Theme 1: Standards for Institutionalizing use of Wastewater in Irrigation (Thematic Discussion by SuSanA India Chapter, February 2019)

  • Alka
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Theme 1: Standards for Institutionalizing use of Wastewater in Irrigation (Thematic Discussion by SuSanA India Chapter, February 2019)

Dear members,

I am Alka Palrecha and work with People in Centre Consulting on issues of water in cities and villages.

Water has started becoming the subject of conflict with its rising demand and scarce supply. The city is a major waste generator, with its domestic waste disposed of semi or untreated in the water bodies. The same water is used by the farmers downstream for irrigation. There are various models to reuse this wastewater, agricultural use being one of the most appropriate. Wastewater helps in acquiring phosphorus and sixty other nutrients back into the soil. It completes the loop as the aquifers are recharged and the same water could be used for portable purposes thereafter. India’s sewage waters can annually irrigate about 1.5 Mha of land area and have a potential to contribute over one million tonnes of nutrients and 130 million man-days of employment.

In this situation and given that sewage treatment plants (STPs) do not work optimally, it has been suggested standards for waste water use in agriculture be developed in consultation with the users of waste water or sewage. The World Health Organization or the Central Pollution Control Board have not followed such as consultative process to develop standards for using waste water in agriculture. In the case of use by agriculture, it has been suggested that farmers should be part of the process to understand and incorporate their concerns about using waste water or sewage. The standards and process need to balance these concerns with costs of treatment to provide the most appropriate combination.

Determination of global standard for treatment should be reconsidered depending on its reuse post the treatment to appropriately deal with health and environmental issues. Legal framework in India has disposal standard of wastewater but no standards are available for reuse. For instance, there are standards available for STPs to release wastewater into water bodies or land post its treatment but if a farmer lifts in and applies it for irrigation, there are no standards. The disposal standards also do not include industrial pollutants, they need to be revised considering there is industrial pollutant load mixed with domestic pollutants almost from every city that is sewered. Currently some states have policies of wastewater reuse, there also standards are lacking.

Farmers understand the importance of using the wastewater and have invested millions of their own money to construct the required infrastructure. Investments can be documented in the states of Karnataka and Gujarat. They have also derived a list of crops which works best with wastewater without any help of external parties like agriculturists.

The benefits of using waste water include year-round availability, improved productivity, higher nutrient value, and lastly reduced fertilizer cost. Since the performance of STPs is found to be sub-standard in most developing countries, farmers’ fields may become the treatment farms if planned in a safe and appropriate manner.

There is a rural-urban conflict to decide its ownership. The farmers have been using this wastewater for a long time, completing the loop and providing ecological services. However, with increasing scarcity of water as a resource, the industries, and the city wants to use it treated form for non-portable purposes, attempting to reduce its footprint. Some of the thoughts worth discussing are:
  1. What is the most appropriate use of wastewater?
  2. Who owns the wastewater – industries, cities or farmers? Therefore, should farmers buy water from cities, or should cities pay them to take and use waste water?
  3. What standards already exist in India and abroad (such as those developed by WHO, USEPA or CPCB) for reuse of treated sewage for agriculture?
  4. Examples of reuse of treated sewage for agriculture in India and their compliance to standards (monitoring and enforcement)

This topic is open for comments till 16 February. I look forward to an exciting discussion.
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  • nityajacob
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Re: Theme 1: Standards for Institutionalizing use of Wastewater in Irrigation (Thematic Discussion by SuSanA India Chapter, February 2019)

Dear all,

While water has become a matter of contention between rural and urban areas, it is also an opportunity for building bridges. However, there are some caveats before bridges can be built. One concerns the composition of waste water from cities. It is usually a mix of domestic sewage and industrial effluents. While this restricts the potential for reuse, there are still a few opportunities subject to treatment and controls. Treatment using natural processes such as constructed wetlands can also help generate income. Take a look at forum.susana.org/36-constructed-wetlands...tment-wetlands-india for some information on constructed wetlands.

