Bio-based Wastewater Treatment Market Potential in India 

  • A report by Technavio estimates the global bio-based wastewater treatment market to reach USD 36.47 billion by 2026, with a CAGR of 9.28% during the forecast period (2021-2026).
  • ResearchDive anticipates the global bio-based wastewater treatment market to grow at a CAGR of 10.0% from 2023 to 2031, reaching a market size of USD 73.05 billion by 2031.
  • Industry Estimates:
    • Experts estimate the Indian bio-based wastewater treatment market to reach USD 2.5-3 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of 25-30%.

Market Research Updates

Factors Driving Market Growth:

  • Stringent environmental regulations: The tightening of environmental regulations and discharge standards by the government is driving the demand for cleaner and more sustainable wastewater treatment solutions.
  • Growing water scarcity: India faces a severe water crisis, and bio-based treatment solutions offer an attractive option for water reuse and resource recovery.
  • Rising industrialization and urbanization: Rapid urban and industrial growth leads to increased wastewater generation, necessitating efficient treatment technologies.
  • Government initiatives: National missions like the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ and ‘Namami Gange Programme’ emphasize wastewater management, creating opportunities for bio-based systems.
  • Potential cost-effectiveness: While initial capital investment might be higher, bio-based solutions offer lower operational costs and energy consumption in the long run compared to conventional methods.

Market Segments with High Potential

  • Industrial wastewater treatment: Industries like textiles, food processing, and pulp and paper can benefit significantly from bio-based solutions due to their organic-rich wastewater.
  • Decentralized treatment for rural areas: Bio-based systems are well-suited for community-level wastewater treatment and resource recovery in rural areas.
  • Municipal wastewater treatment: Integrating bio-based solutions with existing treatment plants can enhance efficiency and reduce the environmental impact.
  • Retrofitting and upgrades: Replacing or upgrading older, inefficient treatment systems with bio-based technologies presents a substantial market opportunity.

Key Challenges

  • Variable wastewater characteristics: The composition of wastewater in India can be highly variable due to factors like:
    • Mixed flows: Municipal wastewater often contains a mix of domestic sewage, industrial effluents, and stormwater runoff, with fluctuating pollutant load and composition.
    • Lack of source segregation: Limited segregation of industrial waste streams and poor pre-treatment practices can create complex wastewater mixtures that are challenging to treat solely with bio-based methods.
  • Seasonality and climate: Monsoon seasons can cause significant dilution and inflow variations in wastewater treatment plants, impacting the efficacy of biological processes. Additionally, the efficiency of some bio-based systems can be affected by temperature fluctuations.
  • Space constraints: Urban areas in India often face severe land scarcity, making it challenging to implement bio-based technologies like constructed wetlands, which require a greater land footprint.
  • Social and cultural factors: Some bio-based technologies may face social hesitance or concerns surrounding the reuse of treated wastewater for non-potable purposes due to cultural perceptions.
  • Fragmentation in the sector: The market for bio-based technologies in India is somewhat fragmented, with smaller companies and varying levels of technological expertise. This can sometimes create a lack of standardization in design and operations.
  • Limited access to technology: Access to specialized equipment or specific biological inoculants (starter microorganisms) required for certain bio-based processes may be limited, especially in rural and remote areas.
  • Technical expertise: There’s a need to expand the pool of trained professionals with specific knowledge of bio-based wastewater treatment design, operation, and maintenance, particularly beyond major urban centers.
  • Maintenance challenges: Regular and consistent maintenance of bio-based systems is crucial. Operational issues or neglect can lead to suboptimal performance or even failure. Ensuring sustainable operation requires dedicated resources and skilled personnel.

Companies in the Bio-Based Wastewater Treatment Sector in India 

CategoryExamplesRole in the Sector
Raw Material SuppliersOrganica BiotechDevelop and supply microbial cultures for bio-treatment
AqgromalinOffers ready-to-implement micro-farms
Absolute WaterBioremediation products for enhancing treatment efficiency
Enviro Tech ChemicalsProvide chemicals required for wastewater treatment
Manufacturers (Equipment)AqwiseProvide anaerobic digesters for bio-based treatment
Arvind EnvisolOffers a wide range of advanced wastewater management products
ThermaxManufacture aerobic treatment systems
VA Tech WabagDesign and build plants for wastewater treatment
Technology Solution ProvidersIon Exchange IndiaDesign and engineering of bio-based wastewater treatment plants
UPL Environmental EngineersProvide membrane Bioreactor technology, ultrafiltration technology amongst many more.
SMS EnvocareProvide liquid waste management technologies
Bio-Methanation India Pvt. Ltd.Offer specialized bio-methanation technology
Envisol Tech India Pvt. Ltd.Offer algae-based wastewater treatment solutions

