Sequence Batch Reactor (SBR)

NaWaTech Technical Note

Compiled by:
Jose Luis Bribian (Bioazul S.L.), Angela Magno (Bioazul S.L.), Pilar Zapata (Bioazul S.L.), adapted from: Dorothee Spuhler (seecon international gmbh)

Executive Summary

Activated sludge reactors are aerobic suspended-growth type processes. Large amounts of injected oxygen allow maintaining aerobic conditions and optimally mixing the active biomass with the wastewater to be treated. Activated sludge systems are highly efficient for organic matter and nutrient removal, though pathogen removal is low. In the view of reuse of the effluent in agriculture, it is not beneficial to remove all nutrients while standards for pathogen removal are barely met.

The contents of this factsheet are results of the Indo-European Project NaWaTech- “Natural Water Systems and Treatment Technologies to cope with Water Shortages in Urbanised Areas in India”, co-financed by the EC and the DST – India.

Design and Construction Principles

F9 Sequencing Batch Reactor
Sequencing Batch Reactor


The Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR) is a different configuration of the conventional activated sludge systems, in which the process can be operated in batches, where the different conditions are all achieved in the same reactor but at different times. The treatment consists of a cycle of five stages: fill, react, settle, draw and idle. During the reaction type, oxygen is added by an aeration system. During this phase, bacteria oxidise the organic matter just as in activated sludge systems. Thereafter, aeration is stopped to allow the sludge to settle. In the next step, the water and the sludge are separated by decantation and the clear layer (supernatant) is discharged from the reaction chamber (ASANO et al. 2007). Depending on the rate of sludge production, some sludge may also be purged. After a phase of idle, the tank is filled with a new batch of wastewater (UNEP and MURDOCH UNIVERSITY 2004). At least two tanks are needed for the batch mode of operation as continuous influent needs to be stored during the operation phase. Small systems may apply only one tank. In this case, the influent must either be retained in a pond or continuously discharged to the bottom of the tank in order not to disturb the settling, draw and idle phases. SBRs are suited to lower flows, because the size of each tank is determined by the volume of wastewater produced during the treatment period in the other tank (UNEP and MURDOCH UNIVERSITY 2004). Pollutants removal efficiency: BOD5: 95%, COD: 90%, TSS: 95%, Pathogen: N/A.

Operation and Maintenance

Mechanical equipment, such as pumps, aerates and mixers, require continuous maintenance and control, and supply of oxygen and sludge is essential (WSP 2008). Control of concentrations of sludge and oxygen levels in the aeration tanks is required and technical appliances (e.g. pH-meter, temperature, oxygen content, etc.) need to be maintained carefully. To make sure that optimal living conditions for the required bacteria are guaranteed and a satisfying effluent quality is met, the influent as well as the effluent should be supervised and controlled constantly (e.g. by a centralised computerised monitoring system).

Cost Considerations

Construction and maintenance costs are high as activated sludge treatment units are highly mechanised. Operation costs have been usually expensive due to the requirement of permanent professional operation, high electricity consumption (pumping and aeration) and costly mechanical parts (SANIMAS 2005), but in the last years the development of cheaper and more energy efficient equipment has reduced significantly the operational cost.

Experiences in Europe and other Cities of the World

Fill-and-draw batch processes similar to the SBR are not a recent development as commonly thought. Between 1914 and 1920, several full-scale fill-and draw systems were in operation. Interest in SBRs was revived in the late 1950s and early 1960s, with the development of new equipment and technology. Improvements in aeration devices and controls have allowed SBRs to successfully compete with conventional activated sludge systems.

The Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR) process has been successfully applied to more than 1,300 plants in the U.S., Canada, and Europe within the last 25 years. In particular, the number of SBR plants in North America is growing rapidly. Many of these facilities have been constructed for small communities, producing less than 4,500 m3/d of wastewater, although larger plants (up to 870,000 in Dublin, Ireland) have used SBR technology with similar effluent quality results (TOPRAK 2005).

Further examples of the compact design of the SBR process can be found in Bangkok, Thailand (average daily flow of 200,000 m3/d and peak flow of 500,000 m3/d) utilise tanks stacked on 4 levels to achieve a treatment plant footprint of 6,000 m2.