To answer the questions -
1. Appropriate use of waste water. Depending on its quality, it can be used in farming or by industry and for power generation. The biggest advantage in the first use case is the assured availability of water and nutrients. Waste water from villages that is relatively free from chemicals is better suited for this than waste water from cities. With some treatment, urban waste water can also serve the same purpose. If industry were to use urban waste water (as estimated by Alka in her comments), it would reduce the demand for fresh water by that amount and thereby, the stress on water resources. It would also reduce the pollution caused by the release of untreated waste water that impacts people living downstream. For instance, people in villages around Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh have reported high rates of cancer as sugar mills, distilleries, paper mills, electroplating, slaughter houses, wet blues hides etc.,—running illegally have polluted the river water by dumping hazardous material in Saharanpur, Baghpat, Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh ( www.livelaw.in/as-residents-of-up-villag...patients-read-order/ )

2. As to who owns the waste water, let us look at its source that is predominantly rural. Some cities pay irrigation departments for water with return clauses. The technicality is the payment is to use water and return it, after treatment, to rural areas. It may be argued that cities do not own this water. Therefore, are they obliged to pay farmers from whose lands the water has come? If yes, there are no institutions that a city corporation can pay, for instance a regional farmers' union, other than the state irrigation department. However, if a municipal corporation wants to provide water for irrigation, it needs to provide the infrastructure - treatment and distribution - to the command area rather than putting the onus for collection and transport on users. The infrastructure's capital cost can come from a government grant and operating costs from urban taxes. However, an IWMI study showed most farmers using waste water lived in or around a city ( www.gwp.org/globalassets/global/toolbox/...-india-iwmi-2013.pdf ).

3. Wastewater can ideally be used to irrigate non-food crops, those that are not consumed directly or raw. In several countries and parts of India, this is an established practice. But acceptability of food crops such as vegetables irrigated by wastewater may be low. WHO has reported a study in which infections of ascaris and hookworms were twice as high among farm workers on fields irrigated by waste water compared to those using fresh water. The attachment provides WHO's recommendations for the microbiological quality of wastewater use in agriculture.

I hope this will spark the discussion.

Regards
Nitya

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  • AjitSeshadri
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Re: Theme 1: Standards for Institutionalizing use of Wastewater in Irrigation (Thematic Discussion by SuSanA India Chapter, February 2019)

Dear Dr. Alka,

I am making an attempt to answer your questions with factual notings as far as possible :

1. What is the most appropriate use of wastewater? There are many uses of wastewater in both urban and rural regions. In urbans, can be used to irrigate greens, as per discretion of ULBs viz. colony parks- small and large and traffic islands and others. Waste water on remediation, prior usage is required to comply with CPCB standards, It is seen that the waste-streams- Nallahs whether remedied thro STP or not, are conveyed to the main river or a larger water-body. All these waterbodies behave as waste-sinks accepting both solids and liquid flowing into them. If the residence time is a week or more, considerable remediation ( autolysis ) occurs naturally, and the water is fit to be reused safely for irrigation and other uses. Also wetlands get evolved at downstream areas of the w/body, which can both be used for process zones for remediation of waste water and can be used for creation of farms for crops and vegetables, livestock etc.
Most ideally these urban wastes be it be waste-water or solid waste can be a good resource for rurals, providing sustained water supply all year round and bio-waste composted and for manure usage. As the resource generated is water, can lead to more benefits- fishing, navigation of boats and barges etc.

2. Who owns the wastewater – industries, cities or farmers? Therefore, should farmers buy water from cities, or should cities pay them to take and use waste water? This question is to be assessed with prudence and then the costs of recycled water may be recovered on case to case basis. It would be seen that if large agri-fields are sourcing the water, then costs at actual basis is sought. If the agri-field are small holdings and individual families etc, then the costs can be waived, On the other hand, if the recycled water is put to use in construction activities then water is sold to them and ensured that the water is also conforming to standards etc. and upto Industry standards .

3. What standards already exist in India and abroad (such as those developed by WHO, USEPA or CPCB) for reuse of treated sewage for agriculture? Ans.: CPCB standards are followed, and meeting with the specification, ie BOD within 30ppm etc. ensured.

