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A Workshop on Water and Sanitation Systems in India (Day 1)

Water Supply and Sanitation in India – Part 1



India has 18% of the world’s population but only 4% of the world’s water resources. This was a predictable yet surprising fact presented by Smt. Surina Rajan, Director General of the Bureau of Indian Standards at the ANSI Conference on Water and Sanitation in India. According to NITI Aayog, close to 60 Crore (600 million) people face extreme water stress and about 2 lakh people in India lose their lives every year due to inadequate access to safe water. Hence water quality with adherence to standards in the supply, distribution and treatment is of utmost importance.

Presently, India is ranked among the lowest in the world wide Water Quality Index (120 of 122 countries). Almost 70% of water in India is contaminated. Another concern is the high share of agriculture in water usage: 80% in India, versus 40-50% in many countries. Of the 4,000 billion cubic meters of precipitation received, 53% is lost to evapo-transpiration. Close to 1,100 bcm is available for use as ground water and surface water. This indicates a high demand-supply deficit in future. (Think rainwater harvesting; drip irrigation?) In this context it is ever more imperative to ensure safety and purity of water in use.

ANSI, USTDA, CII and BIS join hands to organize Water Supply and Sanitation Workshop

As an CII-IGBC Accredited Professional (IGBC-AP) having worked on green buildings, water quality and sanitation have been my topics of interest for a long time.

I often receive updates through contacts in my LinkedIn Feed from Lixil Water Technology (Japan based) and AG Dauters on innovative water and waste management solutions. Recently, I also came across a Research Paper on Assessing the Performance of PPP Projects in the Urban Drinking Water Sector in India”. Findings show that Stakeholder consent and support and appropriate project structure are two most important factors in the success of PPP projects. ANSI SCCP workshop on Water and Sanitation brought together different stakeholders from public, private, social and research sectors.

Here i share my experience of attending the first workshop (in a series of 6) organized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The workshop’s theme was more technically aligned towards leveraging standards for improvement of water and sanitation infrastructure.

This workshop was organized under USTDA’s SCCP Phase 2, in coordination with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and co-hosted by the Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS). The event was the 2nd phase of US-India Standards and Conformance Cooperation Programme (SCCP).

The US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) is an independent agency of the United States Government. It works to advance the economic development and commercial interests of the US in developing countries. BIS is the national standards body of India and published the National Building Code. The BIS also takes care of standards formulation and promotion and certification of products for both Indian and foreign manufacturers.

The workshop was attended by over 100 members from US private sector organizations as well as Indian public sector and private sector entities. Organizations such as American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), American Water Works Association (AWWA), IAPMO, NSF International, US Commercial Service, along with USTDA were among the American participants.  The Indian water sector was represented by the BIS, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Indian Plumbing Association (IPA), the Safe Water Network, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Indian Plumbing Skills Council (IPSC), the Indian Water Works Association (IWWA), the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), the Water Quality Indian Association, and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. The discussion also revolved around the impact being made by their initiatives.

Safe Water NGO initiatives impact.jpg
Impact of iJal initiative by Safe Water Network

The 2-day workshop had more than 5 Sessions, which were grouped under similar issues related to:

  • Improving Water Efficiency and Sanitation in Homes and Buildings
  • Water Supply to Point of Use
  • Water treatment, Distribution and Utility Management
  • Building a skilled workforce
  • Water Quality from a provider’s perspective
  • Water Quality from a point of use perspective
  • Waste Water Collection and Treatment
  • Discussion on Industry Perspectives

In this article i cover a brief description of all the presentations, and highlights of the different sessions on the first day (June 26) held at New Delhi. The role of all stakeholders (public, private, industry and NGOs) is indispensable.

For connecting with the esteemed speakers and participating agencies, you could write to

Water Supply and Sanitation in India: Major Challenges

As discussed by the participants, the following are some of the major problems identified during the workshop, which need concrete solutions in sanitation and water supply:

  • 85% people in India do not have access to treated piped water. Women have to fetch water form far-off sources in villages. In rural areas, there is excess nitrite content in the water as well.
  • Inadequate pressure and flow rates are responsible for inefficient water supply
  • Reducing open defecation and treating of waste water before discharge to prevent pollution in rivers and seas. Only 20-30% of sewage is treated.
  • Plumbing and sanitation fixtures manufactured in India need to focus on international standards so that products can be exported easily to other countries
  • Plumbing Standards are not fully developed in most parts of the developing world, especially in early stage settlements. Poor water quality leads to death and diseases
  • Involvement of stakeholders is necessary for updating and revising standards related to water supply in buildings, promoting sustainable development.
  • There is a requirement of skilled workforce for plumbing and sanitation, as there is a labour-market skill gap in India

