Created: 18th February, 2017     Last Updated: 18th February, 2017

Water Treatment Systems and Plants

Water borne diseases are responsible for the death of millions of people around the world. In India the problem is particularly severe as compared to Europe or US because of contaminated drinking water and improper sanitation or no sanitation facilities available to majority of the citizens. Water treatment for producing drinking water and for treating contaminated and wastewater from residential, commercial and industrial units is now a priority throughout the world including India.

Water Treatment plants can be for different types and purpose. We can divide them mainly into two types.
  • Plants and systems for producing potable drinking water e.g. RO plants, UV System, Filtration, Distillation process etc.
  • Plants and systems to treat wastewater coming from residential societies or commercial and industrial units. Examples are Sewage Treatment plants (STP), Effluent Treatment Systems (ETP) etc. They generate solid waste from wastewater which can be discharged or reuse

Water Treatment for producing potable drinking water

Various systems, process and technologies are available for purification of water for drinking purpose and the ones which removes almost all the contaminants include reverse osmosis, distillation and filtration. There are other technologies but they are not as effective as the ones mentioned above.

Reverse Osmosis (RO)
It is one of the most popular water treatment system for drinking water today and it removes up to 99% of all contaminants including ions, molecules, dissolved inorganic, large particles etc. Some other advantages of RO system is that it is economical and efficient and has low maintenance cost. Disadvantages include low flow rate which limits the yield of purified water and hence require a storage tank. RO system also wastes a huge amount of water, nearly 2-4 times of the purified water is flushed down the drain. Since the RO process does not remove 100% contaminants including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pesticides, solvents etc. most of the RO unit has a sediment/chlorine pre filter, a RO membrane and an activated carbon post filter. The sediment and activated carbon filters takes care of contaminants which cannot be removed by the RO membrane process. In fact no single water purification method removed all the impurities and various systems are used together to produce the maximum possible purified water.

Activated Carbon
Activated Carbon is very effective against removal of chlorine and is also used to remove some organic compounds as well as some inorganic chemicals like arsenic, lead etc. Contaminants are most cleaned either by filtration through the carbon or by absorption. It is a simple, economical and effective way of water purification from some specific contaminants. It is generally used along with other water treatment systems like RO, Steam Distillation, ion exchange etc. It can clean water from chlorine at very high speed and requires no electricity.

Steam Distillation
In the distillation process, the water is boiled in the distiller until it starts vaporizing and the steam produced is passed through the coils in the distillation unit and a cooling fan condenses the steam back into liquid foam. In the process all the non-volatile contaminants like salts, sediments, metals are left in the distiller while almost pure water is collected in reservoir. More than 98% of the contaminants are removed by this process but there may be some volatile organic compounds (VOC) which may vaporize and move along with pure water. For this activated carbon is used which take cares of VOCs. Some of the disadvantages include the slow production of pure water, consumption of electricity, and cleaning of distiller and storage tank on regular basis.

UV System
When Ultra Violet Light is passed through contaminated water it mainly removes living microorganisms like bacteria and viruses while it is not effective against non-living contaminants like lead, arsenic, organic and inorganic chemicals etc. Water needs to be exposed to UV light for only few seconds and hence it purifies water at very high speed. It improves the taste of water and does not leave any smell and the beneficial minerals are not affected. It is generally used as the end stage of water purification system. For a complete and effective unit, UV can be used with RO unit and activated carbon which would get rid of most of the contaminants.

Wastewater Treatment to discharge or to recycle

STP are installed to treat grey water and black water which emerges out from residential societies or commercial complex and to produce solid waste or sludge (for discharge in the environment or reuse) and purified water good enough to use for non-drinking purpose like flushing the toilet, gardening, cleaning of floors etc.

Grey water is referred to the water that emerges after being used by humans for various purposed like bathing, washing vegetables, food items etc, washing clothing, cleaning utensils, flushing toilets. This wastewater contains various particles like chemicals from detergent and floor cleaning liquid, soap from bathing, dirt from cleaning vegetables, other food items and washing clothes, cooking oil etc.

On the other hand the water which emerges after flushing human excreta is known as black water or sewage.

ETP are mainly for industrial purpose to treat wastewater from industrial effluents, chemicals, toxic and non-toxic materials to generate purified water for reusable purpose or to discharge in the environment. One of the primary objective of Effluent Treatment system is to protection environment from contamination from industrial effluents.


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