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Eco-logical Water Quality Criteria for Zero Discharge

Dr Uday Bhawalkar

Dr Uday Bhawalkar

This case study outlines eco-logical research carried out ‘in collaboration with Nature’ that has evolutionary experience of 460 crore years. Focus was on developing simple criteria and test methods that can be used by ordinary person in the field, without using any sophisticated laboratory methods or instruments. Same methodology was also used to develop a remedy (that of BioSanitizer Ecochips) for cleaning any polluted water, without using electricity, chemicals or trained manpower and without producing any new waste that is often more concentrated (more hazardous). In fact, instead of separating and disposing the pollution elsewhere, this technology converts pollution into resources and produces not only clean water, but also value-added water that resists recontamination, scaling, corrosion and growth of pathogens/pests.

When people cannot evaluate quality of goods they want to buy, they prefer branded goods. People started buying branded water bottles after they lost faith in municipal tap water. This created severe pressure on environment and several American cities are now trying to re-create faith in their tap water. In fact, San Francisco is the first city to ban the water bottles.

Animals do understand water quality and hence have survived and evolved. Man also could evaluate water quality using five senses they have. Having started burning fossil fuels, man has already spoiled air quality and increased oxides of
carbon, nitrogen and sulphur. These acid-forming materials cause acid rain that dissolves rock and metals at a faster rate, causing heavy metal pollution. Nature tries to protect the quality of groundwater by reducing the rate of soil infiltration when water quality is poor. Slow infiltration is to ensure that only treated water goes to the pool of groundwater (preferred source of drinking water). Slow soil
infiltration causes flash floods in rainy season and water shortages in dry season due to depleted groundwater. Depleted groundwater also reduces the flow of water springs that used to keep the rivers flow round the year, in the past. Now a days, water springs flow for a short time, causing water shortage in dry season.

Digging trenches to force the polluted water into the groundwater, use of agrochemicals in modern agriculture and leachates from garbage heaps and sewage septic tanks are other causes that introduce silent pollution of nitrates and heavy metals. This cannot be detected by human tongue, the prime sensor that guides us about water and food quality.

There is thus a need to develop a simple, reliable, fast, low-cost method that can be used by a common man to evaluate water quality in a short time. These will also be useful in evaluating food and beverages.


Nature is well designed. Physics, chemistry, biology and ecology have Eco-Logic that we should understand, appreciate and use to solve our problems. Human traditions are Eco- Logical and change over time, in a need-based manner.

Water quality has been deteriorating gradually over time, because of human progress (burning of fossil fuels, use of agrochemicals in farming and discharge of industrial chemicals, etc.). Prime pollutants are nitrates, sodium, sulphates and heavy metals. Toxic organics are pollutants because they are nitrate derivatives (high levels of nitrates cause growth of toxic plants and venomous animals).

One can see a graph of spoiling water quality by watching how man evolved his cooking vessels or how farmers changed the material of his milk kettles. Simple iron, then copper, brass (alloy of copper and zinc), tinning, aluminium, stainless steel, plastic, glass… indicate how corrosion increased in water, cooking oil, milk and other beverages, over time.

We can use this historical evidence to evaluate water quality.

Mosquitoes evolved from ordinary to malaria and finally to dengue. It is well known fact that ordinary mosquitoes breed in raw sewage that has pollution (job for mosquitoes, the water-cleaning agents of nature) as well as abundant food (salary). Malaria and dengue mosquitoes, on the other hand, breed in ‘clean’ water (which has silent pollution of nitrates, heavy metals, etc.) that has no organic food (salary for mosquitoes). Dengue mosquitoes breed in relatively higher pollution than malaria mosquitoes, hence dengue mosquitoes cause higher suffering and mortality. This acts as warning signals to man (who is the cause of pollution). Legionella or flesh-eating bacteria grow in recirculating cooling towers that build up levels of nitrates by dissolving oxides of nitrogen from the air. These give no signals and cause mortality. Nature gives no signals at high pollution (means high ratio of inorganic pollution to organic food).
Signals are given at low pollution. If man neglects small signals, then nature plans to get rid of these people by causing punishment (harsh diseases) that too, without giving any signals.