Water Supply and Sanitation Workshop: Practical Takeaways

Concerted effort is required, which would be at the cusp of government agencies, industry, business and social sector. Here is a small snippet of the major initiatives being undertaken by the participating agencies:

  • Safe Water Network (NGO) has installed over 220 solar-powered Water ATMs as part of its market-based iJal initiative. It is serving more than 800,000 people. While 75% of the women in villages had to fetch water, now men can purchase from the ATMs
  • Efficiency can be improved by laying standards and codes (International Green Building Code and USGBC LEED) which prescribe flow rates and pressures for plumbing fixtures
  • The DRDO in India has made use of Bio-digesters for managing on-site human waste. Gates Foundation has initiated use of non-sewered sanitation technology, which helps in recovery of water and energy.
  • After conforming to IAPMO Standards, export of Indian plumbing products to Indonesian markets increased by 85%. This is due to greater demand of certified and quality products.
  • ASME provides international standards on Sanitation, which helps regulate the plumbing process with uniformity worldwide. Standardized plumbing benefits all stakeholders – manufacturers, users and public service providers
  • NBC 2016 has updated chapters and sections on plumbing requirements in residential and non-residential buildings, rainwater harvesting and solid waste management
  • Indian Plumbing Skills Council has been setup to provide training and certification for plumbers. Industry partners and academic institutions have also established training centers to meet the demand

Welcome Address and Opening Remarks – Background and Roadmap

USTDA country representative (South Asia) Ms. Mehnaz Ansari

Starting from 1981, USTDA has partnered on close to 160 projects in India. Its major areas of focus are renewable energy, energy efficiency and smart cities. Among recent projects are: Water Supply Board project in collaboration with CH2M Hill, complete master plans for Smart Cities in Ajmer, Allahabad and Vizag, and Smart Grids work with Tata Power in Delhi, which reduced transmission losses from 45% to 3%.

USTDA has also partnered with The BIS to implement safe water standards in India, and has carried out other similar projects in Vietnam, Philippines and Romania. It promotoes technology sharing, best practices and conformance to standards

CII – Mr Pawan Gupta – Regional Director at AECOM, Water and Urban Development;  also, Member of CII National Committee on Water

ANSI – Mr. Russ Chaney, IAPMO CEO and ANSI Board Chairman

The two dignitaries spoke at length about emergence of standards in vital sectors like construction, automobiles, water and sanitation and biometric identification.

USTDA provides funds to SCCP while ANSI is also working in collaboration with ISHRAE. It has entered an agreement with BIS. Staffs from US-based NGOs were also appointed at BIS, while promoting sector collaboration with industry and G2G (Government-to-Government) Dialogues.

Ministry of Commerce and industry – Mr. PV Hari Krishna, Director

Mr. Krishna shared highlights of the workshop for collaboration in standards, which brought about an exchange of experts and collaboration in SCCP-1 held in 2016. The SCCP came as a result of the tripartite agreement between ANSI, BIS and CII. This strengthened the foundation for bilateral trade and improved the quality of commodities traded.  Collaboration agreement and MoU were also signed between US Representative Mr. Ross and Indian Minister Mr. Suresh Prabhu

BIS – Mr AK Sarin, Chairman, Technical Committee (Public Health Engineering)

Mr. Sarin spoke about Water Treatment of Sewage. Rivers are a source of water and in major cities, rivers have dried up. He also gave the example of the water crisis in Cape Town. Hence rainwater recharge and treatment of sewage is very important. NOIDA Authority, and NTPC in their Dadri power plant have are making use of treated sewage.

US Commercial Service – Ms. Aileen Nandi, Acting SCO

Mr. Aileen Nandi elucidated the importance of water and sanitation in the Clean India Mission (Swachh Bharat), JNNURM, Ocean Administration and the recently published NITI Aayog Water Index. According to the Index report, India receives 4,000 billion cubic meters of water, of which only 20-25% is utilized through surface and ground water sources.

Inaugural address: DG of BIS, Ms. Surina Rajan, IAS

Ms. Rajan in her informative address stated that water is also fundamental to food security and sustainable development. We need to use this resource with greater efficiency. Rains occur for fewer days, and there are challenges of dry days followed by floods due to climate change.

