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Post Doctoral Research Proposal

Title: Characterization of the Dynamics of Sewage Treatment Processes

and Examination of Its Reuse

As a consequence of growing population and increasing urbanization, more and more
water is being diverted from agriculture to domestic and industrial sector. This results in
reduced water availability for agriculture and also creates the problem of disposal of
wastewaters. The sewage wastewaters probably offer good scope for reuse in agriculture.
When reuse is not feasible and the sewage is disposed in natural waters, care has to be
taken to ensure that the quality of the receiving waters is not reduced below the
prescribed standards. Cognizant of this, it is planned to take up a study to characterize the
dynamics of wastewater in the treatment process and to examine its reuse in terms of crop

Demand for water is constantly rising while the sources are limited. Historically our
increasing water needs have been met by harnessing untapped natural water resources.
Our development as a civilization is at a stage where we have fully exploited our natural
water resources and increasing demand has to be met by intelligent strategies that will
include a) improving the efficiency of water use and b) reusing waste water.

The trends in water usage indicate not only an overall rising demand but also a shift in
the proportion of use by different sectors. While the share of agriculture is falling, the
share of domestic and industrial use is increasing.

The demographic trends in many developing countries indicate that the population is
increasing at a rapid rate and more importantly the proportion of increase of urban
population is greater than that of the rural population (Scott et al., 2005). Cities are home
to political and economic power and will continue to ensure that their water supply needs
are met on a priority basis subject to physical and economic scarcity constraints.

While the water used for agriculture is consumptive use, the domestic and industrial uses
are not consumptive. For example, 80 to 85 percent of water supplied to homes is
collected back as sewage, while up to 95 percent of industrial water use returned as waste
waters after use. These waste waters both from domestic and industrial sectors also create
the problem of disposal because of possible damage to the environment. Therefore
treatment and reuse of wastewaters assumes added importance.

In addition to the economic benefit of the water, the fertilizer value of the effluent is of
importance. The typical concentrations of nutrients in treated waste water effluent from
conventional sewage treatment are Nitrogen 50 mg/l ; phosphorus 10mg/l; potassium
30mg/l. Assuming an application rate of 5000m3/ha, the fertilizer contribution of the
effluent would be Nitrogen 250kg/ha/year; phosphorus 50kg/ha/year; and potassium
150kg/ha/year. Thus, all of the nitrogen and much of the phosphorus and potassium
normally required for agricultural crop production would be supplied by the effluent. In
addition, other valuable micronutrients and the organic matter contained in the effluent
would provide additional benefits (Pescod, 1992).

According to Ayers and Westcot (1985), wastewater was being successfully used in many
places in America for irrigation. It was stated that the sewages had trace elements within
prescribed limits for irrigation.

This indeed is turning waste into wealth. The flip side of the same problem is the risk
to health in both handling the waste waters and also in consuming the crops raised with
the waste water. But with careful and regular monitoring, reuse of waste water offers a lot
of scope with triple benefits in 1) bridging the supply-demand gap, 2) utilizing the
nutritive value of the wastewater which is of enormous economic value, and 3) mitigating
environmental problems.

The quality of waste waters varies in grades. While the qualities of some waters are
excellent, the qualities of others are a menace. Thus, from the point of view of
wastewater reuse and environmental concern, sewage has to be characterized based on 1)
volume generated; 2) quality of the sewage; and 3) diurnal and seasonal variations in both
quality and quantity. Maximum and minimum flows are necessary factors in properly
sizing and designing system components (Mayer et al., 1999).

Metals like mercury, cadmium, copper, and chromium can cause physical and mental
developmental delays, kidney disease, gastrointestinal illnesses, and neurological
problems. Some information was reported regarding metals in septic tank effluent
(USEPA, 2002). Metals can present in raw household wastewater because many
commonly used household products contain metals. Aged interior pluming systems could
contribute lead, cadmium, and copper (Cantor and Knox, 1985). Other sources of metals
include vegetable matter and human excreta. Several metals were found in domestic
septage, confirming their presence in waste water. They primarily included cadmium,
copper, lead and zinc (Segall et al., 1979).

It is in this imperative context that it is intended to conduct a study at a systematic level

in a semi-urban or urban location where the sewage comes from domestic or industrial
sector or both, as the case may be.

Instead of looking at the wastewater as a separate entity, it is intended to consider it as a

system starting from characterization of the generated sewage and spanning through the
dynamics of sewage treatment plant, irrigation and crop performance, soil profile studies,
and also quality of the treated water which is disposed.

