Wastewater Reuse – An Investment for the Future (Part 2)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Now that you know the importance of reclaimed water, let’s look at the different policies and initiatives across India that favour wastewater reuse.


Wastewater treatment policies in India

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974 was the first policy that supported wastewater treatment in India. It restricts the industrial discharge of pollutants to water bodies. Under this act, the government formed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs). The CPCB has the authority to set discharge standards. The SPCBs have authority to monitor the performance of the concerned industries and take enforcement actions.

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act of 1977 established that a tax can be imposed on certain industries for their water usage. The collected funds would go to augment the resources of the CPCB and the SPCBs.

The Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, passed after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, provides for the audit of facilities that require permits related to water pollution and other forms of environmental pollution.

The above laws fall under the “polluter pays” model. It has evolved to include lawsuits/complaints/petitions from citizens and right to information.


The National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP) of 2008 endorsed the use of recycled water. It also recommended a minimum of 20% reuse of wastewater in all Indian cities.

The National Water Policy of 2012 recognised the reuse of reclaimed water as an important factor for meeting environmental objectives. It suggested an incentive model of lower tariff for those who use reclaimed water over freshwater.


Apart from the above, Indian government’s urban development schemes like Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, National Smart Cities Mission, and the Namami Gange Programme emphasise the use of reclaimed water.


Initiatives by local administration

There are multiple municipality-level projects to encourage the use of reclaimed water.

Surat built a sewage treatment plant (STP) in 2014 to supply reclaimed water to Pandesara Industrial Estate. They expect to increase the supply to 550 MLD this year.

In 2015, Delhi had targets to treat and reuse 25% of total sewage by 2017. They hope to raise the target to 50% by 2022 and to 80% by 2027. Currently, they supply treated water to power plants, industrial areas, and hospitals.

Chennai municipality awarded a public-private partnership (PPP) contract in 2016 to develop a 45 MLD reuse capacity to supply non-potable water to industries.

Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board (BWSSB) has been aggressively promoting the use of treated water in the city. Bengaluru provides treated water to Bangalore International Airport, Bharat Electronics Limited, Indian Tobacco Company, Rail Wheel Factory, Indian Air Force, and Bidadi power plant. The treated water also goes to the drought-hit Kolar and Chikkaballapur in an attempt to rejuvenate the depleted groundwater in these areas. BWSSB currently sells reclaimed water at a subsidised rate; they are building a website to market treated water in the city. They have four technical committees consisting of professors from IISc and engineers to ensure efficient wastewater treatment in the city. 

Nagpur is setting up more STPs to reach the goal of 90% treatment and reuse of wastewater. They currently provide cooling water to Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (Mahagenco).

Gurugram made it mandatory for all construction firms to use treated water from its STPs for construction and other non-potable uses.

Jaipur’s STP in Delawas supplies treated water to nearby small-scale industries and for irrigation. The sludge, a byproduct for water treatment, is used as manure in agriculture and nurseries.

Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Delhi, Indore, Jaipur, Kanpur, and Nagpur provide treated water for agriculture. The farmers who used treated water for irrigation saw a decrease in fertiliser consumption, increase in yield, and incremental monetary benefits.

The state of Gujarat introduced Reuse of Treated Waste Water Policy in 2018 that aims for 70% wastewater reuse in the state by 2025 and 100% reuse by 2030. The state wants to create a water grid for reuse of the treated water from urban areas. Half of the reclaimed water would be reused in industries.


Gaps in policies

As you can see, there are multiple policies and programs that endorse wastewater reuse. Yet, over 62% of wastewater is dumped back on earth. This is due to a lack of clear guidelines and frameworks to support the implementation of such projects. The problem is worsened by limited enforcement of the restriction to extract groundwater for non-potable purposes. Detailed policies and regulations, and strict enforcement are necessary to encourage wastewater reuse. This will help develop a formal market, appropriate technology, and sustainable business and financial models around recycled water.


International models of water reuse

Wastewater treatment is given utmost importance in many water-stressed regions around the globe.

Windhoek in Namibia has an average rainfall of 250 mm per year. 83% of rainwater evaporates due to the warm weather. This city commissioned its first wastewater treatment plant in 1968. They use reclaimed water for drinking and cooking as well. The plant, based on the PPP model, is an international benchmark for innovative and sustainable water management.

Branded as NEWater, Singapore’s wastewater reuse model is commendable. 55% of water demand in industries is for non-potable purposes. NEWater is supplied directly to the industries to meet this need. A small portion of NEWater is sent to recharge freshwater in reservoirs for indirect potable reuse. This system is built on a PPP model.

In 2008, Beijing started developing a recycled water system that included STPs and elaborate distribution networks. Recycled water accounted for 22% of total water supplied in the city in 2014. The Beijing network also follows the PPP model.


Normalising wastewater reuse in India

Reuse of wastewater is a lesser-explored area in our country. To encourage efficient use and reuse of water, we need definite standards and strong policies with clear targets at central, state, and municipal levels. These policies have to be enforced well, with a large fine imposed on defaulters. I also advise encouraging private sector participation in these projects. This will bring in the best technology and workforce to the sector.

With the water crisis and environmental degradation getting worse every year, we really need to concentrate on increasing the efficiency and capacity of existing STPs and opening more STPs. This would prove advantageous for India in the long-term.


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