Thimphu thromde has initiated works to improve the central water supply system in response to the Performance Audit Report findings on provision of drinking water in Thimphu municipality.

The thromde would also enhance existing water infrastructure to discontinue private and community water connections.

The Performance Audit Report observed several deficiencies such as the existence of private or community water sources, lack of water service tanks, irregularities in the water network system, absence of a monitoring system for water sources and distribution network, and the need for collaboration between relevant agencies.

The Water Act of Bhutan 2011 states that water resources are the property of the state and that the rights over water resources, including the bed and banks of watercourses, shall vest in the State.

Principal engineer with water supply and sewage section, Naphel Drukpa, said that because of lack of local area plans (LAP) and lack of distribution or extended networks for the LAPs, thromde is unable to reach and provide water from the treated water system.

He said that only after thromde achieves 100 percent treated water supply coverage, the community and private lines would be lifted as per the provisions and in compliance with the Water Regulation of Bhutan 2014.

Naphel Drukpa said that the thromde is in the process of expanding and providing necessary infrastructure such as new water treatment plants, improving the existing distribution lines, preparing LAPs and constructing service tanks.

Currently, thromde supplies water through its four water treatment plants. The plant in Jungshina has a capacity of 6.5 million litres a day (MLD), 6.5 MLD in Chamgang, 6.5 MLD in Motithang and 1.5 MLD in Dechencholing, and six boreholes around the thromde area.

Thimphu thromde supply more than 20 MLD of water every day, which amounts to about 70 percent of the water supply.

Officials say thromde is also in the process of building service tanks to address lack of water storage capacity in different areas.

Service tanks with capacities of 230 cubic metres each are being constructed in Zilukha, Changjiji, Changedaphu, and 100 cubic metres each in Changzamtog and centenary farmer’s market. The service tanks would be completed by June.

Service tanks with 100 cubic metres in Changzamtog, 50 cubic metres in Changedaphu have been constructed.

In a response to the audit’s recommendation, thromde stated that it is also working on providing extended new distribution pipelines in Changzamtog, Yangchenphug, Zilukha, and the core city areas of Changlam, Norzinlam, and replacement of old pipelines in Changzamtog, Changangkha and Kawajangsa.

Naphel Drukpa said that the completion of the system would also reduce the incidences of water contamination as most contamination was detected in samples collected from private or community water lines.

He said that the performance audit report would give additional energy and enthusiasm to the water supply plans thromde had already been working on. “When doing water supply work during the 12 Plan, it will be aligned with the recommendations.”

According to the audit recommendation, thromde has written to works and human settlement ministry requesting to develop a water and wastewater management master plan.

Starting November last year, thromde has also initiated a zone-wise inspection of the water supply system to detect and narrow down the irregularities mentioned in the report.

Thromde surveyors are yet to confirm any irregularities such as unauthorised water tapping, water connection bypassing meters, water connection from transmission lines, allowing more than one connection per dwelling and diversion of water supply to community tanks.

Naphel Drukpa said a proposal has been put up to the thromde tshogde regarding the penalties for the irregularities committed.

When it comes to water shortage, he said the common notion is that there need to be more treatment plants and sources which is not a correct strategy. “Demand management is one of the key elements in water management. We need to develop a robust system to monitor water supply.”

He said it would not work by just having state of the art treatment plants and 100 percent distribution network coverage. “What matters is how you operate and run the system,” he said.

To establish a robust monitoring system, thromde is preparing a management system based on best practices of water management from around the globe incorporating thromde based problems and issues.

Karma Cheki