Top 9 Challenges of Water and Wastewater Treatment Plants

March 29, 2022by euroteck login

A large amount of wastewater is generated in India from industries and municipalities. But, on the contrary, according to CPCB, India’s sewage treatment plants treat only one-third of the sewage generated daily. In the wake of poor wastewater management, the Indian government has organized many central programs like Swachh Bharat Mission, Swajal Scheme, AMRUT, Namami Gange, etc. However, though the Government of India is taking active measures to overcome the inefficiency of wastewater treatment, many of the treatment plant challenges are extant.

Challenges regarding water and wastewater treatment plants
  • Aging infrastructure

With time and usage, the infrastructure of water and wastewater treatment plants corrodes and deteriorates. Aging infrastructure can include pipelines, tunnels, dams, pumps, storage units, and other equipment. Degeneration of equipment is prominent because of the harmful wastewater content like chemicals, toxins, pathogens, and other organic impurities. 


    • Conduct regular audits of the site
    • Plan and execute maintenance of equipment regularly
    • Retrofitting and revamping
    • Replacing and repairing old equipment

  • Financial issues

Irrespective of the substantial initial investment in a wastewater treatment plant, other costs include maintenance, downtimes, inefficient equipment, and operational costs. For example, when old equipment is still in use, it might reduce the treatment efficiency and take more time to treat wastewater. In addition, such machines are prone to dysfunction resulting in increased downtime and repairs.  


    • Replace malfunctioning machines and parts
    • Conduct regular preventive maintenance
    • Keep spare parts ready


  • Aging workforce

Numerous wastewater treatment industry specialists and workers are nearing the retirement age, which becomes troublesome in meeting the need for treated water. This condition majorly affects the operation and maintenance sectors because they require a quality skillset. 


    • Provide job offers and internship opportunities to young people
    • Cross-train employees from various departments
    • Automate the eligible plant operations

  • Energy consumption

Energy consumption has always been a significant matter of concern for wastewater treatment plants because they consume around 60 terawatt-hours/year. Moreover, the biological treatment uses 50-60% of the energy in municipal sewage treatment plants.


    • Use fine screens in primary treatment to reduce waste material in water
    • Membrane technology for the aeration process has proved to be efficient
    • Reuse the methane gas produced during biological treatment to produce energy


  • Sludge management

When wastewater is treated in various stages, residues are produced, called sludge. Disposal of the collected sludge in rivers and lakes damages the ecosystem and puts forth a significant environmental challenge in front of us; hence it should be reduced.


    • Recycle sludge to produce organic manure for agriculture
    • Use modern treatment technologies that are capable of reducing the sludge production

  • Land availability

A fundamental and substantial challenge in the development of wastewater treatment plants is land availability. Water and wastewater treatment plants require a colossal area for installation. However, with increasing population and urbanization, the accessibility to the ground decreases, making it challenging to develop water treatment plants. 


    • Install modular and compact technologies
    • Mobile water and wastewater treatment solutions
    • Underground wastewater treatment plants


  • Environmental footprint

One of the biggest problems in water treatment plants is their demand for footprint. It requires large land areas, produces pungent odor and unpleasant sight, requires high energy, produces sludge, and is expensive. Moreover, the need for wastewater treatment plants multiplies due to increasing population and wastewater production. 


    • Use advanced technologies like  IFAS, MBR, or MABR
    • Use technologies that reduce CAPEX (less concrete, steel, and equipment)

  • Continuous operation of plants

Wastewater treatment is a continuous process, and treatment plants require an around-the-clock operation that can be challenging for plant operators. Moreover, such a lucrative task requires competent and well-trained staff. They should be available 24 hours on the call and take care of everything from pipe leaks to breakdowns. 


    • Maximum automation of plants
    • Presence of qualified personnel in shifts

  • Real-time monitoring

Many conventional water and wastewater treatment plants do not monitor their data accurately. As a result, they often manipulate their data to comply with discharge limits but in vain. Moreover, inadequate data monitoring results in unexpected and ignorant malfunctions in the system.


    • Monitor real-time data
    • Use advanced technology to analyze data

Wastewater treatment is essential, as well as addressing the treatment challenges. It encourages water reuse and reduces the stress on freshwater usage. With increasing wastewater production, the Indian government and people are also becoming aware of water scarcity. Moreover, according to the CEO of NITI Ayog, India’s wastewater treatment plant market is likely to reach $4.3 billion by 2025.

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