The context?

Population expansion, urbanization, and socio-economic development have exacerbated the water supply-demand imbalance, causing water shortages in emerging countries like India.

Water, land, energy, and changing cuisines are under pressure as cities grow and demand more water, threatening urban and rural food security.

Extreme floods and droughts caused by climate change are also harming water resources. Use water wisely. Waste-to-wealth works nicely with Indian water management.


  • Schedule Seven of the Indian Constitution makes “water” a State subject.
  • Article 246 of the Constitution gives states the ability to plan, implement, manage, and maintain water supply and sanitation projects, as well as recoup costs.
  • The Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) plans and implements state water supply and sanitation programs.
  • Parliament can make interstate water laws.
  • The State can set water usage policies and laws.

The 1993- 74th Amendment to the Indian Constitution transferred water supply and sanitation from the state government to Urban Municipal Councils (UMC).

The Prevention and Control of Pollution Act of 1974 lists wastewater as a pollutant, yet India has no wastewater management law.

Report findings

Global Results

  • Water Waste: Global wastewater production is 380 billion m3.Asia generates 42% of worldwide wastewater, and India generates the most in South Asia.HICs generate 42% of global wastewater, roughly twice that of LICs and lower-middle-income nations.
  • Wastewater Treatment:HICs collect 82% and treat 74% of their wastewater, while LICs collect 9% and treat 4%.MICs treat less than 50% of wastewater.

Wastewater in India:

1. Wastewater Treatment:

35% of India’s population lives in urban areas, where CPCB estimates wastewater generation at 72,368 MLD (million litres per day) for 2020-21.

The rural estimate is 39,604 MLD.The operational capacity is 26,869 MLD, compared to 31,841 MLD installed.Only 28% of the wastewater generated is left untreated and disposed of in rivers/lakes/groundwater, while 72% is.

2. Urbanization-Wastewater Linkage:

Water availability has raised urban living standards and accelerated urbanization, necessitating fast wastewater management. Rapid urbanization puts strain on freshwater resources to meet food and water demands in water-scarce and rapidly expanding areas.

Many of these developing towns are in significant river basin catchments, using large amounts of freshwater and dumping effluent into the catchments, contaminating irrigation water.

3. Urban wastewater management has major issues.

UWM Technologies:

  1. India uses on-site and off-site Urban Wastewater Management (UWM) systems.
  2. 60% of the population relies on an on-site system that collects wastewater near the toilet in a pit, tank, or sludge.
  3. Off-site systems dispose of toilet wastewater.
  4. Irrigation, toilet flushing, industrial use, fish farming, and accidental and indirect uses are all possible with treated wastewater.


  • SDG target 6.3 “aims to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater discharged into the water bodies and substantially increase recycling and safe reuse globally”.
  • Many SDGs and targets are linked to SDG 6.3, which can help achieve their aims and vice versa. SDG 6. a, 7. a, 11.3, 12.5 and 13.2 are examples.

Why Manage Wastewater?

Water Security: An rising number of sustainable but unconventional water resources, such as wastewater, can reduce the water demand-supply gap and ensure water security.

Wastewater is used as a water source in several nations, particularly for farm irrigation. Wastewater is “untapped” and “undervalued” in India.

Alternative Freshwater: Treated wastewater can be used as freshwater to maintain river flow during droughts.

Meeting Industrial Demands: Wastewater is a widely underutilized water source. 80% of untreated wastewater from 110 cities can meet 75% of industrial water requirements by 2025.


  • Many Indian Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) now reuse treated sewage for industrial cleaning, horticultural irrigation, non-contact impoundments, and other applications. Such as:
  • Punjab govt. Released the State Treated Wastewater Policy 2017 to encourage the non-potable reuse of treated sewage.
  • The Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Karnal, recommended sewage-fed tree planting irrigation after studying sewage farming.
  • In Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chennai, huge condos and high-rise apartment buildings are using treated grey water for toilet flushing.


IUCN defines NBS as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”.

Different Ways:

  1. Algal-bacterial interactions in a wastewater-fed pond are the simplest. Plants and soil filter biological activities in other common systems.
  2. Reed beds, artificial wetlands, planted soil filters, and vegetated submerged beds were the first nature-based wastewater treatment solutions.
  3. Floating Treatment Wetlands (FTW) is an NBS in-situ treatment alternative for wastewater-contaminated waterways.
  4. In FTW, plants are cultivated on a free-floating mat, and their roots reach contaminated water to act as biological filters.
  5. Vermifiltration treats wastewater using earthworms and bacteria.
  6. Earthworms and microorganisms remove waste by eating, biodegradation, and body wall absorption.
  8. Chemical Oxygen Demand
  9. Total Suspended Solids
  10. Wastewater TDS.

