Managing urban waste waters holistically since 2016

The world is facing a major societal challenge as prognoses of the Food and Agriculture Organization indicate that in 2025 two thirds of the world population will be affected by water scarcity and extreme water stress. Especially in rapidly urbanizing areas the speed of implementation of sanitation and potable water infrastructure does not keep up with the population growth.


Alleviating water stress, in these large metropolitan areas requires proper management of freshwater reserves through clever storage, proper sanitation, and recovery of potable water from unconventional resources like wastewater. Likely, this will result in increased societal costs, which are more than many societies can cope with.

This is where LOTUSHR comes in. In July 2017 we started our novel holistic (waste-) water management approach that aims for the Local Treatment of Urban Sewage streams for Healthy Reuse (LOTUSHR)


In New Delhi, a mega city where a third of the 22 million inhabitants do not have access to proper sanitation. The 1.6 million litres of waste water that is produced daily, passes through the 20 km long Barapullah drain and discharges  into the Yamuna river that eventually flows into the Ganga. As a result the river is heavily polluted. Sadly, New Delhi is also dependant on the water from the Yamuna thereby further contributing to water scarcity and treatment costs.   

On the banks of the Barapullah drain, a 200 m2 test site has been constructed. In this facility our treatment technologies are tested and perfected directly using the water from the drain.

The Barapullah drain is one of the main water transport ways in New Delhi that collects water from smaller water drains from all over the city. In the dry season it is mainly used for sewage transport, during the monsoon also water run-off is transported via the drain. Because of the high population density, water scarcity and size of the waste water flow, the Barapullah drain is an excellent location for our research.


LOTUSHR will demonstrate a novel holistic (waste-)water management approach for the recovery of water, energy and nutrients from urban wastewater that is applicable for mega cities all over the world.

…the sacred role of the river in Indian society can be preserved despite the anticipated rapid urbanization and associated water stress.

In the Indian context, our goal is to demonstrate that by combining existing cost-effective technologies and targeting potential pollutants at the source, the sacred role of the river in Indian society can be preserved despite the anticipated rapid urbanization and associated water stress.

Our first objective is to produce ‘fit for purpose’ water qualities to offset societal cost. The programme distinguishes between three types of water usages; households, industry and urban agriculture. The required treatment and reclamation steps will be determined by the water quality needed for safe and healthy reuse for each usage.

Our second and equally important objective is to reach a successful implementation strategy. To be successful it is crucial that the local community is involved. Therefore special emphasis is placed on social acceptability in order to develop a framework that allows for successful implementation of water reuse strategies. By ensuring that all the water related stakeholders are on heard, a broadly carried and thus socially accepted  water reuse  implementation strategy can be developed.   

Societal relevance

India’s rapid urbanization and extreme climate keeps on putting more stress on fresh water supplies.

In New Delhi, due to the pollution in the Yamuna river, drinking water is used for domestic use, irrigation and industry.

Simultaneously, water resources are polluted by untreated wastewater discharge and competitive claims on water lead to shortages in many sectors. Despite the major health risks posed by the heavily polluted waters, residential water use for hygienic and ritual practices continues as water and rivers are considered sacred within Indian society.

In New Delhi, due to the pollution in the Yamuna river, drinking water is used for domestic use, irrigation and industry. However, there is no need to use high quality drinking water for all purposes. For many applications water could be reused with relatively simple treatment, as long as water is safe for use. 

By cascading water reuse, each subsequent user needs a slightly lower quality of water than the user before,  the societal costs can be further reduced. Additionally, the indirect recovery of resources from the drain water provides local people an opportunity to sustain their livelihood by selling these materials further adds to the societal benefits. We anticipate that by providing an incentive, that could directly generate additional income, social acceptation of water reuse will become easier.

By integrating the societal, the environmental and technological factors associated with water scarcity, pollution and usage, the holistic approach of LOTUSHR is formed. We believe that this combination is the key to successful water reuse.