Pipe dreams Treated sewage will not solve coal power’s water problems

Publication - June 13, 2017
Water shortages and regional droughts have become more pronounced in India. Following below par monsoons in 2015 and the subsequent country wide drought in early 2016, water shortages for coal power generation became acute and several plants were shut down for many months. In an attempt to address the growing conflict of coal power plants with farmers and urban communities, the Government of India proposed using treated sewage water as an alternative for fresh water in coal power plants through its power tariff policy announced in January 2016.

Coal power plants require large volumes of water - a 1000 MW coal power plant requires about 84 million litres of water each day, assuming that it’s operated
at full capacity. Operating sewage treatment plants currently account for about 30% of the total sewage generated, and are mostly concentrated around metropolitan regions. The availability of treated sewage water within 50 km of a coal power plant therefore is dependent on the locations of coal power plants and sewage treatment plants. Besides, utilising sewage water for coal power plants also requires significant investments in tertiary treatment facilities and pipelines.