Water is essential to all life on earth, and safe drinking water and sanitation are fundamental human rights. Many of us don’t think twice about turning on a tap to access fresh, safe water for drinking, cooking, washing and to flush our toilets. But billions of people around the world are not so fortunate. GEA is working in Indonesia to install technologies at a major water treatment plant that are not only key to the provision of clean drinking water to local communities, but are also helping to reduce river silting and flooding.

An estimated 3 in 10 people still lack access to safely managed drinking water, and 2.4 billion people don’t have basic sanitation services such as toilets. Nearly 1,000 children around the world die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal disease every day1.

This global issue is not just a matter of access to water, but having enough fresh water to satisfy need. Fresh water is effectively an exhaustible resource. According to a recent UNESCO report, 2 billion people already live with the threat of water scarcity, and about 4 billion people experience severe water shortage during at least one month of the year2. By 2050 its likely that 1 in four people will live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water1.

Water wars

Competition for limited water resources will be a major global concern in coming years, according to a recent report by the European Union’s Joint Research Commission3. The report says competition for water is likely to “exacerbate “political tensions, regional instability and social rest,” resulting in water wars between neighbouring countries. Areas around the Nile, the Ganges-Brahmaputra, Indus, Tigris-Euphrates, and Colorado rivers have been highlighted as among the most vulnerable areas.

Who uses the most

We can all do our bit in our homes and offices on a daily basis to try and conserve water, but around the world agriculture actually accounts for about 70% of fresh water usage. In addition, around 19% is used by industry, and about 12% is used for municipal purposes, which includes the water we use in our homes4. In recent years India was the world's largest agricultural water consumer, and also the third largest municipal water user, behind China and the U.S.5.

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With a limited supply of fresh water on the planet, its critical that we clean up as much as possible of our wastewater.  Figures cited by UNESCO indicate that while high-income countries treat about 70% of the wastewater they generate, in low-income countries only 8% of industrial and municipal wastewater undergoes treatment of any kind. If these figures are accurate, then across the globe more than 80% of wastewater is dumped without adequate treatment6. This water may contain toxic heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides, drug residues and other pollutants, as well as human sewage and animal waste products. 

Increased urbanisation and population growth, alongside a lack of infrastructure for dealing with wastewater in cities and in rural areas are compounding the issue. In many regions there just isn’t the capacity to treat all the wastewater produced. It is estimated, for example, that major cities and towns in India had the capacity to treat only about a third of their wastewater, and nearly 40% of sewage treatment plants that were in operation didn’t conform to standards for discharging treated water into waterways7.

National initiatives

Governments around the world, and particularly in the less developed regions, have over the recent years set in motion laws directed at improving both water supply and water treatment in urban and rural regions. In Indonesia, a central government regulation that came into force at the start of 2019 is now requiring local governments to meet minimum service provision standards for public services, including water supply.  It's a huge task, given an Association of South East Asian Nations report, which noted water pollution had been increasing, rather than decreasing in Indonesia – 80% of water monitoring points were heavily polluted in 2013, up from 62% in 2009 – and that only 41% of the population of Indonesia had access to safe drinking water, and 42% lacked access to improved sanitation facilities8.

Latin America and the Caribbean have prioritized their investments in water supply infrastructure over recent years, but with an estimated 60% of the region’s population still not having connection to a sewage system, only 40% of waste water is treated9. Huge programs to collect and treat wastewater will require investments of some US$80 billion to set in place the necessary sewerage infrastructure, and another US$33 billion on wastewater treatment over the two decades from 2010 to 20309.

Such investments are well spent. As the World Bank report notes, and obvious environmental and health benefits aside, better management of wastewater could also generate revenues from the recovery of energy, biosolids, nutrients, and, of course, reusable water, all of which can then help to finance the operation and maintenance of treatment plants.

To help nations realise and capitalize on the resource value of wastewater, the World Bank, together with CAF and other partners has set up the “Watewater: from waste to resource” initiative, which will provide guidance on improving the planning, managing and financing of wastewater treatment and resource recovery in the region9.

GEA provides key wastewater treatment technology

GEA works with governments and industry worldwide to provide key technologies for efficient wastewater treatment. Energy-efficient environmental decanter centrifuges from GEA effectively and efficiently thicken and dewater effluent, removing water from the solids so that sewage treatment plants can reduce their sludge volume, which equates to lower costs for transport and further water treatment.

These separating technologies are typically used to dewater the sludge that settles out of suspension early on the sewage treatment process, but are also applied to remove water from sludge that is processed in the downstream drinking water treatment plants.

Clean drinking water

Industrial GEA decanter centrifuges reduce the volume of sewage sludge by up to 90%. Integrated into existing or new sewage treatment facilities, GEA decanters can also be supplied as mobile, modular, plug-and-play units that can be used to help municipal wastewater plants manage peak loads, or transported in trailers for use in the field.

Sludge dewatering can have a huge environmental impact as well as play a key role in providing safe, clean water to local and regional communities. In the Serpong region of Banten Province, Indonesia, for example, the direct discharge of sludge from a major water treatment plant into the river had for many years represented a direct cause of river silting, which led to repeated flooding of the river basin and its communities.

The Indonesian Government’s Ministry for the Environment is levying strict regulations on big cities to reduce this practice. Realising the urgent need to reduce the amount of solids discharged into the river, PT Tirta Kerta Raharja municipality, which owns the Serpong region drinking water treatment plant, and the plant operating company PT Traya Tirta Cisadane, contracted GEA to design, and build a sludge management system, using GEA decanter centrifuge technology, which will help to dramatically reduce river silting by separating solids from the treatment plant sludge water. 

The municipal plant is designed to handle 3000 litres of water per second, and has been fitted with one of the largest capacity decanter centrifuge systems in the GEA portfolio. The project, which was funded by the Indonesian government and headed by GEA Indonesia, involved the configuration and installation of three decanter centrifuges, two of which will be in constant operation, with one redundant system available to take over during servicing or repair. The newly commissioned upgrade was due for handover to the operating company before the end of 2019.

"Rarely is it seen, that a Nation embarks with such an enthusiasm and determination for preservation of natural resources,” said Dinesh Gehani, Regional Product Sales Manager for GEA APAC. “We started working with PT. Tirta Kerta and PT. Traya Tirta Cisadane almost an year before ,entering into a contractual agreement, to develop a turn key solution for complete sludge management system including state of art technology GEA decanter centrifuges. With sludge management system in operation at the water treatment plant, we expect people in surrounding area will benefit with less frequency of flooding,” Dinesh explained.

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