Standards have a huge role to play for clean and hygienic water supply. Clean Water is also part of sustainable development goal (SDG) #6. Swachh Bharat Mission under the PM leadership created awareness of the issue. The aim is to ensure access to clean water and clean habitat.

Water supply, drainage and sanitation in buildings are regulated through standards and codes such as USGBC LEED Version 4, which is also aligned with National Building Code requirements in India. There are LEED Credits awarded for saving water beyond base case. Ms. Surina Rajan also emphasized the need to create demand for saving water among users before introducing regulations.

Post the inaugural session, there were panel discussions and presentations on related topics. We now explore all the sub-topics in greater detail.

Improving Water Efficiency and Sanitation in Homes and Buildings

This panel was moderated by Mr. MK Gupta. He is an Expert Member of BIS Technical Committee [TC] for Water-Efficient Plumbing Products. Details of the various presentations are discussed here

Operations and Management of Safe Water Stations at Village Level for Catering to the Drinking Water Needs of the Community

Mr. Ravindra Sewak, Country Director, Safe Water Network

There are several challenges for urban and rural poor for getting access to safe drinking water. Close to 82 Crore people in India stay without piped treated water. It is an uphill task to ensure how poor people and those living in slums, can be provided access to clean drinking water.

Providing this water at affordable prices is a challenge. Safe Water provides 20 litres @ Rs. 10 in cities and @ Rs. 5 in villages. Safe Water Network has also installed Drinking Water Stations to provide water to 8,000 people. They are working with USAID to provide Water ATMs. The iJal market-based model has installed over 228 water ATMs in Telangana, Hyderabad city, Maharashtra and UP.

Water workshop Safe Water NGO initiatives
Initiatives by Safe Water

The NGO is partnering with State and City governments, and is using nanotechnology to reduce wastage. They also carry out monitoring, remote tracking and use of solar power.

Mr. Sewak informed the audience that NABL-approved labs test the quality of water from time to time. They also check compliance and safety records. Major concern in villages was the excess use of nitrates (400 ppm). To counter this, iJal water ATM has incorporated a multi-tier safety in design.

Water should be safe during distribution also. Chlorine Dioxide is used for water purification; even if vessel is not clean, the water stays safe.

Water Efficient Plumbing Products: An approach towards Sustainable Habitat

Indian Plumbing Association – Mr Sandeep Goel, Member of BIS Technical Committee on Water Efficient Plumbing Products and TC Member at IPA

The aim of this presentation was to highlight the use of fittings and fixtures with maximum flow rates where water is supplied for direct consumption in buildings. The supply system also needs to be designed with correct pressures. Constant flow rates are required over inlet pressure in the range of 0.18 – 4.2 kg/sq cm.

International Green Construction Code and USGBC LEED ratings have prerequisites for the flow rates in kitchen and bath fittings. Credits are awarded for reducing water consumption. These help in optimizing the usage of water in indoor areas and help in its conservation.

On-site Human Waste Management Systems in India

DRDO – Mr. Devakanta Pahadsingh [Director, Life Sciences, DRDO; Expert Member of BIS-TC for public health engineering]

Open Defecation was a huge challenge in India, which has been reduced from 55% to 39% in 10 years. “As per baseline survey conducted by Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the number of persons defecating in open in rural areas, which was 55-crore in October, 2014, declined to 25-crore in January, 2018″

We also need efforts to treat the wastewater, wherein only 20-30% of sewage is treated. Rest ends up in seas and rivers. Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, more than 4 million urban toilets and 75 million rural toilets have been constructed.

At point of use, “Twin Pit toilet” design by Sulabh Foundation is the cheapest option @Rs. 12,000/- for the SBM toilets. But it is not good for high water table and can lead to Ground-water contamination. Disposal of solid sewage to the field is also a problem in this case. Even in septic tanks, sewage evacuation is an issue.

Hence, DRDO makes use of Anaerobic digestion through “Bio-digester”, used in Siachen glacier. Here the biggest risk is of melted water from snow mixing with sewage. Bio-digester eliminates this problem and gives bio-gas as a by-product. Optional secondary treatment can be done with processes like chlorination and reed bed. A household unit would cost Rs. 15,000/- with comparable capacity as twin-pit toilet system.

