ESG and Climate Risk Science and Technology

Water Quality Management Framework with sectoral approach for India

  • Water quality as well as potable water quantity are major areas of concern around the globe
  • It is necessary to investigate the technological interventions which will help keep the pace of sewage being generated and shall reduce the burden on the rivers
  • Poor water quality is studied in order to identify probable solutions to the problems and apply them in the shape of a framework
  • This article aims to provide focus on policy interventions, technological interventions, and capacity building techniques to its stakeholders
  • As responsible and rightful citizens, we must be aware of present and future conditions, and the prediction of future scenario in water quality management
  • Water pollution is something which can be easily dealt with by almost zero compromise with other pillars of sustainable development


Water quality as well as potable water quantity are major areas of concern around the globe. Water quality management, water demand management and water as a resource management requires a wholistic approach of looking into the potential measures and steps that may be taken to curb water pollution and manage the resources efficiently. This may include the water demand management and minimising the use of water shall ultimately result in the minimised load on sewers. A lot of studies on Indian rivers by government as well as private organisations have been done to evaluate the deteriorating quality of river water and its impact on the population and uses of water. We must move on to solid interventions of mitigation related to water quality to have a broad and same platform for all the stakeholders to perform accordingly. This article provides a framework for water quality management from already developed models. It also considers requirements of the people at various hotspots.

The reason why poor water quality is studied in-depth is in order to identify probable solutions to the problems and apply them in the shape of a framework. It is also necessary to investigate the technological interventions which will help keep the pace of sewage being generated and shall reduce the burden on the rivers. The technology interventions may also include interventions related to outreach of data to different stakeholders. This will ultimately reduce the pollution load and hence improve the quality of rivers eventually. Based on the above, it has been decided to build a model for key stakeholders to have a convincing use of water resources based on effective management of the valuable resource on earth.

This article aims to provide focus on policy interventions, technological interventions and capacity building techniques, keeping in mind the various issues and causes of the problems that the country faces. The article lists out some very effective interventions that are known or unknown individually across the world but are not kept along to find a better way to manage water resources of the country.

Issues related to the concept :


The development of a framework requires the understanding of issues that exist in water quality management and the probable causes of these issues. Listing issues with respect to all the sectors is itself a challenge that needs to be addressed as the first stage of this framework development. A few of the sectoral issues identified are:

The other problems faced by different sectors are listed here since water scarcity and management is emerging with new challenges:

  • Ambiguities, inconsistencies, and lack of conceptual clarity among stakeholders;
  • Lack of clear incentive structure for efficient and sustainable water use;
  • Water distribution at Household level;
  • Degradation of Carrying capacity;
  • Inadequate sanitation causing illnesses;
  • Poor functional capacity of Sewage treatment Plants, and lack of distinction between sewage and storm water pipes;
  • Poor cooperative management of transboundary rivers;
  • Poor funding and governance over funds;
  • Rivers converting into drains;
  • Climate change is worsening the situation.

Probable causes of the listed issues:

Listing of identified probable causes to the problems is quiet an important task to be performed. Identifying correct causes to any issue is the beginning of finding a solution, which will last till the solution is implemented. Our policies based on water lack different directions of making it and having it available to the public. As responsible and rightful citizens, we must be aware of present and future conditions, and the prediction of future scenario.

There are many probable causes to the above said problems, which have been investigated from time to time in various parts of the world. Policies are made to stop overexploitation and sustainable use of water, but India still face the problem of non-availability of fresh and potable water to all. In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit), Agenda 21, called for sustainable development indicators (SDIs) to “provide solid bases for decision-making at all levels and to contribute to a self-regulating sustainability of integrated environment and development system”.(Roy & Pramanick, 2019)

SDGs incorporate three pillars of sustainable development i.e., Environment, Economy, and Society. Out of 17 SDG goals, SDG-6 ensures clean water and sanitation facility for all. The goal is linked to other SDGs like No Poverty, zero Hunger, Gender equality, good health and wellbeing, life below water and life on land etc. Each goal has a role to play, considering the present situations, the goals have been worked upon but the efficiency of government to collectively make policies having the SDGs in mind is a doubtful scenario. Incorporating these three pillars in a framework will help understanding the current environmental needs considering society with an optimized use of Economy of the country.

