H. Subramaniam
October 3, 2016

There is a need for developing wastewater reuse as a sector, and identifying the interventions that could help in the development of this sector. Suitable structures need to be set up that can help in mainstreaming the implementation of wastewater reuse projects in the country.

According to a recent PwC report - "Closing the water loop: Reuse of treated wastewater in urban India", the situation warrants utilities and the government to ensure optimal use of available water resources while duly addressing the social, economic and commercial considerations. As Ranen Banerjee, Partner and Leader Public Sector and Governance, PwC said, "The wastewater sector will be driven by government initiatives based on which the implementation models will be designed. Hence, sound policy and regulatory interventions by the central and state governments are a prerequisite for the launching of innovative reuse projects. Government interventions will need to focus on incentivizing the use of reclaimed water and developing institutional support mechanisms."

A National Wastewater Reuse Policy would help to promote reuse. The central and state governments should jointly issue clear policy targets, setting out the legislative, regulatory and financial measures needed to achieve those targets. In addition, the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Water Resources should together define quality norms for different grades of industrial water which will help standardize design of reuse systems nationwide. National level norms for water safety planning and risk management are also needed to build credibility for reclaimed water as a reliable alternative.

The business case for reuse of treated wastewater in India is being driven by the high concern for water security. At present, this issue ranks high in the minds of policymakers in India with several cities facing water crises. The recent Cauvery crisis has again raised water security concerns of communities and industries in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The reuse of treated wastewater is getting strong support from government policy. It is an important element in the ambitious plan to clean up the River Ganga, a flagship initiative of the ruling government (Clean Ganga Mission), and is also included in other urban policies and their related funding streams. By signing the Paris Agreement on climate change in April 2016, India has signaled its concern for the sustainable use of natural resources. Water reuse fits well with these broader environmental goals, helping, as it does, to conserve scarce resources and to promote efficient use.

Given the worsening water crises in many Indian cities, the moment has come for the government to engage efforts and resources in developing wastewater reuse to meet industrial water demand. It may be a tough road ahead for utilities and government to fast-track the necessary interventions, but the long-term benefits of reusing wastewater are substantial.

The water crisis has been an open problem for a few years. Today, there is a need to close the water loop.

H Subramaniam H. Subramaniam is Editor, EverythingAboutWater magazine. He can be reached at

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