Learning from Nature

One can observe whether water breeds fish, frogs, ordinary mosquitoes, malaria mosquitoes or dengue mosquitoes and know its quality. Fish indicates better quality, the fish population increases with water pollution. This also means that having few fish indicates better quality than having fish crowd. If a village has two ponds of same area and depth, a pond with few fish should be reserved for drinking and one with higher fish population be used for washing clothes, utensils and buffalos. To appreciate this point, fish population should be seen as number of fire-fighters. Higher number indicates bigger fire (pollution in water).

Fish clean the water body, only if they feed on natural food chain. If artificial feed is used, one can harvest higher tonnage of fish but fish excreta pollutes the water body. Fish excreta is clean only if fish feed on natural food chain (nitrates –phytoplankton – zooplankton – small fish).

We may give fishing contracts for a water body. But if exclusive contract is not given, nobody feeds the fish. But exclusive contract encourages use of artificial feed and this spoils the water quality.

Animals that grow in healthy water body are also healthy. Those growing in polluted water bodies are unhealthy, but tasty! Such animals should not be consumed by sick people and by people doing more brainwork than legwork. Brainpower gets developed when we consume healthy food, water and air.

Polluted water fish is red or black in colour, but is tasty. This is to ensure that people harvest this fish and help speed up the rejuvenation of water body by increased turnover of fish. Red and black colour is used by nature to warn us about the pollution.

Frog legs are consumed as a delicacy! But are not good for health.

At extremely higher pollution, nature produces no food but gives only punishments and death sentences.

The below triangular diagram shows how different pests come in different regions (niches) created by specific composition of carbohydrates, proteins and NPN (Non-Protein Nitrogen compounds, they become nitrates ultimately). Proteins without nitrates (for example paneer or cheese) get fairly preserved but proteins get degraded in presence of nitrates and produce more nitrates. This is why dead animals create severe sanitation challenges. Dead saint’s body, however gets preserved because saint is a low-nitrates system.

One should note that odour production needs organic food. If sewage is treated only to destroy the organic food (BOD and COD), then N-rich and C-deficient medium has no odour/pests, but is an ideal medium for growth of pathogens. Cooling towers, thus, grow flesheating (legionella) bacteria. Fresh tap water or rain water can breed dengue mosquitoes telling us that this medium is more toxic than raw sewage that has food and hence has odour. Raw sewage may breed ordinary mosquitoes, while treated sewage may breed malaria mosquitoes, if only organic food
(BOD and COD) is destroyed.

Best way to treat sewage is to make it a resource for fish cultivation or soil by reducing nitrates, while conserving organic food. Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) is due to nitrates and not due to organic food.

Nature is digital and pollution can be read using human senses

  • First digit pollution can be sensed by eyes. For example, fish displays various colours to tell us sub-bands of first digit.
  • Second digit pollution can be picked up by ears. For example, frogs and singing mosquitoes make audio appeal to tell us that pollution is at second digit. Fish is mostly quiet because it is first digit pollution.
  • Third digit pollution is indicated to skin. Ordinary mosquito that bites during night, causes no disease, indicating third digit of pollution.
  • Fourth digit pollution appeals to nose when there is stink, or through short-term illness, that is rarely fatal.
  • Finally, fifth digit pollution causes pain. It may also cause untimely death because we have learnt how to suppress pain-signals. Instead of just suppressing the signals, we should focus on root-cause correction.

If we use all available senses and carry out root-cause correction of pollution, then nature bestows upon us sixth sense that is very powerful tool to predict future waves of pollution that may be caused by natural or man-made events.

To use the fish-frog-mosquito method to evaluate water quality, we have to wait for 10 days. Laboratories also take this time and charge heavy fees. But one can use the metallic corrosion test that gives results within 24 hours and costs nothing.

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