Due to geographic and climatic peculiarities, a large part of India has poor water quality. About 37.7 million Indians are affected by waterborne diseases annually and 1.5 million children are estimated to die of diarrhea alone (www.wateraid.org). The major chemical pollutants in surface and ground water sources are nitrate and fluoride1. Some raw waters contain high concentration of phosphate, organic matter, turbidity and iron2,3. Considering the high population density and low-income economic conditions, it is necessary to find inexpensive water treatment technology that meets the standards for safe drinking water in the country and, at the same time, is a reliable technology with reduced maintenance and minimal risks from human-related mismanagement. Membrane filtration systems are advantageous due to their extremely high selectivity and easiness of operation, comparing with the conventional water treatment processes. Membranes can be used as an addition to a conventional water treatment system, as well as an individual treatment component. They are able to provide removal of various pollutants, and can also be used as a disinfection step in water treatment. Around 1000 community level membrane filtration units are already operational in different parts of India.

Advantages of membrane technology are, e.g., no need for addition of chemicals, relatively low energy consumption, higher safety of water treatment process and lower risk of manmade mistakes. Disadvantages include the need for relatively expensive equipment and the eventual contamination of membranes (fouling) that in turn increases energy consumption and cleaning frequency, and shortens the life time of the membranes. Colloidal and biofouling processes escalate system operating costs due to continuous disinfection of the feed water, more frequent membrane backwashing (e.g., via air scouring), periodic chemical cleaning, or a combination of the foregoing processes. Backwashing and cleaning regimens are only partially successful, because in the long term fouling becomes progressively irreversible. Therefore, it is important to choose operation conditions for each particular situation, such as economically viable pre-treatment to control fouling, as well as the best suited cleaning conditions.

The proposal POMACEA addresses the challenge of “Development and applications of membrane technology in water purification/sanitation” under INNO INDIGO Joint Call 2014 – Clean Water and Health. The main objective of the project is to find an optimal technology and operation mode for effective membrane performance and longevity and to develop and test methods that may be integrated as pre-treatment processes to prolong membrane performance, decrease energy use and water consumption. The resulting approach will be tested in a case study carried out in India.

  1. Srikanth R. 2009. Challenges of sustainable water quality management in rural India. Curr Sci India 97: 317-325.
  1. Saravanakumar A., Rajkumar M., Serebiah J.S., and Thivakaran G.A. 2008. Seasonal variations in physico-chemical characteristics of water, sediment and soil texture in arid zone mangroves of Kachchh-Gujarat. Journal of environmental biology / Academy of Environmental Biology, India 29: 725-32.
  1. Usharani K., Umarani K., Ayyasamy P.M., Shanthi K., and Lakshmanaperumalsamy P. 2010. Physico-chemical and bacteriological characteristics of Noyyal river and ground water quality of Perur, India. Journal of Applied Sciences and Environmental Management 14.