Overview of Processes

  • Activated Sludge Process
  • Anaerobic Digestion
  • Constructed Wetlands
  • Membrane Bioreactors

1. Activated Sludge Process

  • Pre-treatment
    • Screening: Large objects, such as rags, wood, and plastics, are removed by passing wastewater through coarse screens.
    • Grit Removal: Heavy inorganic materials like sand and gravel settle out in a grit chamber. This prevents abrasion and clogging in later stages.
  • Biological Treatment
    • Aeration Tank: Pre-treated wastewater flows into the aeration tank where it’s mixed with activated sludge – a dense mass of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and other microorganisms. Blowers or diffusers continuously inject oxygen (air) to stimulate aerobic bacteria, which consume the organic matter in the wastewater.
    • Secondary Clarification: The mixture of treated water and sludge flows to a secondary clarifier. Here, gravity causes the heavier activated sludge to settle, forming a blanket at the bottom. Clear, treated water (effluent) flows over weirs near the top of the tank and exits for disinfection or release. Some of the settled sludge is pumped back to the aeration tank to maintain the active biomass, while excess activated sludge is removed and processed as waste.

2. Anaerobic Digestion

  • Pre-treatment
    • Screening and Grit Removal: Similar to the activated sludge process, these steps remove large solids and abrasive materials.
    • Mixing and Heating (sometimes): Wastewater may be mixed to ensure homogeneity and heated to an optimal temperature (typically 35-55 degrees Celsius) to improve the efficiency of anaerobic bacteria.
  • Anaerobic Digestion
    • Digester Tank: Pre-treated wastewater is introduced to a sealed digester tank, creating an oxygen-free environment ideal for anaerobic bacteria. These bacteria break down complex organic matter into simpler compounds, producing a mixture of gases called biogas. Biogas contains primarily methane (60-70%) and carbon dioxide, along with trace amounts of other gases.
  • Digestate Handling
    • Biogas Capture and Utilization: The biogas is stored and can be used as a renewable energy source for electricity generation, heating, or as a vehicle fuel after purification.
    • Digestate Processing: The remaining ‘digestate’ is a nutrient-rich slurry that may be dewatered and used as fertilizer or further treated for disposal.

3. Constructed Wetlands

  • Wetland Design and Construction
    • Basin Construction: A shallow basin is excavated and lined with impermeable material to prevent leakage.
    • Substrate Layering: The basin is filled with layers of graded materials like sand, gravel, and soil, creating a substrate that supports plant growth and establishes filtration zones.
    • Plant Selection: Wetland plants like reeds, cattails, or rushes are chosen for their ability to:
      • Uptake nutrients and pollutants
      • Tolerate wastewater conditions
      • Provide root zones for bacterial attachment
  • Wastewater Treatment
    • Inlet: Wastewater flows into the wetland at a controlled rate, distributing across the surface.
    • Physical and Biological Processes: As the wastewater slowly meanders through the wetland, several processes work in tandem:
      • Filtration: The substrate and plant roots physically trap solids.
      • Sedimentation: Suspended particles settle out as the water slows.
      • Nutrient Uptake: Plants remove excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus.
      • Microbial Activity: Microorganisms attached to plant roots and the substrate break down organic matter and remove pollutants.
  • Outlet and Discharge: Treated water, much cleaner, is collected at the other end and can be further treated or reused as needed.

4. Membrane Bioreactors (MBR)

  • Pre-treatment
    • Screening and Grit Removal: Similar to other processes, to protect downstream units.
  • Biological Treatment
    • Bioreactor: Pre-treated wastewater enters a bioreactor containing a suspension of microorganisms (often activated sludge). Microbial activity degrades organic pollutants like in the activated sludge process.
  • Membrane Filtration
    • Immersed Membranes: Treated water from the bioreactor passes through submerged membranes made of polymer materials with microscopic pores. These membranes act as a physical barrier that traps even the tiniest microbes, viruses, and suspended solids. Water exiting the membranes is exceptionally clear and treated to high standards.
  • Management
    • Permeate: Treated water is collected as permeate, ready for reuse or discharge.
    • Sludge: Concentrated sludge remains in the bioreactor and can be returned or withdrawn for further processing.

