 75 per cent of which is a loan from the World Bank, the primary objective of this project was to demonstrate the feasibility of continuous water supply in small areas of select cities, called Demonstration Zones.
The focus of the project was to improve water service management, by cutting leaks and losses in the distribution network, to enable continuous water supply with the available water resources.
In 2004, Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC), a state undertaking, was appointed as the nodal agency to carry out a demonstration project.
For the first time, a private sector participation initiative with demonstration of continuous water supply was taken up in the identified zones of the three urban local bodies (ULBs).
KUIDFC selected Veolia Eau-Compagnie Generale Des Eaux, a French ¤10 billion company that manages water supply systems in 80 countries, as operation and management consultant through global bidding.
The company used its international expertise to design, install and commission water pipelines from the Renukasagar reservoir, about 45 km from Dharwad city. The existing pipelines were replaced with HDPE pipes to supply water in the demo zones.
The company also laid a separate pipeline for Hubli from the water treatment plant at Aminbhavi, which ensured supply of water with decent pressure to the city.
The corporation has completed five demonstration projects in select wards of these three cities and made water available round the clock. KUWASIP has not just enabled households to earn more, it has also lifted their standard of living.
The continuous water supply has enticed people living in rented accommodation to shift to the demo zones. The monthly rentals have nearly doubled in Golden Park to about Rs 4,000 for a two-bedroom house.
There is no need any more to spend on building an extra large storage tank, and electricity bills have come down now that there is no need to pump water from an underground tank to an overhead tank.
"The water automatically reaches my overhead tank, which is at a height of 20 feet. I just have to open the tap and water gushes up into the tank on its own. My monthly energy bill has shrunk 40-50 per cent to Rs 120 or Rs 150 a month," says S N Lakshmeshwar, a retired KSRTC employee.
Curbing consumption, plugging leakages
As the availability of water has gone up from 5.7 million litres a day a year ago to 7.2 million litres a day - a rise of 26 per cent - consumption has dropped from an average of 135 litres a day per person to 90-100 litres.
"By putting in place an efficient distribution system, we have shown that the city gets extra water to consume," said Prakash Alagawadi, deputy project manager, Veolia Water, which manages the operation and maintenance. Veolia changed the pipelines - 150 mm PVC pipes - and laid 63x315 mm HDPE pipes at 50 per cent less cost.
Earlier, half the water supply was lost due to leakages that have now been plugged. More water also means more money for the municipal corporation. Even the economically weaker sections have taken connections for their houses, instead of depending on the public tap.
"More than affordability, it is the status in society that makes them happy," says Aravind Srivastav, KUIDFC's managing director.
The average revenue from water supply has nearly doubled in the demo zones of Hubli in the last six months to Rs 4 lakh in just one counter, indicating that a large number of consumers have been using water judiciously and paying their bills. There are two other counters in this zone.
"The collections are likely to go up further once the project is fully in place in the demo zones to Rs 20 lakh per month," says M C Hattikal, a bill collector in Bengeri.
This has happened in spite of complaints by some consumers that the water tariff is on the higher side. For domestic consumers, the city corporation charges Rs 6 per kilo litre (KL) up to 8 KL, Rs 10 per KL from 8-15 KL, Rs 15 per KL from 15-25 KL, and Rs 20 per KL above 25 KL.
With the success of the pilot, those who were initially sceptical of the project have become zealous converts. Every legislator in the state has made a representation to the government for a similar facility.
The state government has decided to scale up the project to all parts of these cities under a public private partnership model. KUIDFC has made an estimate of Rs 735 crore (Rs 7.35 billion) to expand the project and invited expressions of interest from consultants.
"We have shortlisted seven companies and will issue requests for proposal in two months. We need to prepare the detailed project report and finalise the structure," Srivastav said.
Under the PPP model, the project will have 20 per cent funding from the state and the Centre, 10 per cent from municipal corporations and the rest will be brought in by the private operator. The process is expected to be complete by 2013-14.