A major problem of lakes disappearing is seen in major parts of Bihar, Delhi, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Hyderabad, and the list goes on.

"Water bodies being dumped with garbage, lack of cleaning of major sources and poor enforcements have led to lake-destruction in many parts of the country. The trends of Civilisations being set up near water bodies have taken advances and the people now live near drains, which once used to be rivers."

Agriculture consumes most of the ground water in India. In a 2014 report, the Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation estimated that 70 per cent of India’s farming is rain-fed. Yet, 65 per cent of its total rainfall ends up in the sea. Ground water extraction, as a result of subsidy in electricity and water consumption have drastically increased. Places which are not meant to grow sugarcane have started growing sugarcane because of surplus water availability with government’s schemes. This is leading to lower production and lesser contribution to the GDP of the country.

Water pollution is again an issue which comes up with a collateral loss of health care. Not only health care, rivers face extinction due to overloading, leading to loss in biodiversity of underwater region. Water pollution is something which can be easily dealt with by almost zero compromise with other pillars of sustainable development.

Majority of sewage treatment plants across India are working on conventional basis which have poor efficiency. Advancement in technologies have been made by SUEZ and other companies to make the process more efficient and cleaner with respect to the environment. These technologies have also been incorporated and tested having zero odor in the vicinity as well as reduction in energy consumption by generating electricity to run the plant using Biogas produced. These advancements shall be made available using the funds allocated to make new sewage treatment plants.

Water auditing is a process of assessing the water requirement of any industry at each stage of its manufacturing process. Water used in the process as well as the potential of waste water generated to get recycled is considered while auditing.

"For the year 2050, total 1180 BCM has been estimated for high projection scenario, out of which irrigation will be accounted for nearly 68% followed by domestic use 9.5%, industries 7%, power development 6%, and other activities claimed about 9.5% including evaporation losses, environment, and navigational requirements."

Recommended Interventions:

OCEMS  Online continuous effluent monitoring system)

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has come up with revised guidelines for OCEMS in 2018. The OCEMS are the instruments that enable us to monitor the real time water quality parameters. The concept of CEMS was first introduced in 2009, when the first system was installed at Indraprastha thermal power plant in Delhi. CPCB in February 2014 had issued directions to all SPCB/PCC to direct 17 category highly polluting industries for installation of OCEMS. Several other directions are issued by CPCB for implementation of the same.

Despite these efforts, there are only few states equipped with the system and the ones that are equipped lack maintenance. The systems are most likely to be damaged in a short span of time. A central server to view the real time data also lack in operation as well as maintenance.

Installing the CEMS and having a single server to get the desired data for each state, at anytime we want, is the first thing that the country needs. Area specific requirements may be talked later. The present status of water quality is important for data availability for future and in immediate actions in case of any hazardous contamination.

Use of satellites for water quality modelling and monitoring

Water quality can be remotely sensed and monitored by installing instruments on satellites and aircrafts. There are systems named data path finder which provides links to data that can be used to assess water quality and monitor changes in the water quality. The process includes measurements from satellite, airborne and in-situ sensors, which will help in finding the water quality conditions. The system is developed by NASA. This software needs prior corrections and technical knowledge, but the assessment and process become much easier and accurate.

River Information System

River Information Systems are a combination of modern tracking equipment, related hardware and software designed to optimise traffic and transport processes in inland navigation. The system aims to streamline the exchange of information between various stakeholders of inland water transport. Although the system is aimed at providing information about the real time conditions like wind speed, danger areas, fog, depth information, route details between operators etc., it can also be used to give real time information on the other water quality parameters to different stakeholders involved.

Advancement in techniques for waste water treatment

Implementing technologies like zero liquid discharge, advances in treatment technologies, and other measures shall be taken to make efficient use of water. Detailed review on how these can be helpful is stated below.

