This Bengaluru based startup converts water from Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) into potable high quality water that can be used for household purposes, centralised air conditioning in commercial buildings, and even for drinking.
Every day, Bengaluru produces about 1400 million litres of wastewater, a good part of which ends up in drains and lakes. An internal study by Bengaluru based Boson Whitewater indicates that apartment complexes use only 20% of their STP treated wastewater, while the remaining 80% is let into drains.
This is a common problem in cities across India. For a country that faces severe water shortage year after year, wastewater holds great potential to address water scarcity in our cities.
Boson Whitewater, a water utility company, was founded with an aim to change the way industries, IT Parks, malls, and apartment communities recycle their wastewater. The system offers an 11-step filtering process and is equipped with IoT to allow real-time monitoring of water quality and quantity, as well as remote access for minimal manual intervention.
The Tech Panda spoke to Vikas Brahmavar, Founder, Boson Whitewater, about the inspiration behind the startup’s noble cause.
We are the first company to bring in viability in the circular economy for decentralised wastewater treatment in India
“In India, water management in our cities is based on the quantity of water coming into the city through rainfall. We measure the level of water in our dams and then plan our water distribution. However, with erratic rainfalls, it becomes difficult to entirely depend on rainwater for our water needs,” he explains.
“Boson Whitewater was born purely out of a passion to create a sustainable water infrastructure for the cities of our country,” he says.
What They Do
The input to the Boson Whitewater System is STP treated water, which meets the norms for garden reuse and flushing. The input STP treated water is treated in the following stages:
- Four stages of pre-treatment that removes smell, colour, suspended solids, turbidity (the opaqueness). All stages have pressure and input water quality monitoring devices.
- A specialised membrane-based treatment (two stages) recovers every drop of water with a reverse reuse monitoring mechanism.
- Post treatment (three stages) is designed specific to the customer’s water quality requirement. For example, malls may have a requirement of water for cooling tower reuse, or industries may use it for laundry or any specific water quality requirement.
- The system also has a UV and ozone dosing system in its post-treatment stages.
“At the end of all the stages, the water does not have any contaminants. E Coli, Coliforms, heavy metals, high hardness, pesticides, herbicides are all removed, and the water is crystal clear and potable. NABL certified lab reports indicate the water is drinkable,” says Brahmavar.
The startup currently has the following use cases:
Residential apartment complexes generate anywhere between 30,000-3,00,000 litres of wastewater every day. As per KSPCB (Karnataka State Pollution Control Board), every apartment in Bengaluru is mandated to follow the ‘Zero Liquid Discharge’ policy, which indicates that no untreated water can be released into water bodies.
However, most apartments are unable to comply with this policy, because they have no avenues to discharge their excess treated water.
To address this problem, the Boson Whitewater system converts the unused STP water into high quality potable water, which is then transported to nearby industries through Boson Whitewater’s tanker network.
This approach ensures that apartments are legally compliant and allows them to earn a monthly rental on the Boson Whitewater installation, while also allowing them to manage their excess treated wastewater smartly without impacting the environment.
IT Parks, Malls & Other Commercial Establishments
Even though most commercial buildings treat their wastewater in-house, due to operational efficiency of wastewater plants, they rely on water tankers for their water requirements for air conditioning and cooling towers.
Boson Whitewater system allows malls and IT Parks to convert their STP water into potable high quality water that can be used for cooling towers, air conditioning, and for other purposes. It offers an OPEX model, where commercial establishments can pay for the water they use with no capital investment on the equipment.
The startup operates on a unique model in which commercial enterprises do not have to make an investment. Instead, they simply pay for the water they consume, while the startup handles all maintenance and operations of the equipment.
With its tanker network, industries can now easily buy high quality potable water for all their needs. Furthermore, they can also install the system to convert their current STP water into potable water and become self-sustainable with minimal dependence on water tankers.
Origin & Inspiration
The idea for Boson Whitewater started when Brahmavar used to live in London prior to moving back to India in 2008.
“Almost every day during my working days in London, I would walk to the Tower Bridge for lunch. I was surprised to notice that there was absolutely no smell emanating from the river Thames. It was a stark contrast to some of our lakes in Bengaluru,” he reminisces.
“At the back of my mind, I always had this urge to come back to the country and do something in and around water infrastructure,” he adds.
Brahmavar decided to move back to Bengaluru and work towards creating a sustainable wastewater infrastructure for India’s cities. During the initial years, he focused on non-chemical water treatment. In 2014, he decided to take it a step further and create a larger impact by focusing on recovery of water.
