The water and wastewater situations across Indian cities and towns are diverse, depending on water supply/ scarcity, the existence and type of urban industries and peri-urban agriculture, and realistic options to lay or alter sewerage systems. For the vast majority of urban India, no secure data on the amount of sewage generated exists.
Usually, municipalities work with an assumption of 70-80% of the water supplied. The share of non-revenue water is high (lost in transmission or because no water meters exist) and freshwater and sewage often mix through broken pipes or unauthorized disposal, seeping back into the groundwater.
Municipalities have the mandate to collect and treat wastewater, while industries need to meet standards prior to discharge into rivers and other surface waters. Small enterprises organize common effluent treatment in groups to meet these standards. At the federal level, six ministries are involved in different sections of water and wastewater planning: the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the Ministry for Water Resources, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Ministry of Agriculture.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energies is only concerned when it comes to feed-in tariffs and biogas policies. The Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation (CPHEEO) is the technical wing of the MoUD. It sets water quality and discharge standards and gives guidelines for technology use in WWTPs, but these guidelines are implemented differently across states and cities. For surface waters, the biological oxygen demand (BOD) value is supposed to be a maximum of 30mg/litre, unless the water body is used as a source for drinking water, then 10mg/ litre BOD or less are recommended (before treatment for drinking, then 2mg/litre BOD maximum). For WWTP, additional guidelines for primary, secondary and tertiary treatment exist (Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation [CPHEEO], 2013).
Water and wastewater are concurrent issues, requiring colegislation of federal and state levels. The National Urban Sanitation Policy of 2008 provides an overarching framework for states and cities, outlining general policy goals (such as awareness raising and open defecation-free cities) and providing elements of draft state and city sanitation plans. It recommends a minimum of 20% reuse of wastewater in every city. This policy is complemented by the National Advisory Manual on Septage Management and the Manual on Sewerage and Sewage Treatment Systems (both from 2013) which give more concrete suggestions and guidelines on technologies, operation and management procedures. The National Water Policy of 2012 encourages recycling and reuse of water after treatment to specified standards (CPHEEO guidelines) as well as preferential tariffs that incentivize the reuse of treated wastewater in general.
The number and functions of state and urban local bodies vary greatly. Some municipalities handle sewage issues directly, while others have outsourced different parts of the system, such as maintenance or design, building and operation. This often leads to complicated administrative procedures and creates a confusing picture for potential investors. Furthermore, many municipalities do not yet have a strategic plan for the wastewater sector at all.
The Modi government, elected in 2014, has started up some new initiatives in the water and wastewater sectors, but also continues others of previous governments under new names. These offer grants, subsidies and loans for investments. Four national missions are particularly relevant for the wastewater sector: The Swachh Bharat Mission, launched in October 2014 with a total budget requirement of approximately 9 billion USD, aims to improve sanitation and solid waste management. Its focus lies on toilet construction in households, communities and in public spaces.