Why India Needs To Pay Attention To Its Wastewater Management Now

Sanjeev has over 26 years or experience in the departments of corporate management, sales and business development, and application project engineering. He has worked in and outside India, for international markets in the regions of Middle East, Africa and Australia.

India accounts for 2.45 percent of land area and 4 percent of water resources of the world but represents 16 percent of the world population. Total utilizable water resource in the country has been estimated to be about 1123 BCM (690 BCM from surface and 433 BCM from ground), which is just 28 percent of the water derived from precipitation. About 85 percent (688 BCM) of water usage is being diverted for irrigation, which may increase to 1072 BCM by 2050. Major source for irrigation is groundwater. Annual groundwater recharge is about 433 BCM of which 212.5 BCM used for irrigation and 18.1 BCM for domestic and industrial use (CGWB, 2011).

By 2025, demand for domestic and industrial water usage may increase to 29.2 BCM. Thus, water availability for irrigation is expected to reduce to 162.3 BCM. With the present population growth-rate (1.9 percent per year), the population is expected to cross the 1.5 billion mark by 2050. Due to increasing population and all-round development in the country, the per capita average annual freshwater availability has been reducing since 1951 from 5177 m3 to 1869 m3, in 2001 and 1588 m3, in 2010. It is expected to further reduce to 1341 m3 in 2025 and 1140 m3 in 2050.

Benefits of wastewater management
Treated wastewater yields several benefits beyond human and environmental health.

The water treatment process does not only produce clean reusable water, but also has the potential to produce various other benefits. It has the potential to reduce a country's waste production, to produce energy through methane harvesting, and the potential to produce natural fertilizer from the waste collected through the process.

Secondly, the treated water has myriad applications, including agricultural irrigation, commercial landscaping, fire control systems, industrial cooling and processing, and sanitation. Therefore, treated and recycled wastewater has implications on food and energy security as well as climate change mitigation.

The Central Government has announced a series of initiatives to boost national water management strategies in this year's Union

Current challenges in wastewater treatment
With rapid expansion of cities and domestic water supply, quantity of gray/wastewater is increasing in the same proportion. As per CPHEEO estimates about 70-80 percent of total water supplied for domestic use gets generated as wastewater.

There remain significant gaps in the treatment and management of wastewater in India. NITI Ayog pointed out that around 70 percent of states treat less than half of their wastewater. Apart from developing and establishing adequate treatment infrastructure to improve these figures, there is also a need for a policy push in the sector to expand the scope for public-private partnerships.

• Expensive proposition: One of the key challenges that hinders adoption of wastewater treatment is its cost. Setting up a sewage treatment plant (STP) is a capital-intensive endeavour. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) estimates that the conventional cost for an STP comes to Rs. 1 crore per million litres daily (MLD) . This means that an STP with the capacity of treating 100 MLD of sewage will require Rs. 100 crores to be set up.

• Resource and cost intensive maintenance: Additional costs include provisions for power supply, installation of power generators and employing staff. Funding the timely upkeep and maintenance of these plants is also burdensome, and unless adequate funds are dedicated to these plants regularly, they become increasingly inefficient and ultimately dysfunctional.

In response to the above challenges
These challenges also present compelling opportunities. Accelerating the adoption of high-efficiency wastewater treatment technologies will result in greater productivity of wastewater operations.

Importantly, these advanced, sustainable wastewater treatment technologies are readily available today from leading players such as Grundfos, which provides end-to-end solutions in wastewater management. This includes the various stages such as initial identification of needs and design expertise, to pumping systems and fully automated disinfection processes.

Also, it is pertinent to zero in on solutions which offer the best life-cycle cost rather than resorting to short-term investment, which would incur huge costs in the long run.

A comprehensive policy for water management
The Central Government has announced a series of initiatives to boost national water management strategies in this year's Union budget. In addition to addressing shortage in 100 water-stressed districts, the centre is also implementing the second phase of the Swachh Bharat Mission, which focuses on open defecation and management of solid and liquid waste. The programme will converge with Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, especially for grey water management, and will complement the newly launched Jal Jeevan Mission, which aims to provide potable water to every rural household by 2024.

To ensure effective abatement of pollution and rejuvenation of the river Ganga by adopting a river basin approach to promote inter-sectoral co-ordination for comprehensive planning and management and to maintain minimum ecological flows in the river Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development.

The flagship programme has components like sewage treatment infrastructure, afforestation, river front cleaning, industrial effluent monitoring, biodiversity, public awareness to name a few.

Other initiatives include renovation of traditional water bodies and tanks, reuse of water and recharge structures, and watershed development. These initiatives offer several opportunities for private sector players to contribute innovative products and solutions for improved wastewater treatment and management. For instance, Grundfos develops a range of submersible mixers and flow makers which improve the efficiency and output of wastewater treatment plants. They assist with the nitrification, denitrification, sludge treatment and disinfection of tanks, and are also used to homogenise and prevent the formation of surface hardpans, leading to better filtration rates.

Growing role of technology
In the shift towards improved wastewater management, the impact and contribution of technology cannot be overstated. Several new and emerging technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics, and artificial intelligence are being increasingly utilised to improve output and efficiency while reducing costs.

For example, IoT sensors are used to collect data on water quality, temperature changes, pressure fluctuations, water and chemical leakage. Grundfos has developed an intelligent cloud-based IoT solution that can identify infiltration of water by monitoring actual flow in sewers and perform predictive maintenance before a breakdown occurs. Moreover, these are intelligent, digitally connected pumps available in the market today, which are integral to every part of the wastewater process from intake to the final stage of distribution.

The way forward
Leveraging these innovative solutions is instrumental to realizing the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which provide the blueprint to a sustainable future for all. By contributing to goals 6, 11, 13 and 14 ­ clean water and sanitation; sustainable cities and communities; climate action; and life below water ­ efficient wastewater management is a crucial aspect of any national water management policy and is certain to play a substantial role in developmental and infrastructural planning in the years to come.