for sustainable development


Water management for large cities – Example Coimbatore in South India

With 1.7 million inhabitants on about 250 square kilometers, Coimbatore is one of India's typical urban agglomerations. The population of the industrial city in the south of the country is estimated to grow by more than half over the next three decades. Securing water supply and wastewater disposal is considered one of the most pressing problems. In the Smart Water Future India research project, a concept for sustainable water management for Coimbatore has been developed since the end of 2017. In March, scientists, among them researchers of ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, were assessing the water supply and wastewater disposal on-site in India.

Purified water flows into a channel in the secondary clarifier

How can environmental technologies, combined with an intelligent, systemic approach to water management, help secure sustainable water supplies in the world's fast-growing cities? The project team of Smart Water Future India under the leadership of the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB) is developing an according concept and is investigating how the booming cities of India can be supported through cooperation with German partners from science and industry. Coimbatore aims to collect and treat all wastewater by 2045 of which 70 percent is then to be reused and supplemented by rainwater in order to create a stable water supply and wastewater disposal situation.

End of March ISOE water experts stayed in Coimbatore together with their project partners in order to get a more precise picture on-site. The intention was to discuss both opportunities and risks of infrastructure development with local actors, to gather the ideas of Indian practice experts about the future in the water sector and also to discuss alternative approaches. To this end, interviews were conducted with employees of the city administration, private and public companies, with local politicians, scientists and representatives of citizens' groups and non-governmental organizations.

Nexus approach for sustainable resource utilization

In addition, the research team determined how important infrastructure elements of the city are related. Links with other sectors such as the energy sector, but also subject areas of water governance and education in the water sector are examined in more detail. The main focus of intelligent water resources management is to look at the challenges of urban development taking the traditional sectors into account and to find integrated solutions for water and energy supply as well as food security in line with the Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus approach. As a result, specific resource-saving approaches are to be identified that reduce the pressure on local ground and surface water bodies and reveal targeted potentials to urban decision-makers.

The project "Smart Water Future India" is funded by the "Export Initiative Environmental Technologies" of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Construction and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). Project partners in addition to the Fraunhofer IGB and ISOE are the Stuttgart consulting and planning company Drees & Sommer Advanced Building Technologies GmbH and the Cologne-based trAIDe GmbH – partner for international business initiation.

To the project 



Nicola Schuldt-Baumgart

Nicola Schuldt-Baumgart
Head of Knowledge Communication & Public Relations
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-30

Melanie Neugart
Knowledge Communication Consultant,
Media Contact
Tel. 069 707 6919-51

Subscribe ISOE Research News