Reuse of treated used water needs to be mainstreamed across the country, says think-tank CEEW

Reusing treated used water (TUW) can reduce pressure on freshwater resources and the water demand-supply gap and improve the water environment in urban areas. India generates a considerable quantity of used water, with cities such as Surat, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Indore, and Visakhapatnam successfully implementing reuse projects. 

But this is yet to be mainstreamed across the country, says a study by the Delhi-based think-tank Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW). It has developed and computed the Municipal Used Water Management (MUWM) Indexfor urban local bodies (ULBs) to assess their performance in used water management. For this purpose, 503 ULBs from class I (population above 1,00,000) and class II (population of 50,000–99,999) cities in 10 states adopting a TUW reuse policy were selected. 

Launches MUWM Index 

ULBs in India are the paramount authorities in the management of urban domestic used water, says Nitin Bassi, Programme Lead, CEEW. Responsibility for developing and maintaining used water infrastructure and service delivery in cities lies primarily with them. The MUWM Index is a first-of-its-kind framework, specifically focused on used water management at the ULB level in India, says a CEEW study on ‘Enabling circular economy in used water management in India’ released on Tuesday. 

The MUWM Index highlights the progress made by ULBs in implementing a circular economy approach to urban used water management in India, says Bassi. States of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, and West Bengal were assessed using the index. Most ULBs have made notable progress in some aspects of used water management and are making significant efforts to improve their overall performance. 

Surat ranks first

Surat Municipal Corporation received the highest score of 3.32 out of 5 on the MUWM Index. The city’s comprehensive sewerage network has expanded with its fast-growing population. Its used water management action plan and Gujarat’s comprehensive reuse policy are based on conserving water and reducing the burden on conventional water resources. 

Bengaluru has secured the second position with a score of 3.23 out of 5. The city faces numerous challenges, such as an exponential rise in its population, rapid urbanisation, and increased frequency of extreme climate events. These have been the drivers for strengthening the used water treatment infrastructure promoting reuse, and rising water demand. There is a need to improve the stormwater drainage infrastructure in the city. 

Karnataka, Haryana models 

Gurugram in Haryana and Bardoli in Gujarat are high performers in efficiently collecting sewage charges. Bardoli has also attained the maximum score for cost recovery in the used water management parameter. The progress of Karnataka and Haryana provides inspiration for early starters. Haryana has invested ₹433.60 crore since 2014 to develop 73 new STPs and strengthen the existing sewage treatment infrastructure. 

Eastern India is catching up in used water management. The state assessment reveals that 85 per cent of the ULBs fall under the promising and performing categories in most states. In Jharkhandand West Bengal, nearly 90 per cent of ULBs belong to these categories, indicating significant progress on certain themes, but a long way to go to achieve comprehensive used water management. Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh are the bottom three states, with scores of 0.84, 1.01, and 1.07 out of 5, respectively. 

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