Pipe dreams: Treated sewage will not solve coal power’s water problems

The use of sewage to meet coal power plants’ cooling needs will not resolve the conflict over water between thermal power plants and farmers and urban communities, said Greenpeace India, in a report titled ‘Pipe Dreams’. In 2016, the government had made mandatory the utilisation of treated sewage water for coal power plants within 50 km of a sewage treatment facility, with Minister Piyush Goyal urging that NTPC’s Mouda plant use treated sewage from Nagpur in Maharashtra. Additional costs incurred are to be passed on to consumers in the electricity tariff. The drought in early 2016 led to severe water shortages for coal power, with several plants shutting down for months amid protests by farming communities over water. The treated sewage policy was meant to tackle this problem, but GIS-based analysis shows that less than eight percent (18 GW) of the country’s coal plants can actually utilise treated sewage water; about 87% (200 GW) of the plants have no access to treated sewage water at all, making the efficacy of the policy questionable.