Ingenious way to recycle water through grey water treatment plant

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Despite being the second richest country in water resources, the water crisis is a major problem Nepal has been facing for a long time. From households to farmers everyone is affected by this. In order to address this issue, two young environmental engineering graduates Milan Samal and Shreeja Lopchan Lama have researched on Grey Water Treatment Plant to reuse water instead of wasting it or dumping in the river which creates another problem. 

shreeja-and-milan

Read on to know more about them and their treatment plant. 

1. Can you tell us about your research?
We researched a greywater treatment plant which is basically about filtering the used water collected from the washing of clothes, bathtubs, showers, and sinks and separated from the sewage flow.  Then the filtered water is used for irrigation and agriculture purposes. We have designed a working model in the Himalayan Climate Initiative which is able to filter about 1000 L/day.

2. How does this greywater treatment plant work?
The prototype of the greywater treatment plant we have now is a drawer based design. We have sand, charcoal, and gravel of different sizes kept inside the drawer. Firstly, greywater generated from the bathroom is collected in a tank, then it is pumped to the next tank located at a height of about 1.5 above the previous tank to adjust the required flow rate. Then the greywater slowly goes through different layers of the treatment plant. And finally the greywater is filtered and is collected in a new tank. The water collected now can be used for irrigation purposes. 

3. Apart from irrigation are there any other areas the filtered water can be used?
For now, it is only for irrigation. This is because the treatment plant does filter out the pollutants like TS, TSS, BOD, COD which is favorable for use in irrigation. But as of now, the removal of bacteria is still low.  Due to this, we can’t use it for drinking, laundry, washing dishes and so on. But the plant can be modified based on which area and sector it will be used. 

4. What were the major challenges?
Shreeja: People are unaware of the greywater treatment plant, so asking and convincing households to have the plant installed at their place was and is still a challenge.

Similarly, deciding whether to use only bathroom greywater or greywater from the kitchen was also a challenge we faced. Likewise, there are no policies related to greywater treatment and reuse so convincing not only the households but also business houses and officials was tough. Similarly in the research part, it was overwhelming and at times we got frustrated, we had arguments, our ideas clashed but at the end finally after going through all the hardship, we came to the conclusion successfully. 

Milan: Though a simple, greywater treatment plant needs a lot of care, it needs to be properly looked after, especially when in operation. So, maintenance was another challenge for us. 

5. Why do you think greywater treatment plants need to be installed and how will it create a social impact?
First and foremost, it saves water. In a day, HCI produced 1000 liters of greywater, so if we are able to reuse it, we will be able to save around 3.65 Lakh liters of water in a year, that too in one organization. We can now imagine how this will play a major role in addressing the problem of water scarcity, especially during the summers. Similarly, it is a return on investment for the people. Yes, the installation charges may be slightly high but in the long run, they can save thousands of rupees. 

Furthermore, for the farmers too rather than using polluted water, through the use of filtered water, they can have healthy irrigation practices. Moreover, groundwater normally used for agriculture does not get extracted thus maintaining groundwater level. Finally, it reduces the dumping of polluted water in the environment by reusing it for better purposes. 

6. How will you convince people for its installation? Do you think government support is a way to go forward?
Yes, the government has a big part to play with the addition of policy such as the provision of subsidy to encourage people to install treatment plants as it reduces both water demand and polluted effluent.  Not only the government, but we individuals ourselves also need to be aware. If we are aware and want to use it, it is not rocket science and can easily be installed. Also, it is made from locally available material and hence, is affordable.

7. How was your experience like participating in the Dopper Changemaker Challenge and what did you gain from the program?
Shreeja: It was quite an amazing experience and a new one too. I personally had never completely devoted myself to a project before. I got to learn a lot. Every input we have given in this entire project constantly helped us improve our research and moreover, people at HCI are very helpful.  They provided us with the space to pursue our research idea. Overall it was a great experience. 

Milan: Yes and talking about major benefits we got an opportunity to implement our idea and bring to real implications through what we have learned in our academic courses. Likewise, we were also able to design the prototype which otherwise would probably not have been possible and adding on it is actually being used at HCI.

8. What changes have you seen in yourself pre and post the program?
Milan: I got to learn a lot and I  became aware that many people, especially the youths are working to address the problems related to the water. I also feel that I have become more motivated and hardworking than before.

Shreeja: This program has made me aware of my innovative and creative side. Likewise, I have become much more confident in myself and my capacity to build up ideas and bring it to real implications. My knowledge horizon has definitely expanded, I got to know so much more from others’ thesis and research papers as well. 

9. Do you have plans for commercializing your product?
As of now no. This was research for us but in the future, if we are approached by someone we would definitely love to bring our treatment plant to the market and commercialize it. 

10. Do you consider yourself a change-maker?
Yes, we do consider ourselves changemakers. This is because the treatment plant in HCI was not working, we made it function and it is now actually being implemented there. But we still need to work on it and make it much more efficient.

Interviewed and Article by Trishna Shakya