Zero Liquid Discharge (Available Technological Advancements adopted for change):

  • SUEZ have developed optimized and self-sustaining technologies which are enabling the use of treated sewage in much more productive works. Not only the water, the waste that is generated in the form of biogas is used to generate electricity to run the plant.
  • First odor free STP in India was developed in Delhi Gate, having 60% sustainability, which reduced a tremendous amount of load on river Yamuna.
  • Similar efforts are now being done at Okhla STP, costing around INR 1,161 crore.

Concept of Interceptors for rivers:

There are two concepts of interceptors that are being used. The interceptor concept that is used in India, which is already in use in Delhi, is that in which the sewage water from the drains is stopped from reaching the river and redirected to the STP from there itself. The method is not cost effective and is subjected to various constraints.

Another interceptor concept involves cleaning of oceans, i.e., removing plastic wastes, which is a problem to oceans since long ago. The same has now been implemented in rivers. Though the system looks peculiar and impressive, the efficiency and the other technicalities of the project are yet to be explored.

Policy Interventions:

Before understanding the policy interventions, there is a need to revisit policies of the government institutions. For policies to be sustainable, it should be built on three development dimensions of sustainability, which are environmental, economic, and social. The lack in these policies is leading to an increased gap in Supply and Demand of water in India.



  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution ) Act, 1974
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution ) Rules, 1975
  • Environment Protection Act 1986
  • Environment Porotection Rules, 1986
  • The Indian Easement Act, 1882
  • EIA Notification, 2006


  • National Water Policy (1987, 2002 & 2012)
  • Water Resource Policy
  • National Environment Policy, 2006


  • Jal Shakti Abhiyan
  • Namami Gange
  • National River Conservation Plan
  • Jawahar lal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission
  • Urban Infrastructure development schemes
  • Har Ghar Jal
  • Jal Jeevan Mission
  • Integrated wasteland development program.

Source: Derived from (Report No. 21 chap. 2, legislative policy)

Based on the above listed issues, causes and effects and the understanding about gap in demand and supply, we can come up with a few interventions in policies which would most likely enhance the water quality management efforts, if applied:

Based on the need, the form of data available to each stakeholder shall be decided upon and made reachable.

Configuring the demand-supply gap and including technological interventions in the policies is a necessary step towards better implementation of policies. Existing policies may also be amended considering the data availability, which is derived from technological interventions. There is a difference in the use of water quality information made available through different methods. The hierarchy that the need of information follows is from a managerial or governance level to the general public.

Different stakeholders having different involvement in the hierarchy shall keep required data with themselves. For e.g. A consultant working on water quality impact assessment shall have a future prediction of the same data rather than all the information of present and past.

Putting in place all the stakeholders with clearer incentive structures

All the stakeholders involved in the process of water management are required to understand their own objectives clearly, and consider the policies to be made for them, effectively.

Development of a model for each type of area or variety of structured industries and strict enforcements for water audits

As mentioned in the figure 4 above, a model shall be developed to study the water availability and accessibility of any area, be it an industrial area, residential area, or an agricultural field. That would enable the better auditing of the area. Such model can be implemented on the policies existing to know the exact scenario of water management of the area.

Based on the water-use assessment of the area, every industry shall be equipped with technologies mentioned in the process interventions, to enable them for using less amount of water for the same purpose as it is meant for. This process of analysis, intervention and reduction shall improve water management in such a way that it is sustainably managed i.e., without compromising with the future needs.

Looking at water security in a more integrated way while focusing on understanding the concept before putting it into the policies

There is a need to understand the concept of water security as an integrated approach towards water availability and accessibility. Policies should talk more about water accessibility as well as integrated water security approach rather than just the availability of water since there is a large chunk of population who do not have access to fresh water.

Yukti Sharma

About Author

Yukti Sharma is currently working at MRC as a Fellow for her project on Water Quality Management. She completed her Bachelors in Environmental Engineering from Delhi Technological University (DTU). A keen learner and an excellent observer, she like to be on the brighter side of things. She joined the MRC to expand her learning to a different higher, unmatchable levels, with the support and knowledge of the professional guides. She has also done research on “Evaluation of a Bio-signal ring in reduction of air pollution levels” during her bachelors. She has two papers published in different international journals, one of which is Crimson Publications (RDMS).

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