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Treated Effluent Water for Irrigation: TDS Limits, Applicable laws.

What levels of TDS are acceptable for Treated Effluent Water from Oil Refineries and Petrochemical Industries (that meets the new norms in terms of other quality parameters, Quality conforming to the New Environment Protection Amendment Rules 2008, effective from March 18, 2008) to be used as irrigation water. Is there any prevailing standard for the same? There is no  specific crop and should apply to all.

Also, do we still have a Limiting Value for TDS (2100ppm previously),  that has now been omitted in the current amendment?

Vikram Singh



1. Dear Vikram Singh, As per

Dear Vikram Singh, As per my understanding, most countries- including India do not have any prescribed standards for irrigation water and farmers continue to use the poorest and the hazardous qualities of water for irrigation. (See 20th August 2008, Newspapers highlighting IWMI Report on Use of Wastewater in developing countries also available at

However Guidelines are available for use of saline and alkali waters for crop production. Regards Bharat R. Sharma Senior Agril Water Management Specialist and Head International Water Management Institute -South Asia Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research New Delhi


Dear Vikram Singh,

I am not aware of the amended norms. Since the waters under question are treated waters from oil refinery, it is essential to first get the waters tested for various chemical components. Irrespective of the norms permitted one has to first know these specific details and details of soil structure, texture etc of the land to be irrigated to select proper cropping pattern.


Dr. P Ramachandra Reddy
Emeritus Scientist
National Geophysical Research Institute


Dear Vikram Singh,

As per IS code, the tolerance limit of TDS for industrial effluents discharged for irrigation purpose is 2100 ppm. I think it should be followed.


S. Halder
Assistant Engineer (Agri- Irri)
Water Investigation & Development Department
Government of West Bengal

4. What is the effluent TDS for water with TDS of 4500 to 18000mg/l

Dear Sir

According to the code, the limit is 2100mg/l for CETP as well as irrigation. Kindly tell me, what if a person is using raw water of TDS more than 2100? I live in Jodhpur. In a nearby town, Balotra textiles use water of TDS 4500 to 18000 mg/l . What will be its effluent TDS.

Please tell me as people are suffering there and I am very much bothered about it.

Thanks and regards

5. Dear Vikram Singh, As per

Dear Vikram Singh, As per Schedule II inserted to The Environmental (Protection) Rules, 1986 of the Ministry of Energy and Forests on 12th September 1988, TDS in industrial effluents released to join inland surface water bodies, public sewers, and irrigated lands should not exceed 2100 mg/L. But, this parameter has been completely deleted in Schedule VI inserted to the same Rules on 19th May 1993 but modified on 31st December 1993 (Page 460). What is stated above is also true with standards for liquid effluent released from oil refinery and petrochemicals as per the EPA Notification [G.S.R. 742(E) dated 30th August 1990. This deletion has been made on the basis that TDS is often enhanced by geological factors and release of high-TDS domestic and agricultural effluents and it is not justified to penalise industries for that purpose. Despite this deletion, many State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB) still stipulate a TDS limit of 2100 mg/l while issuing Consent Orders to industries.

I invite your attention to a similar question posed by me together with the answers received at mg/L obtained by multiplying EC with 0.64), Sodium Adsorption Ratio (SAR) (i.e., sodium divided by the square root of mean of calcium and magnesium all expressed in meq/L) under 26 and Boron under 2 mg/L are well suited for irrigation. U.S. Salinity Laboratory in 1954 rated irrigation water on the basis of both salinity hazard and sodium hazard. As per that, water with an EC of over 2250 microS/cm and an SAR of over 26 is unsuitable for irrigation. Noting that waters with much higher EC and SAR could be successfully used for irrigation in parts of Haryana and Rajasthan, the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute at Karnal (CSSRI) has given the following revised rating of irrigation waters. 1. Normal water with an EC of less than 1500 microS/cm can be used on most soils for most crops. 2. Low salinity water with an EC between 1500 and 3000 microS/cm can be used for most crops on light- and medium-textured soils and for semitolerant crops on heavy-textured soils. 3. Medium-salinity water with an EC between 3000 and 5000 microS/cm can be used for semitolerant crops on light- and medium-textured soils and for only tolerant crops on heavy-textured soils with reasonably good drainage. 4. Saline water with an EC between 5000 and 10000 microS/cm can be used for tolerant crops on light- and medium-textured soils with excellent drainage, but not on heavy-textured soils. 5. High salinity water with an EC of over 10000 microS/cm is not suitable for irrigation under normal conditions. Halophytes (i.e., salt-loving plants) can still grow in such waters. As far as SAR is concerned, the following revised classification has been proposed by the CSSRI. 1. Normal water with an SAR of under 10 can be used on all soils for all crops. 2. Low-sodium water with an SAR between 10 and 20 poses problems on black and alluvial soils with a clay content of over 30%. 3. Medium-sodium water with an SAR between 20 and 30 is not suitable on heavy soils with low content of calcium carbonate. 4. High-sodium water with an SAR between 30 and 40 poses several problems on heavy soils. 5. Very high-sodium water with an SAR of over 40 in not suitable for irrigation. Plants that can tolerate high-sodium waters can still grow. Hope the information furnished will be of some use to you.

Best wishes, Dr. R. Jagadiswara Rao Retired Professor of Geology Sri Venkateswara University Tirupati, AP 517502

Dr. R. Jagadiswara Rao, Professor of Geology Retired, Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, AP 517502, India

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