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By 2020, India may reuse at least 6,800 litres of waste water

By 2020, India may reuse at least 6,800 litres of waste water

Rajiv Menon, Managing Director, Black & Veatch India believes that smart metering is a highly successful way of identifying accurately how much of water is being lost and where the losses are occurring in the distribution network.   

Water and water recycling is a booming industry sector. How do you believe the market will develop over the next decade in India?
The market should develop significantly. India’s demand for water is growing, while the amount of available water is falling. So, recycling and reusing water is an intelligent way to help meet the supply-demand balance. The government encourages the use of recycled water, for instance, by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Railways to consume reused water for the cleaning of rolling stock and other non-potable uses and by issuing a mandate for power plants to buy treated waste water from sewage treatment plants, where the two plants fall within a radius of 50 km distance. The Ministry of Urban Development’s attributes for smart cities require 100 per cent recycling in the sanitation system or water reuse. At the state level, authorities in Maharashtra, late last year, signed regulations to foster the use of recycled waste water for industrial applications. The municipal bodies in 71 areas will have three years to set up waste water management plants. By 2020, the state government envisions to reuse at least 6,800 litres of waste water daily.

How do you view the Ganga Rejuvenation programme helping the industry?
According to the Union Water Resources Ministry, 70-75 per cent of pollution in the Ganga is due to municipal sewage, with the rest coming from domestic refuse, industrial effluents and other sources. Secondary treatment will prevent municipal sewage and many types of industrial effluents from adversely affecting the rivers, lakes or steams, thereby also preserving the aquatic life/natural heritage, including the unique dolphins of Ganga. Providing sufficient treatment infrastructure
to clean the river will require major investment. To meet this, we are seeing innovative hybrid public-private partnership tenders, such as last year’s successful bids for waste water treatment projects in Varanasi and Haridwar.

We are exploring participation in various consultancy bids under the mission.

How can your company assist customers across the world in understanding the trends and patterns in the water and water recycling industry?
Water and waste water have historically been treated separately – literally and conceptually. For many years, we have been championing change. We need to take the waste out of waste water – in every sense – and recognise waste water for the resource it is. We have sponsored round table events around the world to help water utilities overcome the barriers for reuse. Annually we publish a report named, Strategic Directions in Water, analysing industry needs and offering solutions to challenges such as water scarcity. Our website bv.com makes available a significant amount of content for anyone seeking to overcome water-related challenges. We demonstrate what is possible technically in terms of water recycling with our work in arid regions, such as Australia and the Southwestern United States and also in less obvious countries such as the UK and Singapore.

How can our cities have better waste water management systems? Where specifically do they need to invest? What is the cleanest cycle (near-zero discharge) that a city can employ?
It is technologically possible for cities to move towards a closed loop. Sustainable urban drainage systems can capture surface water and impound it until treatment is possible, rather than allowing untreated water to escape as runoff.

Currently, 40-50 per cent of the water entering India’s distribution networks is lost. This is largely due to leakage and illegal connections. Smart metering is a highly successful way of identifying accurately how much of water is being lost and where in the distribution network the losses are occurring. This information helps in preserving water resources and increasing the income available to invest in water infrastructure. There also needs to be investment in advanced treatment technologies that can purify waste water collected in foul and surface water drainage networks to a standard, making it safe to use again. With reservations – understandable but overstated -regarding the use of recycled water for potable applications, using treated waste water for non-potable applications is a good way of introducing the concept of reuse.

Do you believe we have an opportunity to harness waste water for energy generation?
Yes. Advanced digestion of sewage increases the amount of biogas produced as a by-product of the treatment process. The biogas can be used as fuel for combined heat and power engines (CHP), the energy from which can be used in the treatment process or exported to local power grids. There is, however, the need to understand the quality of waste water being delivered to the sewage treatment plants (STP) since a lot of sewers and open drains (nallahs) have limited control on the type of effluents dumped in them. Our Indian engineers have worked in these areas on many international projects. I am confident the experience they have gained will be of great value domestically, now that the generation of energy from biogas is becoming a component of many Indian wastewater projects. Performance of the latest generation of CHP systems is being enhanced significantly with the use of smart technology. The CHP component of our ASSET360 data analytics tool extracts and displays important system performance information and directs action to help operators make timely and accurate decisions on their CHP systems. This type of technology allows, for instance, the creation of automatic and customised, user-defined charts to give instant access to real time and historic performance. Such tools also convey system economics relative to financial goals and allow users to visualise real-time performance of the digestion process relative to energy production.

Apart from Ganga rejuvenation, what growth opportunities do you see in urban waste water management?
Swachh Bharat initiative will help reduce levels of contamination in domestic water supplies by protecting water sources. By including adequate water supply and sanitation in the attributes of a smart city, the Smart Cities Mission has put water projects in the centre stage. Significant thrust is being given to develop waste water collection and disposal infrastructure, apart from building waste water treatment plants. Black & Veatch is also providing consultancy services for the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai’s (MCGM) Malad zone waste water treatment facility. The project, once commissioned, is likely to be one of India’s largest in terms of treatment capacity.

What are the most sustainable and predictable revenue streams in waste water?
Wherever a charge is levied for the provision of capturing, transporting and treating waste water, a level of income can be generated. So for an urban waste water system, the revenue stream should be predictable. But that does not mean the revenue will be high. Water services are usually seen as a necessity rather than a luxury. So it is rare for charges to cover the full cost of carriage, treatment and future investment requirements. Reuse offers a potential revenue stream, for example, through the government’s requirement for power plants and industries to use recycled water. Generating energy from waste water treatment can also create revenue, if surplus power can be sold to distribution companies or private clients.

– RAHUL KAMAT

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