Managing greywater: A Haryana village shows the way

Pond-based greywater treatment systems in Kurak Jagir village in Karnal district, Haryana, absorb greywater 

By Ravi K
Published: Tuesday 23 November 2021
Workers clean an anaerobic pond in Kurak Jagir village in Haryana’s Karnal district. Photo: Ravi Kumar

More than 70 per cent of freshwater across rural households in India gets converted to greywater. With the Union water ministry’s Jal Jeevan Mission providing tap water connection to every rural household at the rate of 55 litres per capita per day, the problem is set to intensify.

Greywater refers to wastewater from non-toilet systems, that is, wastewater from kitchen sinks, dishwashers, baths, showers, etc.  

In rural areas, greywater is often let into stormwater drains, which is discharged into the surroundings. This poses environmental and public health risks.

Down to Earth travelled to Kurak Jagir in Haryana’s Karnal and found how the village has set a precedent in managing greywater.

Pond-based wastewater treatment system                                                            

The Gram Panchayat (GP) in the village has been constructing pits — at the community as well as household level — that absorb greywater after filtration.

The inhabitants of Kurak Jagir, before 2016, faced multiple public health issues mainly due to inadequate management of greywater, which was predominantly discharged into open drains and was clogged with solid waste.

It overflowed during heavy rains; low-lying areas experienced waterlogging.  

A maturation pond is used as a pisciculture tank in Kurak Jagir. Photo: Ravi Kumar

Under the wastewater-treatment system launched by the Karnal district, Kurak Jagir gram panchayat has moved a step ahead by implementing a fully operational village-level greywater treatment system by 2017.

The GP houses 1,600 inhabitants. The greywater is discharged into a pond-based wastewater treatment system through a network of stormwater drains. Pond-based system treats wastewater in a combination of three different biological processes using zero energy: Anaerobic, anoxic and aerobic.

Within a year of setting up the system in 2017, Haryana passed The Haryana Pond and Wastewater Management Authority Act, 2018. Similar pond-based wastewater treatment systems were set up across the state.

The act defines aims “to establish an authority in the State for development, protection, rejuvenation, conservation, construction and management of pond, utilization of pond water and treatment thereof and for management and utilisation of treated effluent of sewage effluent treatment plants for the purpose of irrigation, thereby reducing stress of over-exploitation of ground water and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”.

The Act enabled the state government to create an official authority to handle the management and sustenance of pond systems.

The GP manages the solid waste, which prevents the clogging of drains and ensures a smooth and consistent flow of greywater towards the downstream area in Kurak Jagir. The treatment system comprises a series of pond systems, also called waste stabilisation pond system.

Around 60 kilo-litres per day (KLD) of greywater is generated in the GP, equivalent to water supplied to a population of 400 in a class I city.

GP received Rs 44.96 lakh in funds from the Swacch Bharat Mission-Gramin and Finance Commission-to construct the 100 KLD treatment system. Funds for operation and maintenance are partially received from the Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act 2005 and the revenue base of GP.

GP has three major sources of revenue generated from leasing out lands, collection of property taxes and user fee for water supply. 

Schematic diagram to show the flow of greywater from inlet to outlet. Source: Solid and Liquid waste management design report – Superintending Engineer, Karnal

How efficient is the system?

The greywater flows through two anaerobic ponds, one facultative ponds and two maturation ponds. The water monitored at the final outlet shows that the wastewater is treated and can be used for irrigation and pisciculture.

Source: Office of the Chief Chemist, Public Health Engineering Department State Water Testing Lab, Karnal. Document procured from Gram Panchayat officials

The last maturation pond in this village is used for pisciculture. The lessee pays an annual fee of Rs 1 lakh for the pond.

But there is also some concern: The system has not been working at places where the GPs are uninterested. There is a need to build a network of officials to help plan and construct such pond systems, in addition to generating awareness about the system among rural communities.

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