Smart Water Future India: Intelligent Water Management for India’s Cities

Smart Water Future India (Foto: Stefan Liehr, ISOE)

Environmental technologies combined with an intelligent, systemic approach to water management can help ensure sustainable water supply in the world’s fast-growing cities. The project develops such a concept for the city of Coimbatore in southern India. The aim is to show ways how booming metropolises in India can be supported with the help of German water and wastewater technologies.

Research approach

Taking the southern Indian city of Coimbatore as an example, a concept for the sustainable water management of an intelligently networked city is to be developed. The key to this approach is that the challenges of urban development will not be considered separately by sector. Rather, in the spirit of Nexus Water-Energy-Nutrition, solutions for water supply as well as for energy supply and food security are to be developed, which interact efficiently. A needs analysis forms the basis for the development and implementation of this integrated supply concept. The analysis also provides important indications for export-oriented German companies in the water industry on product development and marketing. In order to stimulate long-term cooperation, the project will also develop a concept for a “Water Innovation Hub” for southern India in close cooperation with representatives of the city of Coimbatore. This platform is intended to enable companies and research institutions from Germany to make their innovative technologies locally known, to test them on a pilot scale, and to further develop them in line with the specific conditions in India. ISOE is responsible for questions on governance, water demand development and training issues.


India’s economy is booming, and rapid migration to cities requires a rapid and sustainable expansion of infrastructures. It is difficult to keep up with urbanization though, especially for water supply, waste and sanitation. The country with the second largest population in the world already has problems with the sufficient provision of drinking water. Many districts are even not connected yet to water supply. Likewise, many urban areas lack sewerage systems and sewage treatment plants. Wastewater is therefore often discharged untreated into rivers and lakes, which provide drinking water for the municipal water supply. The southern Indian city of Coimbatore, with its 1.7 million inhabitants on 257 square kilometres, is a prime example of the more than 50 million cities in the country: around 50,000 households in Coimbatore are not yet connected to the water infrastructure and electricity supply. Forecasts predict that the city’s population will grow by another million over the next 30 years.

“Smart Cities” India

Coimbatore is one of the three “Smart Cities” in India that are supported by Germany. Launched in 2015, the Indian government’s programme for a total of one hundred cities aims to promote new technologies and investments into reliable water and electricity supply, efficient public transport and better education. The city of Coimbatore strives to collect and treat all wastewater by 2045. 70 percent of the water will be reused and rainwater will also be utilized. As in other metropolises, decision-makers in Coimatore need specific recommendations for action in order to sustainably improve water supply and wastewater disposal. At the same time, the high demand for efficient and environmentally friendly solutions in India’s metropolises can facilitate access to the Indian water and wastewater management market for German water companies. For this reason, the project aims to lay the foundation for long-term cooperation and partnerships between German companies and the Indian water industry.

Project partners

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB (project head)
  • Drees & Sommer Advanced Building Technologies GmbH, Stuttgart
  • trAIDe GmbH, Cologne


The Smart Water Future India project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) as part of the “Environmental Technologies Export Initiative”.


Battenberg, Sina/Stefan Liehr/Marius Mohr/Philip Okito/Alyssa Weskamp (2019): Strategic perspectives for Coimbatore water management and infrastructure. Stuttgart et al.: Fraunhofer Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB/ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung/Drees& Sommer Advanced Building Technologies GmbH/trAIDe GmbH

Mohr, Marius/Marc Beckett/Stefan Liehr/Alyssa Weskamp/Philip Okito/Sina Okito (2019): Challenges and solutions for a Smart Water Future in Indian cities - the case of Coimbatore. Watersolutions (4), 32-35

Weskamp, Alyssa/Stefan Liehr/Marius Mohr (2018): Integrated analysis of water management and infrastructure in Coimbatore. Stuttgart et al.: Fraunhofer Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB/ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung/Drees& Sommer Advanced Building Technologies GmbH/trAIDe GmbH


2017/10 – 2019/03