Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has issued a draft notification to ban the use of membrane-based water purification systems (MWPS) – also known as reverse osmosis (RO) systems where the source of water meets the Bureau of Indian Standards drinking water norms.
This draft notification comes after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) prohibited the use of RO purifiers in places where total dissolved solids (TDS) in the supplied water are below 500 mg per litre.
The draft notification issued on February 3, 2020 by the Union Ministry, mentions that the use of membrane-based water purification system (MWPS), mainly RO purifiers, shall be prohibited where drinking water complies with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) drinking water norms, and reject generated from purifiers installed at homes shall be collected for the use of non-drinking purpose. It restricts the domestic users against the use of RO systems if it doesn’t have a certificate as per the provision of BIS specified code for compliance of recovery efficiency and output reliability.
The Ministry has sought comments from the public within 30 days, after which a final notification will be released.
The draft notification also puts regulations on commercial bottlers who use RO systems to purify water. Commercial units will be required to store water that is lost in the purification process in safe, secured, hygienic and dedicated storage facility conditions. They will also be required to maintain a record of water consumption, reject generation, reject disposal, elements replaced or used, discarded element generated, and their disposal and submit to state pollution control board annually.
The notification has asked the manufacturers of ROs to register themselves with state pollution control board for grant of registration and provide unique identification mark to each components’ manufactures, and also equip the purifiers with real time online flow and total dissolved solids monitoring meters at the inlet and outlet with digital data acquisition system and microprocessor-based controlling facility, to meet the recovery efficiency.
It has further asked the BIS to develop system and procedure to monitor, assess, and certify the type and process integrity of the MWPS for compliance of provision of Schedule – I in consultation with CPCB.
The Central Pollution Control Board will have to publish guidelines for handling, storage, management and utilisation of rejects generated from MWPS, including management and disposal of discarded elements within a period of six months.
The draft notification has also asked water supply department, local bodies, private and public sector agencies to inform the consumers about the water sources and quality, including TDS concentration of water being supplied through billing instruments and also through public advertisement in newspaper and other mass media means on regular basis.
It has further asked every state pollution control board to ensure all commercial and industrial membrane-based water purification systems are regulated within the provision of The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution), Act, 1974 and create public awareness on suitability of MWPS for purification of water, judicious use of MWPS water, potential use of reject water from MWPS and proper collection, storage and disposal facility for collection of used/ discarded elements from consumers or dealers. In May 2019, the NGT, hearing a petition, had directed the Environment Ministry to ensure that RO systems manufacturers’ lower the percentage of water to 60 per cent that is wasted during treatment. It had asked the government to redesign the RO system in a way that treated water would have a minimum 150 mg/l TDS concentration.