Comparison of Bio-based Wastewater Treatment Technologies

The following table compares various bio-based wastewater treatment technologies, highlighting their key characteristics, business perspectives, cost-efficiency, common efficiency levels, and suitable applications:

TechnologyDescriptionBusiness PerspectiveCost EfficiencyCommon Efficiency LevelsSuitable Applications
Activated Sludge Process (ASP)Widely used, employs mixed cultures of bacteria and microorganisms in aerated tanks to break down organic pollutants.Low maintenance, potential for land restoration, and habitat creationModerateHigh BOD and COD removal (80-95%)Municipal and industrial wastewater with high organic content
Closed systems utilize anaerobic bacteria to decompose organic matter, producing biogas as a byproduct.Established technology, readily available expertise, and equipmentPotential for energy generation (biogas), waste management, and resource recoveryModerate to HighHigh COD removal (80-95%), organic matter conversion to biogasHigh-strength organic wastewater from food processing, animal farming, and industrial processes
Constructed WetlandsEngineered ecosystems mimicking natural wetlands, utilizing plants and microbes for filtration and purification.Emerging technology utilizes microorganisms to generate electricity while breaking down organic matter in wastewater.Low to ModerateModerate BOD and COD removal (50-80%), nutrient removalMunicipal and industrial wastewater with low to moderate organic content, polishing treatment
Membrane Bioreactors (MBRs)Combines activated sludge with membrane filtration, providing high-quality effluent and a compact footprint.High-quality effluent, compact footprint, suitable for space-constrained applicationsHighHigh BOD, COD, and nutrient removal (90-99%)Various wastewater types, including industrial wastewater with challenging pollutants
Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs)Emerging technology utilizing microorganisms to generate electricity while breaking down organic matter in wastewater.Potential for renewable energy generation and wastewater treatmentHigh (capital costs), Low (operational costs)Limited data on BOD/COD removal, potential for nutrient removalResearch and development, potential future applications in decentralized or remote locations
Algal Treatment SystemsUtilize algae to remove nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from wastewater through their growth and uptake.Potential for nutrient recycling and biomass productionModerateModerate BOD/COD removal (50-70%), high nutrient removal (up to 90%)Municipal and industrial wastewater, particularly effective for nutrient removal

Emerging Technologies and Process Innovations in Bio-based Wastewater Treatment in India

The bio-based wastewater treatment sector in India is experiencing exciting advancements and innovative solutions to address existing challenges and improve efficiency. Here are some of the key emerging trends:

  • Advanced Biological Processes
  • Treatment of Complex Pollutants
  • Decentralized and Integrated Solutions
  • Focus on Resource Recovery

1. Advanced Biological Processes:

  • Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs): These innovative systems utilize bacteria to generate electricity while treating wastewater. The organic matter in the wastewater serves as fuel for the microbes, generating electricity through their metabolic processes. This technology holds promise for self-powered wastewater treatment, potentially reducing energy consumption and operational costs.
  • Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactors (AnMBRs): Combining anaerobic digestion with membrane filtration, AnMBRs offer efficient organic matter removal and produce biogas as a byproduct. Additionally, they have a smaller footprint compared to conventional anaerobic digesters and can handle high-strength wastewater.
  • Algorithmic control and automation: Advanced monitoring and control systems are being developed to optimize bio-based treatment processes based on real-time data analysis. This allows for dynamic adjustments to optimize performance, improve efficiency, and minimize operational costs.

2. Treatment of Complex Pollutants:

  • Engineered microbial consortia: Researchers are developing customized combinations of microorganisms specifically tailored to degrade specific pollutants or complex wastewater streams. This approach has the potential to address challenges associated with treating industrial wastewater containing a wide range of contaminants.
  • Advanced oxidation processes (AOPs): These techniques can be integrated with bio-based treatment systems to remove recalcitrant pollutants like pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and emerging contaminants. AOPs utilize various methods, such as ozone, ultraviolet light, and chemical oxidants, to break down these complex molecules.

3. Decentralized and Integrated Solutions:

  • Modular bioreactors: Compact and prefabricated bioreactors are being developed for smaller communities and rural areas. These systems offer cost-effective and efficient localized wastewater treatment solutions, addressing challenges associated with centralized infrastructure limitations.
  • Nature-based solutions: Integrating bio-based treatment with natural treatment systems, such as constructed wetlands, can create hybrid systems that offer efficient treatment, resource recovery, and environmental benefits. This approach can enhance ecosystem services, promote biodiversity, and contribute to sustainable water management.