As Mr. Devakanta mentioned, DRDO is not into business. Its societal mission is to make the bio-digester technology open to public as it can mass-manufacture bio-toilets. This would also bring down the costs significantly.

water workshop DRDO bio digester.jpg

Also for Indian Railways, solutions were required where human waste is discharged on tracks from trains, causing foul smell and lack of hygiene. Bio-digesters were installed on trains. Reed beds, acting as bio-filter, also meets STP requirements.

Another solution is Non-sewered sanitation technology [ISO Std RT Toilet – ISO 30500] initiated by the Gates Foundation. This process helps in water and energy recovery, and pathogen reduction. Recycled water quality is good and is used in Container toilets.

After the DRDO presentation, Ms. Kathryn Foster, Technical Operations Manager for Water distribution Systems at NSF International, took over as the moderator. The next set of presentations focused on international plumbing standards.

Using International Plumbing Standards as Tools to Promote Local Industry and Economic Growth

IAPMO – Dr. Dain Hansen, SVP, Govt. Relations

International plumbing standards help create a holistic approach to economic development. For this purpose, IAPMO provides Baselines codes, which are at the  confluence of public health and safety. Its publications include standards and codes related to water efficiency and product certification.

Nowadays, there are draughts in stressed areas of the world. Hence, Standards are the foundation to ensuring safety and reliability. This also leads to holistic growth of local industry. For instance, UPC carries out 3rd party testing and certification. Mr. Hansen also put forth the scenario of Indonesia, where plumbing exports increased by 85% after standards were introduced. The reason being growth in demand for certified and quality products by manufacturers. In Jordan and Vietnam, water efficient plumbing products led to water savings. In the United States, more than 1.5 trillion gallons of water has been saved since 2006. In California,

In India, major cities may run out of groundwater by 2020. To overcome this problem, Water-efficient (plumbing) product (WEP-1) certification was jointly developed by IAPMO and Indian Plumbing Association (IPA).

Mr. Hansen also presented a Case study from Nashik, a video of “Community Plumbing Challenge” completed with help from IWSH at a school run by Mahanagarpalika. To improve pressure, a new tank was added to the roof. Push-taps were added to reduce wastage while 25mm PVC pipes were installed to improve the flow. Hand-wash water was re-used by redirecting the flow of wastewater in channels below the washbasins, to the flushing system.

Setting the Standard for Safety and Global Relevance: ASME Standardization and A112 Plumbing Activities

ASME – Mr. Angel Guzman Rodriguez, Project Engineer and In-charge of Standards Committee on Plumbing

American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has 130,000 members worldwide, including students. Under the purview of A112 Standards Committee, ASME provides 43 standards related to mechanization, water-pipe sizing, plumbing, material selection, design requirements, fabrication, examination-testing, quality assurance and personnel certification.

Mr. Guzman reiterated that United States has one of the safest drinking waters in the world. The role of standards is indispensable in ensuring the supply of safe drinking water and promoting uniformity within the industry. ANSI accreditation is done through ASME, which also has joint harmonized standards with Canada.

A112.18.1/CSA B125.1 is the ASME Standard which covers plumbing supply fittings and accessories located between supply stop and terminal fittings. For instance, automatic compensating valves for showers, drinking water supply fittings, kitchen and lavatory fittings, metering and self-closing fittings, etc.

After the presentation by Mr. Guzman, focus shifted to the next session, which revolved around water treatment.

Water Treatment, Distribution and Utility Management

The second session of Water and Sanitation conference was moderated by Mr. Sanjay Pant, Head (CIvil Engineering), Bureau of Indian Standards. During the initial discussion, a pertinent question asked was: “What is the result of so many colleges/institutes which teach sanitation related subjects? There is a difference in practice and preaching”. Knowledge needs to be upgraded through revision and review of the curriculum as well.

Here we take a look at the different presentations made of the topic of water treatment and its distribution.

National Building Code and Indian Standards on Water Supply, Drainage and Sanitation

BIS – Mrs. Madhurima Madhav, Deputy Director (Civil Engineering)

National Building Code (NBC) is followed across India for regulation of building and construction activities. It is also imperative for proper design of facilities.

Mrs. Madhav has been working on the 3rd revised edition NBC 2016, published by BIS. NBC serves as a model code for local bodies (who prepare bye-laws) and has technical committees on different aspects. In Delhi, NBC cooperates with the DUAC and Pollution Control Board to set standards for effluents. Water supply and sanitation and Regulation of Land Use are among the most important.