4. Examples of reuse of treated sewage for agriculture in India and their compliance to standards (monitoring and enforcement)

Case Study 1: An urban waste water flow of around 60kl per day is recycled/ processed on the Nallah bank and is put to use at Vasant Vihar Colony, near MCD Nursery, A-Block, Vasant Vihar, South Delhi. It is used to irrigate large and small parks, total 10 acres, build year 2006.

Case Study 2: A semi-urban waste water drain flow from 2 village basthis of around 40kl per day is recycled/ processed on the stream flow applying Dewats process. All the remedied water is put to use for irrigating agri- farms growing vegetables, seasonal crops etc. at Kuthpura Village, Agra on the opposite bank of The Taj, near Mehtab Bagh, Agra. It is used at agri- fields, total 6 acres , build year 2008.

Well wishes,

Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Environment Consultant, Chennai
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Re: Theme 1: Standards for Institutionalizing use of Wastewater in Irrigation (Thematic Discussion by SuSanA India Chapter, February 2019)

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Re: Theme 1: Standards for Institutionalizing use of Wastewater in Irrigation (Thematic Discussion by SuSanA India Chapter, February 2019)

(POSTED ON BEHALF OF SAMPATH NUALGI)

Dear Sir,
I thank you for your mail . I am not a qualified expert in water treatment. However I will reply to your points based on the knowledge I have.
Your letter is intertwining technical issues of water treatment with legal issues of ownership. It is best to separate them.
If untreated / partially treated water is used for irrigation then the agricultural plants will suffer since plants need molecular oxygen through root and the BOD and COD in the water will cut out the oxygen. Hence the water should be treated and have sufficient dissolved oxygen before being let out.
The common method of ETP / STP is expensive, cumbersome using activated sludge process, aerators, sludge removal, investment, power, running cost, technical man power requirement, capacity restriction, location, land issues etc. Very often the treatment plants do not work and the untreated wastes are let out into the nearby water body. The need of the hour is to have alternative treatment processes that can treat the water to CPCB norms before being let out into the water bodies.
My company Nualgi Nanobiotech manufactures a patented product called Nualgi Lakes that when added to polluted water bodies helps the growth of Diatom algae that do photosynthesis under water producing pure oxygen and food. In combination with aerobic bacteria externally added or present in the water the organics are broken down. The diatoms also trigger the growth of zooplankton that feed on diatoms, all bacteria (including pathogenic and coli-forms), broken down organics, mosquito larvae etc. All organic sludge is also digested by the bacteria. The water thus treated passes all tests of CPCB. We have taken a contract from NMCG and have successfully treated a 37 km long drain in Laksar near Haridwar by bio remediation using this technology. We have to take permission from NMCG to reveal any of this data. You may contact NMCG and get more details. I hope I have been able to give a clear picture. Please write to me if you need more details.
with warm regards
Sampath

Sampath Kumar Thothathri
CEO, Nualgi Nanobiotech
651, 11th Main Road, 5th Block
Jayanagar, Bangalore, 560041, India
Office: +91 80 26591524
Cell: +919449767543
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Re: Theme 1: Standards for Institutionalizing use of Wastewater in Irrigation (Thematic Discussion by SuSanA India Chapter, February 2019)

(POSTED ON BEHALF OF HIMANSHU THAKKAR)

Sorry, unable to post any detailed feedback. Some quick points:
1. Wastewater has to be seen as part of larger Urban water sector. We need National Urban Water Policy that provides guidelines for Urban Water Sector and also provides a definition of smart Water City.
2. Key area to be tackled is governance. There seems no interest in that among most people and authorities.
3. The top priority should be to ensure proper functioning of existing STPs.
4. For future STPs, preference should be for decentralised STPs and bioremediation kind of methods.
5. Farmers are clearly not in position to pay for treated sewage. If farmers are already using surface water for irrigation and if they are offered treated sewage as replacement, we need to ensure that the water thus saved from use by farmer comes to city or goes to river. We lack such a system today. However, the farmers who are currently using the sewage (treated or untreated) would also be in the picture.
6. We need to improve our governance of water sector. That is the key area where there is not much
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Re: Theme 1: Standards for Institutionalizing use of Wastewater in Irrigation (Thematic Discussion by SuSanA India Chapter, February 2019)

Dear Dr. Seshadri,

Thank you for your engagements. The case of Kuthpura village is very interesting. I am curious to know if there is an existing arrangement between the farmers and the sewage providers to make the service reliable and safe?

