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All about water use in industry (Download pdf)

Just use it

Poor laws and regulations and lack of coordination between regulatory bodies worsen the water crisis

There is no concrete government policy on industrial water use. The existing policies are merely a atchwork of public health and water availability concerns.

Regulating use

Countries across the world set water consumption standards and targets for industries to achieve, and regularly revise the standards in a bid to control water use. China, for instance, sets water targets for major water consuming industrial sectors. According to the report of China Water Conservation Agency, the first national quotas for industrial water consumption will push companies to save as much as 6 billion cubic meters of water a year by 2005. Similar water saving targets are fixed across the developed world.

INDIA: In India, as of now, there is no law determining the exact amount of water meant for consumption by the various industrial sectors. Though CPCB has prescribed water consumption levels for some industrial sectors, they are mere recommendations and cannot be enforced by laws. India also has some obsolete laws related to groundwater extraction. In Indian law, the person who owns the land also owns the groundwater below. Though this law has some relevance as far as the domestic groundwater use is concerned, it is outright absurd for industrial and commercial use. The result is that today, industries withdraw groundwater that remains unregulated and unpriced.

Regulating pollution

Regulators are shifting from concentration-based standards to pollution load based standards. The pollution load-based standards determine the total amount of pollutant generated for per unit production. The pollution load-based standards also use the quota system for the amount of water allowed to various industries and therefore, with this standard pollution levels are monitored, as also the amount of freshwater consumed. This forces companies to reduce fresh water consumption as they save on water cost. Also, by introducing 'polluter pays principle' regulators push companies to reduce the total pollution load. Therefore, with the help of pollution load-based standards coupled with the 'polluter pays principle', regulators across the world are reducing fresh water consumption as well as water pollution by industries.

INDIA: In India both these principles are absent. The result is that industries use more freshwater and discharge more pollutants through wastewater and still meet the legal standards. The industrial water pollution standards in the country are concentration based, that is, they measure the concentration of pollution in a given quantity of water. The result is that an industry can meet the required standard merely by diluting the effluent with clean water. Since the cost of water is low, it makes more economic sense for an industry to dilute the effluent than to treat it to meet the standards. l

National Water Policy: Industry is let off!

The issues related to the industrial water have been addressed in vague and fragmented form in National Water Policy (NWP) released in 2002. No clear vision for regulating and controlling industrial water use has been given. The policies stated in NWP, 2002 are just not sufficient to result in modern control and regulation of the industrial water use as an integrated whole.

The entire document of 6000 words mentions industry just 6 times, unmindful of the environmental concerns industrial water use poses.

Water policy says:

Effluents should be treated to levels and standards that are acceptable before discharging them into natural streams.
Comment: Does not address the issue of pollution load. The current standards for industrial effluents are concentration- based, which does not provides incentive for reducing water use or pollution loads.

Principle of 'polluter pays' should be followed in management of polluted water.
Comment: Advocates 'polluter pays' principle' but is silent on extent of payment. Current water cess charged by pollution control boards is a 'polluter pays' regime, but the quantum of payment is so low that there is no incentive or disincentive for the industry for reducing wastewater discharge and hence water use.

Economic development and activities, including agriculture, industry and urban development, should be planned with due regard to the constraints imposed by the configuration of water availability. There should be a water zoning of the country and the economic activities should be guided and regulated in accordance with such zoning.
Comment: Unless addressed in the industrial policy, it has no significance.

Efficiency of utilisation in all the diverse uses of water should be optimised and an awareness of water as a scarce resource should be fostered. Conservation consciousness should be promoted through education, regulation, incentives and disincentives.
Comment: Vague and indifferent.

The resources should be conserved and the availability augmented by maximising retention, eliminating pollution and minimising losses. For this, measures such as selective linings in the conveyance system, modernisation and rehabilitation of existing systems including tanks, recycling and re-use of treated effluents and adoption of traditional techniques like mulching or pitcher irrigation and new techniques like drip and sprinkler may be promoted, wherever feasible.
Comment: Vague and indifferent.


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