NBC draws its provisions from various IS Codes. The 2016 Edition has a special emphasis on sustainability (Part 11), solid waste management (Part 9 – Section 3) and installation of modern plumbing (Part 9). Part 9 has different sections, and includes modifications to suggest water requirements based on occupancy, separation of flushing, water supply in multi-storey buildings and in swimming pools.

Among recent additions and updates, there are requirements for

  • backflow prevention with vacuums and air pressure.
  • Water re-use
  • Maximum flow rate; Minimum and maximum pressure in pipes.
  • Minimum number of plumbing fixtures in houses and non-residential buildings
  • Population requirements for dwellings
  • Appointment of Licensed and Registered plumbers
  • Distribution in multi-storey buildings – double stack system for re-use of water.
  • Rainwater Harvesting – Rooftop water collection, Recharge pits for groundwater recharge, storm water re-use.
  • Pumping of sewage and STPs
  • Drainage and Sanitation Requirements
  • Materials, Fittings and Appliances

Towards the end of the presentation, Mrs. Madhav shared sources from where one could purchase the updated NBC. She also discussed the way forward for implementation and enforcement.

AWWA Standards for Water Treatment Products, Distribution System components and Utility Management

Mr Frank Kurtz, Standards Engineer, AWWA

American Water Works Association is a non-profit scientific and educational association
dedicated to managing and treating water. It was founded in 1881, and now has over 50,000 members. Its Indian office is located in Mumbai.

AWWA has over 180 standards related to water treatment products, water distribution system products, water wells, installation, services and utility management. It happens to be the largest professional body of water supply professionals in the world.

Mr. Kurtz mentioned that AWWA takes a balanced approach involving major stakeholders for standards development.

NSF Water Treatment and Distribution Product Standards

NSF International – Mr. BB Singh, Business Development Manager

NSF International is a university of Michigan initiative for public health and safety. It is a not for profit entity, collaborating with WHO for performing Audits and checks. It also works to bring industry, regulatory bodies and consumers together. It is now present in 168 countries and provides standards on “Anything which comes into contact with water from source to tap”.

Mr. BB Singh mentioned that NSF/ANSI 60 is the Standard for Drinking Water Treatment Chemicals. NSF/ANSI 61 & 372 deal with Municipal Water Products

Water Supply and Sanitation: Building a Skilled Workforce

Panel Discussion in this 3rd session was moderated by Mr. Vinay Gupta, Vice Chairman, Indian Plumbing Skill Council (IPSC). Other esteemed participants were:

  • IAPMO India – Dr. Chandrashekhar, Director, Water systems
  • AWWA – Mr. Frank Kurtz, Standards Engineer.
  • AWWA India – Mr. Aninda Sen
  • Ms. Nita Sharma, Consultant, (Water Resources)
  • IWWA – Mr. Kanwarjit Singh, Chairman IWWA (Delhi Chapter) & Mr. Praveen Bhargava, Honorary Secretary

The major issues discussed include:

  • skilling of workforce, imparting skills to service engineers in sanitation. identifying the labour-market skill gap is imperative
  • identifying what kind of impurities are there
  • “Clean is not always safe” – Physical, chemical, biological, dissolved and suspended impurities need to be treated for preventing water borne diseases
  • Skilled manufacturing is also essential for making quality products

Operating under the aegis of National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC), the IPSC is an initiative of the Government of India (Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship – MSDE).

Plumber Konnect IPSC water workshop
Plumber Konnect initiative by IPSC

Major initiatives by IPSC include training and certification of plumbing personnel, “Plumber Konnect” initiative which provides mobile services through registered technicians, setting up of training institutes by industry partners and academic institutions, promoting entrepreneurship among plumbing professionals and helping with capacity building.

Concluding Day 1 of the Water Supply and Sanitation Workshop

Land and water are among the two most important (and scarce) resources. Ensuring the cleanliness of the available supply and effective treatment of drinking water is of utmost importance. One of the readers of Local Feedback and an Urbanist has shared a presentation on Okhla Waste Management Zone in Delhi, where contamination of water from the integrated facility is causing a public health emergency.

By bringing together stakeholders from different backgrounds, ANSI, USTDA, BIS and CII provided a platform for healthy discussion. There were pertinent questions from the audience as well, as the participants were working in fields such as environmental science, public health and safety, and sanitation services.

The 2nd day of the workshops saw active engagement from all stakeholders as well. We will discuss this in the next article, which also covers presentations by:

  • Delhi Jal Board
  • India Water Quality Association
  • Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India
  • NSF International and AWWA

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