4. Focus on Resource Recovery:

  • Nutrient recovery: Bio-based systems can be optimized to recover valuable nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater. These recovered nutrients can be used as fertilizer, reducing reliance on chemical fertilizers and promoting a circular economy.
  • Biogas utilization: Biogas produced from anaerobic digestion can be used for various purposes, such as electricity generation, heating, or cooking, providing renewable energy and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Bio-based Wastewater Treatment in India: Development Stage by TRL Level

TRL LevelDevelopment StageDescriptionExamples in India
TRL 8-9Mature TechnologiesCommercially available and widely used for wastewater treatment.Activated sludge process with bioaugmentation (adding beneficial microorganisms)
TRL 7Advanced DemonstrationDemonstrated in pilot or commercial-scale operations, nearing wider adoption.Constructed wetlands, Anaerobic membrane bioreactors (AMBRs)
TRL 5-6Validation StageProcesses and technologies validated in lab or pilot-scale, progressing towards demonstration and commercialization.Microbial consortia for specific pollutants, Fungal bioremediation for specific pollutants
TRL 3-4Early DevelopmentPotential demonstrated in laboratory settings, requiring further refinement.Biochar for adsorption of pollutants, Advanced constructed wetlands with novel designs
TRL 1-2Fundamental ResearchThe research focused on exploring the potential of new bio-based materials and processes.Novel biocatalysts for specific pollutants, Engineered microorganisms for enhanced degradation

Government policies and initiatives:

The bio-based wastewater treatment sector in India is supported by a combination of central and state policies and initiatives. Here’s a summary:

Central Government Initiatives:

  • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG): Promotes the use of bio-based treatment technologies for sewage treatment plants along the Ganges River.
  • Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) 2.0: Focuses on rural sanitation and encourages the adoption of bio-digesters for decentralized wastewater treatment in rural areas.
  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT): Supports capacity building and technology upgradation for urban wastewater treatment, including bio-based options.
  • FAME-II Scheme: Promotes the adoption of electric vehicles, offering potential benefits for the sector as electric vehicle batteries require specific wastewater treatment solutions.
  • Tax benefits: Provides tax incentives for investments in bio-methanation and waste-to-wealth projects, encouraging participation and technology adoption.

State-Level Initiatives:

  • Several states have enacted their policies and regulations related to wastewater treatment:
    • Gujarat: Provides subsidies for the installation and operation of bio-digesters.
    • Tamil Nadu: Offers financial assistance for setting up bio-methanation plants and promotes water reuse through treated wastewater.
    • Maharashtra: Encourages bio-based treatment through subsidies and mandates its use in specific industries.
    • Karnataka: Provides incentives for industrial wastewater treatment with a focus on resource recovery.

Additional Support Mechanisms:

  • Funding and Grants: Government agencies like the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) offer grants for research and development in bio-based wastewater treatment technologies.
  • Skill Development Initiatives: Programs like Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) aim to train and upskill individuals in bio-based wastewater treatment operations.

Business Models in the Bio-based Wastewater Treatment Sector

Business ModelDescriptionRevenue StreamsExamples
Technology Providers & System IntegratorsDesign, develop, engineer, and supply bio-based treatment systems.Selling equipment, design & engineering services, installation & commissioning, maintenance & support.Aqwise, Arvind Envisol, Organica Biotech, Envisol Tech India
Build-Own-Operate (BOO) or Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT)Finance, build and operate plants under long-term contracts with clients.Charging fees for wastewater treatment services based on volume or agreed metrics.Thermax, VA Tech Wabag, UPL Environmental Engineers
Microbial Culture & Bioremediation Product SuppliersDevelop and market specialized cultures & products to enhance treatment efficiency.Sales of cultures, enzymes, and bio-augmentation products.Organica Biotech, Aqgromalin, Absolute Water
Consultancy & Engineering ServicesOffer expertise in feasibility studies, process design, technology selection, and plant optimization.Project-based consultancy fees, advisory services, and design solutions.Ion Exchange India, EcoNex, SMS Envocare
Hybrid or Combination ModelsCombine multiple aspects of the value chain.Revenue from various sources (equipment, services, operation) based on the model’s structure.(Variable depending on the company’s approach)

Emerging Trends:

  • Waste-to-Resource Models: Generate additional revenue by converting treatment waste into resources (fertilizer, reusable water).
  • Decentralized Treatment: Focus on small-scale, modular systems for specific applications like rural areas or industries.

