National wastewater reuse policy sought

FLOW CHECK: Regulatory intervention is the key to prevent industries from over-exploiting groundwater.—FILE PHOTO

FLOW CHECK: Regulatory intervention is the key to prevent industries from over-exploiting groundwater.—FILE PHOTO  

India needs a national wastewater reuse policy to help address the “perennial concern” of urban water stress by mandating targets and laying out legislative, regulatory and financial measures to hit those targets, PwC said in a report.

The report, “Closing the water loop: Reuse of treated wastewater in urban India” released by the global consulting firm on Tuesday, underscores the need for a comprehensive national policy.

The suggestion for such a policy comes against the backdrop of the PwC report highlighting “water stress to be a perennial concern’’ in most Indian cities.

Urban growth

According to the report, the country is expected to add approximately 404 million new urban dwellers between now and 2050.

“This rapid urban growth will be linked with higher industrial output and greater energy demand thus adding to the urban water stress,’’ the report’s authors wrote. Institutionalising the reuse of treated wastewater could go a long way in helping utilities to address this challenge in an effective manner, PwC added.

Like other infrastructure sub-sectors in India, the wastewater sector would also have to be driven by government initiatives and implementation models would be designed around these initiatives, they wrote.

Groundwater exploitation

“Hence, sound policy and regulatory interventions by the Central and State Governments are a prerequisite for the launching of innovative reuse projects,’’ PwC said in the report.

Regulatory intervention was key to prevent industries from utilising groundwater at a level that led to over-exploitation, according to the consulting firm. “The current low cost of exploiting groundwater makes reuse unviable and at the same time, irrecoverably depletes groundwater resources,’’ the report’s authors wrote.

The PwC study suggested that the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Water Resources should work together to define quality norms for different grades of industrial water. This would help standardise the design of reuse systems nationwide, it said.

Historically, infrastructure development in the water sector had been fully funded by the Central Government. For PPP (public-private partnership) structures to evolve in this sector, significant government interventions were required to create a favourable environment for private sector participation, the study’s authors recommended.

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