Water, a vital necessity of all life, is absolutely critical for human health and the economic vitality of nations through agriculture and industry. However, this precious resource has been under constant pressure across India. Due to the increase in population, environmental degradation and economic development, water consumption has gone up by leaps and bounds, which has put this limited natural resource under severe strain.
Though the water scarcity is felt by all, industries are the first to be impacted as state governments/local bodies give priority to agricultural and residential usages. In many areas, it is easy for industries to get necessary approvals for power and other utilities for expanding or new production facilities, but getting a new licence to draw fresh/raw water is increasingly becoming a tougher task. This means, industries have to find ways to reduce, reuse and recycle water used in their premises. “Water availability is a huge challenge for everyone today in industry, and decisions on industrial locations are now taking into account the availability of adequate water. Public awareness is also growing very fast with the Internet explosion as information flows across geographies in minutes,” says Vishal Sharma, Managing Director, Nalco Water India Limited.
Government has also established wastewater discharge standards for all segments such as municipal, industrial and commercial and residential. Compliance with the government’s wastewater quality requirements has been one of the main drivers of industrial wastewater treatment programs in India. Water quality data throughout India suggests that there is a long way to go even in achieving full compliance with and enforcement of existing regulations. However, leading industrial operators recognise that compliance alone is not enough and are moving forward with new wastewater treatment approaches that create economic and environmental benefits.
An enlightened water treatment philosophy coupled with innovative technology improves the bottom line, other than providing enormous and wide-ranging environmental benefits, including cleaner water for use, fresher air to breathe, and appreciable reduction in solid waste.
Treating with care
With a market size of over $4 billion, the Indian water and wastewater market is growing at a steady rate of 10-12 percent every year. Government-related projects contribute over 50 percent of the revenues in this market while private sector funds constitute the rest of it.
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As the population continues to boom, pressure is building on water resources that are already under massive strain. Thus, technologies that promote more efficient use of water that is already available would need to be implemented.
Wide-ranging applications of membrane technology in wastewater treatment unit operations (ultra filtration, reverse osmosis, membrane bioreactors, etc), along with advances in the use of specialty chemicals in industrial water treatment, are expected to give a push for converting wastewater into reusable water in order to supplement dwindling natural resources.
In addition, companies are also employing zero liquid discharge (ZLD) system – an advanced technology to purify and recycle virtually all of the wastewater produced. Another area of increasing focus is real-time monitoring and automation. This is expected to play an important role in the years to come, considering that even more stringent regulations are likely to be put in place by the end of this decade.
Trends to watch for
Some of the cutting edge trends include increased water recycling and reuse programs to reduce water consumption and discharge needs, implementation of solid waste (sludge) reduction and waste-to-energy projects, use of advanced treatment technologies and a focus on reducing energy costs associated with wastewater treatment.
In some cases, manufacturers are combining to create common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) to improve wastewater treatment economics. CEPTs cost less to build and operate on a per-cubic-meter-treated basis than a collection of individual sites.
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In many water-stressed regions of India, some of the leading manufacturers are working to develop ‘zero liquid discharge’ facilities. Recognising that water available to meet individual, agricultural and industrial needs is limited, manufacturers are working to minimise water requirements by reusing and recycling every drop of water they take until water loss is limited to evaporation. Water recycle and reuse programs require a sophisticated knowledge of water chemistry and technologies to ensure that water is treated to ‘fit for use’ levels that protect the environment, product quality and asset integrity at optimal costs.
Clean & pure future
The dynamic nature of wastewater will continue to challenge water professionals as industries progressively increase their production/product mix and capacity utilisation, while the regulatory norms for discharge become more stringent going forward.
With the current NDA government focusing on manufacturing to put the economy back on fast-track growth path, the requirement of water by industries is bound to increase manifold in the coming years. As a result, the wastewater treatment market would need a continuous flow of innovation, technology and best practices from the ‘water specialists’ in the greater interest of human society and industry.
Technology drivers are expected to help industry reduce costs. Improved chemistries that capture tough-to-manage contaminants, equipment advances, and bio-augmentation programs and automation technologies that save energy, reduce maintenance, and allow for more water recycling can help to improve the quality and reduce the cost of industrial wastewater treatment.
Water scarcity, energy savings, and increasingly complex industrial wastewater treatment demands are pushing companies to implement new techniques to optimise environmental and economic performance. Advanced automation, new cooperative facilities and other technology and expertise advances will help India’s industrial operators meet public needs at reduced economic cost – facilitating the sustainable economic and environmental development so crucial to India’s future.
Solution to save the precious drop
Nobody has yet found a commercially viable way to create more water artificially so one has to depend on the natural resource available. Hence, reduce, reuse and recycle are the only solutions to solve water challenge.
According to Nalco’s Vishal Sharma, following steps can offer eventual solution:
The combination of the above will make the viability of water treatment technologies much easier and one can start seeing a net reduction or at least a slowdown in the consumption of water everywhere, he adds.