Scientific challenge

Sustainable supplies of clean water are an essential asset underpinning healthy lives, food production, and opportunities for economic growth. In rural India, many livelihoods are dependent on water for activities such as crop irrigation, livestock watering and aquaculture. Consequently, water is linked to people's wellbeing as millions of people in rural India rely on it for their food security and to sustain income levels as well as their health and well-being. This makes the management of water resources and waste water treatment a critical issue for sustainable development. This is a central focus of the Indian Government's Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission) and a target of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG Goal 6 on improving sanitation, water quality and protecting water-related ecosystems.

To help achieve Goal 6, there is a need to develop management actions based on water quality monitoring identifying the sources of poor water quality and assessing treatment options. In particular, low-cost, low energy, decentralised waste water treatment systems are needed to support communities where large-scale infrastructure is uneconomic or insufficient. Constructed wetlands and ponds are nature-based solutions that can contribute to this challenge. However, the effectiveness of constructed wetlands and ponds schemes to deliver water quality and other benefits, such as food security and health, needs further assessment in sub-tropical India.

Project overview

​This is a collaborative study between UKCEH and Indian partners actively engaged with rural and urban communities installing decentralised treatment systems in North and South India (ATREE BangaloreNIH RoorkeeIIT RoorkeeIIT Kanpur).


  • Monitoring of water quality
  • Monitoring ecological health
  • Monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Knowledge exchange activities
  • Public engagement events
  • Capacity building of researchers



General recommendations

  • On-going investment needed in both centralised and decentralised water treatment in rural and urban areas
  • Water quality standards need to be updated for rural and urban waterbodies - in relation to their multiple use
  • Monitoring needs to be outcome focused, not just episodic reporting
  • Need for rapid, publicly available data to track water quality and ecological health


Other Project Outputs


Impact Goals

  • To reduce health risks by restoring good surface water quality.
  • Develop sustainable uses of freshwaters to support local economies and social/cultural enterprises.

Outcome Goals

  • Water quality improved for health and sustainable fisheries, through enhanced waste water treatment, e.g. Ibrahimpur Village Pond, Uttarakhand and Jakkur Lake, Bengaluru
  • Knowledge transferred to public sector, NGOs and policy makers e.g. through workshops, guidance books and policy briefs
  • Empowered communities as a result of knowledge transfer: villagers and lake community action groups are better informed to manage their fresh waters for community benefits e.g. recreation, fisheries, crops, biodiversity, etc.
  • Capacity built amongst researchers, including training and support to scientific outputs
  • Programmes expanded to other villages/districts/cities - learning from outputs of water treatment demonstration studies.
  • Networks built linking communities needing solutions with businesses or social enterprises that can offer effective solutions, e.g. Workshop on Solutions for Restoring Bengaluru's Lakes


  • Advise on monitoring and management of fresh waters and maintenance of wetland and pond treatment systems.
  • Monitoring of indicators of water quality and ecological health.
  • Capacity building: knowledge exchange with practitioners, including local communities.
  • Capacity building: researchers.
  • Engaging/informing public sector & NGOs involved in water management.
  • Supporting private sector businesses and social enterprises supporting restoration of freshwaters.
  • Integration with other Indian and UK research projects to maximise research outcomes.
  • Engaging/informing policy makers (water & urban development).

Principal Investigator