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Low Cost Reverse Osmosis Water treatment in Rural India

Presently the situation of potable water availability is quite grim in villages as indiscriminate use of chemicals in agriculture has had very serious repercussions on ground and surface water quality.

Education Post16 August 2020 04:59

Water Challenge: India has made improvements over the past decades to both the availability and quality of municipal drinking water systems, but our rural areas are left out.

Traditionally, people in rural areas have obtained water from ponds, wells and sometimes streams and rivers. These water sources are frequented daily drinking, cooking water, washing clothes, bathing, livestock washing, etc.

Presently the situation of potable water availability is quite grim in villages as indiscriminate use of chemicals in agriculture has had very serious repercussions on ground and surface water quality. This is coupled with on one hand with polluted River water coming loaded with sewage flow from nearby Cities and Industrial areas. And on the other hand, Groundwater as well is contaminated thanks to heavy use of fertilizers finding its way into ground water causing many diseases like diarrhoea, hepatitis, arthritis, and even cancer due to the presence of heavy metals etc.

Certain water purification concepts in rural area based on traditional knowledge are in practice like boiling of water for drinking, using herbs for cleansing of water, protection of drinking water wells from surface pollution. But certainly, these methods are high cost & come with scalability issues. The fig below indicates the status of water supply in Rural India.

Solution A:  A good solution to this problem isReverse Osmosis water filtration technology, in villages, and expanding rapidly with near uniform coverage all across the country. RO techis capable of removing heavy metals like Lead, mercury & Uranium. Six districts of Punjab have already benefitted from this technology.

This is a membrane-technology filtration method that removes pollution by applying pressure to the chamber on the top so that the impurities are retained on the pressurised side of the membrane, Water flows through the filter medium and the treated water drains through the bottom part.

A typical RO system consists of pre-treatment, high-pressure feed pump(s), an inline membrane housed in pressure vessels, and a network of piping and valves to supply treated water to the household nearby. (See 3D)

This device can purify the domestic water with respect to microorganism, colour, odour, suspended solids and organics. It is not only much less expensive but superior to existing devices in many ways and has following features

  1. Very effective as it removes bacteria completely and Removes complete turbidity and produces crystal clear water.
  2. One challenge of the RO plants in most of the villages is frequent power cuts but this can be eliminated by tapping solar energy to drive its process. Solar power slowly emerging as the cheapest & abundant energy source, solar power can run a RO plant anywhere, at any time.
  3. Almost maintenance free except occasional cleaning of suspended solids which deposits on membrane surface and this does not take more than 3-4 minutes time.

Solution B:  Government should as well focus to create awareness and disseminate information regarding the benefits available under RO installation and maintenance and to guide the consumers on how to access them. The objective shall be to encourage build-up of health-seeking behaviour among the masses in keeping with the focus on promoting and preventive health.

Government/ NGO/private players need to deploy appropriate communication approach and methodology to Increase people’s participation in development & motivate and train rural populations in

  • Use of Safe & Clean Drinking water
  • Judicious usage of Drinking water and avoid wastage.
  • Rainwater harvesting & recharge of Ground water
  • Protection of Drinking water sources
  • Operation & Maintenance of water system

Conclusion: Reverse Osmosis has been touted as an effective drinking water purification method for the specific areas where ground water is adversely effected&We are aware that Reverse Osmosis System show reduction in uranium concentration. RO can also be installed where there is non availability of assured surface water.

Government under Jal Jeevan mission (JJM)will soon embark on a RO based rural water treatment program across the country and install RO plants in villages through a variety of management options. The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) is a flagship scheme of the Government of India which seeks to not only provides functional household tap connections for all, but seeks to promote the holistic management of local water resources.

Private vendor can invest on the RO plant (90%) and operate and charge for the RO water. Also, the village itself to invest on the plant and take charge of distribution themselves.

With Government initiative can install rural community led RO plants being managed by an elected body or local committees or cooperatives on decision making on capacity of plant treatment, expenses incurred, storage capacity, running expenses, selling price of water, number of hours of operation etc.


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