“We realised there are many people who are working on STPs. However, the intention of setting up STP was to meet government norms and not to save water,” he recalls.
After a survey of about 200 apartments he found that only 20% of STP treated water is actually reused for garden and flushing. The remaining 80% is sent to the drain, since there is no avenue to use the excess water.
“We realised that massive volumes of water get completely wasted and this is one of the primary reasons behind pollution of our lakes, excessive borewell exploitation, and water scarcity. Developed cities in other parts of the world plan their water management based on the wastewater going out of the city, as it’s more predictable. They don’t depend on rain to manage their water requirements,” he explains.
In Indian cities, we depend entirely on rainwater for our water requirements. We wanted to change this infrastructure and focus on recovering potable water from wastewater. This is the only way in which our cities can cater to the growing demand for water and become more sustainable
“In Indian cities, we depend entirely on rainwater for our water requirements. We wanted to change this infrastructure and focus on recovering potable water from wastewater. This is the only way in which our cities can cater to the growing demand for water and become more sustainable,” he adds.
The startup created a scalable business model supported by viable technology to create a massive impact in the water infrastructure in our cities.
“We are the first company to bring in viability in the circular economy for decentralised wastewater treatment in India,” he says with pride.
“I started Boson Whitewater with my co-founder Gowthaman Desingh who is also passionate about saving water. Both of us quit our comfortable jobs and started Boson Whitewater to bring viability to water recovery by introducing IoT based data analytics and predictive maintenance,” he says.
The system is remotely monitored by efforts and innovation from Gowthaman. Remote monitoring and IoT allow real-time data on water quality and quantity to be monitored from the office, and workers to be scheduled for service on a need basis rather than being stationed at the site.
One of the initial challenges for the startup was to convince apartments to reuse recycled water for domestic purposes.
“When we use the term ‘recycled water’, most people never think of potability reuse. They always assume that recycled water is purely for secondary use. This is the perception we set out to change. We renamed ‘recycled water’ into ‘Whitewater’. We were happy to find out that many citizen institutions now use the word ‘Whitewater’, says Brahmavar.
“We met about 400+ plus apartments to create awareness and share insights on the possibility of converting any wastewater to very high-quality potable water. We showed them live lab reports from our commercial installation,” he adds.
Despite showing them enough proof and examples, not one apartment agreed to reuse the water for domestic purposes.
When we use the term ‘recycled water’, most people never think of potability reuse. They always assume that recycled water is purely for secondary use. This is the perception we set out to change
“We had a customer who made a remark that drinking recycled water was safe only in Singapore and not in India because they didn’t trust Indian technologies and Indian companies. Changing their mindset was far from easy,” he recalls.
“We instead decided to pursue industries more closely. We found a win-win solution for apartments as well as industries,” he adds.
Most industries rely on water tankers for their fresh water needs. Even though some of them treat their wastewater, they are unable to obtain high quality water due to the operational efficiency of wastewater plants.
“We created a system that allows industries to buy treated high quality wastewater from us through apartments that currently discharge 80% of their treated wastewater,” he says.
The other challenge they faced was from local water tankers.
“Many of them weren’t happy with us recycling wastewater, because most apartments today depend on water tankers to discharge their unused wastewater. We did face stiff opposition from them. We are in the process of making them a part of our water delivery system to industries, making it a win-win for the tankers as well as for us,” he explains.
Boson Whitewater currently works with well known names such as Brigade Orion Mall, RMZ Corp, Soul Space Arena, Vakil Housing and Development Corporation, and many others. The startup has recently raised US$4.58K in funding from the Indian Angel Network.
The currently installed capacity of the system from 2020 is about 34 crore litres of water per year. Brahmavar says the startup would be touching 50 crore litres of water savings by December this year.
“We are targeting 500 crore litres over the next three years. Our system directly enables saving of water. If Boson Whitewater was not set up in those places, the entire 34 crore litres of water would have gone directly to the drains without any use. At Boson Whitewater, we ensure that the most precious resource is efficiently reused,” he says.
In this financial year, Boson Whitewater wants to establish its system at ten large apartments, saving about 50 crore litres of water. It also wants to setup similar systems in IT parks and malls. The next financial year it wants to move to Hyderabad and Chennai and focus on similar markets.
“We want to be a water utility company focusing on selling the highest quality of water. Over the next few years with our collaboration and partnership with various citizen forums and industries, we should reach 500 crore litres of water saved in the next three years,” he promises.