Evolving wastewater discharge standards in India and its impacts


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  • Rohinipradeep
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  • Sanitation and Wastewater Expert, having 15-year experience in the Sector. Currently working with CDDIndia as Project Manager. Got more than 15 years of experience in designing, implementing engineering solutions for management of wastewater, faecal sludge management, waterbody rejuvenation and drain remediation across India and South Asia.
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Evolving wastewater discharge standards in India and its impacts

The need for sustainable management of water resources is tremendously increasing with the increase in urban populations, visible pollution and environmental quality degradation, public health risks and growing water insecurity. Under Jal Jeevan Mission, domestic piped water connections have expanded rapidly since 2019. Therefore, it is likely that the quantity of wastewater in rural and urban areas will also increase exponentially. It is estimated that nearly four-fifths of India’s surface water bodies are too polluted for human use, unless treated.

Used water management is experiencing a paradigm shift globally; treated used water reuse and resource recovery is now an important objective along with environmentally safer discharges. In a water-stressed country like India, where official data states that a third of the country suffers from water scarcity, the treatment and reuse of water is a necessity, and this is without the added burden expected from JJM.The Pollution Control Board discharge and reuse standards provide physical, chemical and pathogen limits that treated water quality should comply to offer a desired level of protection to environmental and human health, defining the regulatory regime under which used water management occurs. Wastewater discharge standards in India have been evolving over the past four years and is witnessing changes in type and magnitude of the parameters and application environments included. The General Discharge Standards (1986) have been proposed to be revised three times in recent years (Table 1). Further to these, the same standards have been used for other type of treatment systems such as Faecal sludge which is making it more difficult to comply.  There are also inconsistencies between central and state policies and overall lack of transparency on the objectives and process of setting standards is leading to confusion and trepidation, which is further hindering the development of the sector.  

Si No
General Norms
Draft Norms
MoEFCC Notification ( 2017)
NGT Order
ReRecieving environment
Inland Surface Water
Public Sewers
Land Irrigation
Marine Coastal Areas
1BOD [mg/l]< 30350100100< 10< 30 < 20 (metro cities)<10
2COD [mg/l]< 250--25050-< 50
3TSS [mg/l]< 100600200100 process waters 10% of influent cooling water< 20< 100 < 50 (metro cities)< 20
4TN [mg/l]< 100--< 100< 10-< 10
5NH3-N [mg/l]< 50 -< 50< 5-<5
6Dissolved Phosphates [mg/l]5-----2
7Faecal Coliform [MPN/100ml]----  < 100  < 1000  < 230
In addition to these developments in wastewater discharge standards, central and state bodies have also been implementing centralized options for reuse of water for filling up of water bodies and use it for irrigation of agricultural practices. Reuse provides the opportunity to harness water and (in the case of agricultural reuse) nutrient recycling but also chances of carrying environmental contamination and public health risks due to toxic, pathogenic, and inhibitory constituents of wastewater. There is a large gap in terms of institutional capacity to set up and run wastewater treatment units. While government guidelines made space for expert technical agencies, there appear to be only a few such agencies with the requisite experience to advise on wastewater treatment for a country as diverse as India. Funding is also a concern, even though there are funds under JJM and Swachh Bharat Mission 2 for setting up units; there has been little thought for long-term maintenance.
The SuSanA India Chapter proposes a thematic discussion around the issues raised above. We would like your responses to the following questions:
  1. How are these adequate procedures and arrangements envisaged under government programmes in terms of risk management and sustainability, and how can they be improved? 
  2. What are the gaps in human, financial and technical resources to tackle the volumes of wastewater in the short- and medium-term?
  3. How Indian discharge/reuse Standards are different from other countries.
Your responses will help us draft a note for the government to continue the programme on wastewater treatment after the two missions have ended next year. We also propose a webinar on the topic once the discussion has concluded.
Best Regards
Rohini Pradeep
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CDD Society
Survey No. 205 | (Opp. Beedi Workers Colony) | Kommaghatta Road, Bandemath |Kengeri Sattelite Town | Bengaluru 560060
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