At a time when the state is facing its worst drought in decades, precious litres of water are being wasted every day owing to leakages in the city's pipelines, which have risen by a whopping 61% since last year.
The findings, based on an analysis of water supply-related complaints from 24 wards, were recently published by the NGO Praja Foundation in its white paper. They come at a time when crores of the taxpayers' money is being pumped into strengthening the city's water supply network, and bring to light the civic body's callousness in tackling water leakage and wastage.
Experts said that old, ill-maintained pipelines and a flawed distribution network are to blame. What's also worrying is that leakage contributes to contamination of water in the long run.
"The distribution system is flawed. Besides leakages in the century-old pipelines in the island city, the absence of a monitoring mechanism leads to wastage of more than 25% water every day," said former deputy municipal commissioner Prakash Sanglikar. "This could lead to contamination and affect public health."
Asserting that leakages in the corroding, old pipelines are a big reason for water contamination, experts demanded immediate action. "The BMC must take note of deteriorating pipelines, which have an alarming effect on the supply system and on health," said Nitai Mehta, founder-trustee, Praja Foundation.
The NGO also analysed the nature of complaints and the wards with the most complaints. According to the data, the M-east ward (Govandi, Mankhurd) is the worst-affected, with an alarming number of complaints related to water leakage, contamination and unauthorised water tapping.
It also found that C-ward, comprising Dongri and Mumbadevi, which had the most complaints of contamination, had suffered from large-scale leakages on account of old and deteriorating pipelines, Mehta said.
Activists and experts said that surge in illegal water distribution also resulted in faulty pipelines and contamination. "Formal mechanisms have failed to reach all households, so water is procured through illegal means," said Dr Amita Bhide, professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, who mentored a project on illegal water distribution system in Mankhurd last year.