Objectives of the study:

1. To characterize the sewage in terms of flow hydrographs and quality variations
2. To investigate the dynamics of water quality in a sewage treatment plant
3. To assess the impacts of treated sewage water on the crop performance and soil quality
4. To assess the impact of the disposed sewage water on the quality of the receiving water
Materials and Methods
The study will focus on various aspects of sewage from collection to treatment, reuse and
disposal in the context of semi-urban or urban area, as the case may be. The relevant
information (materials and methods) required to conduct the study are as follows:

1. Study area
The experiment is intended to be conducted at semi-urban/urban area where sewage
treatment plant is available.

2. Laboratory analysis

Soil pH and Electrical conductivity (EC):

The pH and EC of the soil and the wastewater to be used for irrigation will be measured
using a standard method and using a suitable soil-water analyzer.

Analysis of other parameters:

Following standard procedures for laboratory analysis, the parameters to be measured are
as under.

Parameters to measure Methods proposed to use

Textural analysis International pipette method
Organic carbon Chromic acid wet digestion
Available nitrogen Alkaline permanganate method
Available phosphorus Stannous chloride method
Available potassium Flame photometry
Potassium Flame photometry
Sodium Flame photometry
Calcium Versenate titremetry
Magnesium Versenate titremetry
Carbonate titremetry
bicarbonate titremetry

Sewage characterization:
The sewage flow rate, volume and quality parameters (EC and pH) will be monitored
daily in order to study and characterize the flow hydrograph and quality in terms of the
diurnal variations.
Sewage quality changes:
The pH, EC, anions (carbonate, bicarbonate, sulphate and chloride) concentration, cations
(sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium) concentration, BOD, COD and DO will be
monitored at randomly selected times to assess the mean values and variances of these
quality parameters at the different locations of the treatment plant.

Basic soil characteristics:

Textural analysis for the soil of the field where crop performance experiment to be
conducted will be done. In addition, the soil-water characteristics such as the field
capacity, permanent wilting point and available soil moisture will be determined.
Crop experiment:
Using water drawn from various point of the treatment plant, field experiment on suitable
crop for the site will be conducted to study the effect of sewage treatment on crop
performance. The statistical design as well as the irrigation depth and scheduling are to be
decided later based on the location and the type of crop to be selected.

Crop parameters: biometric observations will be made on the crop to be irrigated.

Such parameters include: plant height at several stages of the growing period, the day
the plant reaches flowering, yield and number of fruits per treatment.

Soil Parameters: the soil general indicators such as pH and EC; major nutrients such
as N, P and K; heavy metals and micronutrients such as Fe, Zn, Mn and Cu; and
heavy metals such as Cr, Ni, Pb and Cd will be monitored at the end of the different
stage of plant growth.

Statistical Analysis: the statistical analysis will be made according to the standard
procedures and using a suitable package.

Working calendar
Activities Time frame
Arrangement of study location with host institution April 1st April 15, 2008
Arrangement of place (s) for laboratory works April 1st-April 15, 2008
Collection of data and laboratory analysis April 16th May 15th, 2008
Arrangement of field/plots for crop experiment April 15 April 30, 2008
Crop monitoring and laboratory analysis May 1 August 30, 2008
Data analysis and compilation Sept.1 Sept. 15, 2008
Preparation of final report Sept. 15 Sept. 30, 2008


Ayers, R.S. and D. Westcot. 1985. Water Quality for Agriculture. FAO Irrigation and
Drainage Paper No. 29, Rev. 1, FAO, Rome.
Cantor, L.W. and R.C. Knox. 1985. Septic Tank System Effects on Ground Water Quality.
Lewis Publishers Listserve, Inc., Chelsea, MI.
Mayer, P.W., W.B. De Oreo, E.M. Opitz, J.C. Kiefer, W.Y. Davis, B. Dziegielewski and
J.O. Nelson. 1999. Residential End Uses of Water. Report to AWWA. Research
Foundation and American Water Works Association (AWWA), Denver, CO.
Pescod, M.B. 1992. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAO,
Scott, C.A., N.I. Faruqui and L. Raschid-Sally. 2005. Wastewater Use in Irrigated
Agriculture: Management Challenges in Developing Countries. IDRC Books Free
Online. International Development Research Centre, Canada.
Segall, B.A., C.R. Ott and W.B. Moeller. 1979. Monitoring Septage Addition to
wastewater Treatment Plants Vol. 1, Addition to the Liquid Stream. EPA- 600/2-79-
132. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, OH.
USEPA. 2002. Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems manual (EPA/625/R-00/008).
February, 2002.