Alka
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Re: Theme 1: Standards for Institutionalizing use of Wastewater in Irrigation (Thematic Discussion by SuSanA India Chapter, February 2019)

Dear Himanshu (Via Nitya)

Thanks for the reply. Your observation about non performance or poor performance of STP is spot on and widely known/ discussed. I was wondering if there could be a way that farmers themselves treat the water and the city pays for the services given by the farmers. In your view what would be the pros and cons of such a way?

Alka
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Re: Theme 1: Standards for Institutionalizing use of Wastewater in Irrigation (Thematic Discussion by SuSanA India Chapter, February 2019)

Dear Ms. Alka.

Thanks your message enquiring on the Dewats waste water treatment plant at Kutchpura , Agra .
The name of village is Kutchpura, UP, India, error is regretted.

Pl give some time. Will take up your querry with the Lead Ngo CURE Delhi and let you know the details sought.

Once again thanks for your enquiry and providing appreciation.

Well wishes.
Prof Ajit Seshadri.
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  • nityajacob
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Re: Theme 1: Interim Summary for Standards for Institutionalizing use of Wastewater in Irrigation

Dear all,

I am posting the interim summary for the first theme of this discussion.

Alka Palrecha started the discussion saying water had become a matter of conflict with rising demand and scarce supply. Additionally, cities are major waste generators of sewage that is used by the farmers downstream for irrigation. Sewage can annually irrigate about 1.5 million hectares. Given that given that sewage treatment plants (STPs) do not work optimally, standards for waste water use in agriculture need to be developed in consultation with the users of waste water or sewage, especially farmers. The standards and process need to balance these concerns with costs of treatment to provide the most appropriate combination.

In his response, Nitya Jacob said waste water is also an opportunity for building bridges. It can be treated using natural processes such as constructed wetlands. Depending on its quality, waste water can be used in farming or by industry and for power generation. The biggest advantage in the first use case is the assured availability of water and nutrients. Use of this water will reduce the demand for fresh water and the pollution caused by the release of untreated waste water.

Regarding ownership, while most water originates in rural areas, there are no institutions that own this water and therefore, can be paid, other than the state irrigation department. Ajit Seshadri said wastewater could be provided to small farmer free but if used for construction, be a chargeable input. Wastewater can ideally be used to irrigate non-food crops, those that are not consumed directly or raw. Wastewater can be used to irrigate green areas. With treatment, it can be reused for irrigation.

in Delhi, about 60 Kld of wastewater is used in Vasant Vihar to irrigate parks. In Mehtrab Bagh, Agra, about 40 Kld is used in farming.
However, Sampath Nualgi said using untreated water could affect farming since plants need oxygen through roots. Alternative treatment methods could be used. Nualgi Nanobiotech manufactures Nualgi Lakes that promotes the growth of diatom algae for improving water quality.

Himanshu Thakkar said wastewater is part of larger urban waterscape. A National Urban Water Policy was needed to provide guidelines for the urban water sector and a definition of smart water city. The key area to be tackled was governance, something ignored by people and governments. The top priority should be to ensure proper functioning of existing STPs, while for future STPs, preference should be for decentralised STPs and bioremediation. Farmers are clearly not in position to pay for treated sewage. If farmers are already using surface water for irrigation and if they are offered treated sewage as replacement, we need to ensure that the water thus saved from use by farmer comes to city or goes to river. We lack such a system today. However, the farmers who are currently using the sewage (treated or untreated) would also be in the picture.

Regards
Nitya
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