Key Stakeholders

  • Government and Regulatory Bodies:
    • Ministry of Jal Shakti: Plays a central role in setting policies and guidelines for wastewater management.
    • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG): Drives the rejuvenation of the Ganges River and promotes innovative wastewater treatment solutions.
    • Central and State Pollution Control Boards: Responsible for monitoring environmental regulations and enforcing discharge standards.
  • Industries:
    • Heavy water users and polluters, especially textiles, food processing, pulp and paper, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. These industries are increasingly driven toward sustainable solutions to meet regulatory requirements and mitigate environmental impact.
  • Municipal Bodies:
    • Municipal corporations and local self-governance bodies responsible for urban wastewater management, seeking effective treatment solutions for growing cities.
  • Real Estate Developers:
    • Large housing and commercial developers with a need for on-site and localized wastewater treatment solutions, particularly in new development areas.
  • Research Institutes and Universities:
    • Centers of academic and research expertise, fostering innovation and development in bio-based wastewater treatment technologies.
  • Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs):
    • NGOs promoting sustainable water management practices and raising awareness about bio-based treatment options often work on community-level projects.


  • Established Players:
    • VA Tech Wabag: A multinational company with significant experience in various wastewater treatment technologies, including bio-based solutions.
    • Thermax Limited: An Indian company with expertise in energy and environment solutions offering bio-based technologies.
    • Ion Exchange: Leading player in water and wastewater treatment, offering a range of biological processes.
  • Emerging Startups and Innovators: Several smaller companies specializing in innovative bio-based treatment solutions focused on niche applications:
    • Organica Biotech: Offers advanced treatment technologies, including a patented Fixed Bed Biofilm Reactor (FBBR) for wastewater treatment.
    • Ecozen Solutions: Specializes in decentralized wastewater treatment systems for both domestic and industrial applications with modular bio-based technologies.
    • Absolute Water: Provides customized wastewater treatment options, including bio-based and membrane-based solutions.
  • International Companies: Global companies with expertise in bio-based treatment technologies expanding their presence in the Indian market:
    • Veolia Water Technologies
    • Suez
    • Xylem

Strategic initiatives adopted by Indian industries in the bio-based wastewater treatment sector:

  • Focus on Resource Recovery and Circular Economy
  • Adopting Hybrid and Integrated Systems
  • Research, Development, and Innovation
  • Partnership and Collaboration
  • Government Advocacy and Support

1. Focus on Resource Recovery and the Circular Economy:

  • Biogas Production: Industries are integrating anaerobic digestion for biogas production, reducing energy reliance and generating revenue from energy generation.
  • Nutrient Recovery: Focus on extracting valuable nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus) from treated wastewater for fertilizer production, creating additional revenue streams.
  • Water Reuse: Emphasis on treating wastewater to high enough quality for reuse within industrial processes or for irrigation, reducing freshwater demand.

2. Adopting Hybrid and Integrated Systems:

  • Synergies between technologies: Combining different bio-based treatment approaches (e.g., anaerobic digestion followed by constructed wetlands) for enhanced efficiency and addressing complex wastewater compositions.
  • Complementary Technologies: Integrating bio-based treatment with conventional methods to achieve specific treatment goals or handle fluctuations in wastewater characteristics.

3. Research, Development, and Innovation:

  • Improving Process Efficiency: Ongoing research to optimize bio-processes, develop more efficient microbial cultures, and enhance resource recovery techniques.
  • New Technologies: Investing in pilot projects and testing emerging technologies like MFCs, advanced algal systems, and innovative reactor designs.
  • Waste Stream Exploration: Identifying new waste streams with the potential for resource recovery through bio-based treatment (e.g., specific industrial effluents).

4. Partnership and Collaboration:

  • Across the Value Chain: Forming partnerships between technology providers, service providers, engineering firms, and end-use industries to streamline project development.
  • Joint Ventures: Collaborating for large-scale bio-based wastewater treatment projects, combining expertise and resources for successful implementation.
  • Knowledge Sharing: Participating in industry associations and forums to exchange best practices and foster a supportive environment for innovation in the sector.

5. Government Advocacy and Support:

  • Policy Engagement: Working with government and regulatory bodies to shape favorable policies, financing mechanisms, and incentives that promote bio-based wastewater treatment adoption.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPP): Exploring PPP models for collaborative development and operation of bio-based treatment facilities.


In conclusion, the bio-based wastewater treatment sector in India represents a promising avenue for addressing water scarcity, environmental sustainability, and industrial growth. With the market projected to grow substantially and estimated to reach USD 2.5-3 billion by 2025, there is a clear imperative to invest in innovative technologies and strategic initiatives. While challenges such as variable wastewater characteristics and fragmented industry landscape exist, emerging trends like advanced biological processes, decentralized solutions, and resource recovery strategies offer pathways for overcoming these hurdles. By fostering collaboration, promoting research and development, and advocating for supportive policies, India can harness the potential of bio-based wastewater treatment to achieve both environmental objectives and economic prosperity in the years ahead.

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