UWM Innovations:

1. IoT Apps:

The Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, and service-oriented architecture have created Smart Water Quality Monitoring Systems (SWQMSs).

SWQMS provides near-real-time awareness and decision-making using crowdsourcing, instruments, sensors, satellites, pictures, videos, news, and other sources.

2. GIS Approach:

Wastewater management uses GIS-based methodologies for site selection for STPs (Sewage Treatment Plants), pollution hotspot identification, and treated wastewater irrigation.

Such a study requires topography. Land use land cover data, geology, distance from important water bodies and environmentally protected regions, climatic data, and effluent wastewater characteristics.

Remote Sensing (RS) and GIS can be used to assess treated wastewater’s acceptability.

What Are Wastewater Treatment Challenges?

Quality Issues:

  • Reused wastewater of poor quality. Clean water demand is outpacing wastewater treatment options and safe wastewater access technology.
  • Ensuring human and ecological safety and wastewater quality before reuse or release is one of the main challenges.

Institutional Issues:

  • Developing and financial management issues may prevent ULBs from developing and implementing UWM projects.
  • Due to institutional fragmentation, spatiotemporal data on wastewater volumes generated, collected, treated, and reused by different sectors are either rarely monitored or scattered.
  • Untreated effluent from ULBs without sewage networks pollutes nearby waterways.

Regulatory Issues:

The main issues of water pollution standard setting are:

  • Pollutant variety
  • Targeted uses of treated/untreated water
  • Dilution is when pollutants are released to a nearby water body
  • A surface water body receiving residential sewage has no ambient water quality regulations. Such lapses damage downstream farms.

Economic Issues:

  • The capacity gap between generated sewage and treatment capacity is very considerable in all classes of Indian towns and cities and grows with decreasing population.
  • Due to greater capital and operation and maintenance costs, smaller cities/towns struggle to locate STP resources. High capital deters private players.

Tech Issues:

  • India relies on outdated wastewater treatment methods. The government chooses low-capital-cost technology despite poor performance due to limited money and increased expenditures.
  • The knowledge gap and ignorance about modern technology perpetuate outdated, inefficient technologies.
  • Nature-based and decentralized technologies are unexplored.

Social Issues:

  • Citizens are rarely informed about water scarcity or water reuse/recycling. Despite awareness, people are often unwilling to use recovered water.
  • Compared to park irrigation, consuming recycled water is unlikely.
  • Colour, odour, and taste also influence the public acceptability of treated water.
  • Public opposition often halts treated water reuse initiatives worldwide.

How Does the Report Improve UWM?

Management Change:

  • Water resource management must change from treating wastewater as “waste” to treating it as a “resource” to meet water, food, and energy needs.
  • Due to increased untreated sewage loads, sewage should be cleaned and used for non-potable purposes and industrial utilities.
  • To detect pollution, trace it to its source, and evaluate its effects, better water quality criteria must be met with regular monitoring.

Reforming On-Site Treatment: Technology can improve on-site sewage treatment.

Periodic Toilet Facility Audit: ULBs must evaluate the type of on-site sanitation systems needed to ensure containment and reduce pollution.

Standardization of Containment Construction: ULBs shall firmly enforce BIS containment system rules in new/reconstructed houses during building plan approval.

Roadside Drains: Septic tank effluent can be temporarily collected in well-lined roadside drains if there is no sewerage infrastructure and no space for soaking facilities.

UWM capacity-building:

  • UWM capacity building optimizes social equality, efficiency, and environmental sustainability.
  • Executives, technical managers, community groups, and local caretakers must be involved in the UWM process. Local health agencies should monitor city wastewater activities independently.
  • UWM requires more decision-makers, urban planning integration, and an understanding of trade-offs between multiple conflicting goals. An apex body makes this easier.

Advocating Sustainable UWM Solutions

Public-Private Partnerships: PPPs are widespread in urban utilities, except for water, which is usually managed by the State.

Three fundamentals should be considered when introducing PPP to wastewater management:

  • Raising water tariffs to meet fixed and variable costs.
  • Intergovernmental collaboration, alignment, and oversight for political, regulatory, and financial risks.
  • PPP sustainability requires a credible discretionary regulatory framework.

Community Partnerships: Most wastewater treatment projects in India are top-down, with end-user communities having no say in what services they want or how much they will pay. When people have a say in wastewater management, communities are more invested in its success.


Urban wastewater management, however local, demands internationally co-created solutions, including scientific and technological advances that consider water-land-people and ecosystems. Besides updating urban wastewater management best practices, Apex bodies to oversee wastewater treatment plants through wide collaborations are necessary.