Experiences in India

  • Mundhwa Sewage Treatment Plant, Pune, India. The results are yet to be available as a published source, but it is stated that the raw BOD, SS and TKN of 205, 262 and 45 mg/l are reduced to less than 10 mg/l with phosphorous being 2.3 in the inlet and 0.7 in the outlet. The raw sewage MPN Faecal coliform of 230,000/100 ml was reduced to 7,500/100 ml but was still much higher than the NRCD limitations of 1000/100 ml.
  • Sewage Treatment Plant (SBR) Kalpataru Construction Overseas, Mumbai. Capacity 65 m3/day. For the Commercial and residential building at the Camlin compound in Andheri, Mumbai. Sequential Batch Reactor (SBR) was chosen because of its compact footprint and ability to achieve enhanced nutrient removal. Also the output water needed to be used for a multiple of uses – right from toilet flushing, landscaping and cooling towers.
  • Magarpatta City: SBR treating 3,000 m3/d of wastewater produced by the city. The treated water is used for lake recharge and secondary uses.
  • Noida City: SBR built in Noida City to treat 35,000 m3/d of wastewater corresponding to the current and the expected wastewater to be produced by some areas of the city in the next years.


The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme ([FP7/2007-2013]) under Grant Agreement N° [308336] and the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India  DS.O DST/IMRCD/NaWaTech/ 2012/(G).


  • Little land required.
  • High effluent quality.
  • Fully automatised.
  • Resistant against shock-loads and applicable for a large range of organic and hydraulic loading rates.


  • Requires continuous supply of energy.
  • Highly mechanised equipment (control panel).
  • Effluent and sludge might require further treatment.

References Library

ASANO, T.; BURTON, F.; LEVERENZ, H.; TSUCHIHASHI, R.; TCHOBANOGLOUS, G.; METCALF & EDDY Inc. (Editor) (2007): Water Reuse: Issues, Technologies, and Applications. New York: McGraw-Hill.

SANIMAS (Editor) (2005): Informed Choice Catalogue. pdf presentation. BORDA and USAID.

TOPRAK, H. (2005): Sequencing Batch Reactors - 3. Izmir: Dokuz Eylul University. URL [Accessed: 12.05.2013].

UNEP (Editor); MURDOCH UNIVERSITY (Editor) (2004): Environmentally sound technologies in wastewater treatment for the implementation of the UNEP/GPA "Guidelines on Municipal Wastewater Management". The Hague: United Nations Environment Programme Global Programme of Action (UNEP/GPA), Coordination Office.

WSP (Editor) (2008): Technology Options for Urban Sanitation in India. A Guide to Decision-Making. pdf presentation. New Delhi: Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). URL [Accessed: 26.03.2010].

Further Readings Library

Reference icon

GORONSZY, M.S. (1979): Intermittent Operation of the Extended Aeration Process for Small Systems. In: Research Journal of the Water Pollution Control Federation 51, 274-287. Alexandria: Water Environment Federation.

Most small wastewater treatment plants , which are based on the activated sludge or variants of the activated sludge process, are generally designed as smaller versions of large-scale plants but without primary settling facilities.

Reference icon

IRVINE, R.L.; DAVIS, W.B. (1971): Use of Sequencing Batch Reactors for Waste Treatments - CPC International, Corpus Christi, Texas.. Engineering Extension Series No. 140. (= Proceedings of the 26th Industrial Waste Conference, Purdue University). West Lafayette: Anna Arbor Science Publishers. URL [Accessed: 23.03.2015].

This paper represents a six month study of waste characterization and design criteria for effluent discharges from two widely different processes involved in the corn refining wet milling industry.

Reference icon

IRVINE, R.L.; WILDERER, P.A.; FLEMMING, H.C. (1997): Controlled Unsteady State Processes and Technologies. An Overview. In: Water Science and Technology 35, 1-10. Amsterdam: Elsevier Ltd.. URL [Accessed: 23.03.2015].

The mass of contaminants present in domestic and industrial wastewaters, in leachates, groundwaters, and in soils naturally varies with either time or space. These natural and sometimes severe variations are coupled with the uncertainties associated with direct exposure to the environment. In the face of such an unsteadystate behavior, facilities used for the removal of contaminants are often designed with the potentially unrealistic expectation that they can be operated as steady-state systems.

Reference icon

KWAN (2013): Sequencing Batch Reactor. Maharashtra: Environmental Solutions India Pvt. Ltd.. URL [Accessed: 11.05.2013].

M/s.Magarpatta Township Development And Construction Co. Ltd has entrusted the prestigious job of Sewage Treatment Plant for their township with Sequential Batch Reactor technology for 3000 cu.m/day. The treated water is used for lake recharge and secondary uses.

Reference icon

TILLEY, E.; LUETHI, C.; MOREL, A.; ZURBRUEGG, C.; SCHERTENLEIB, R. (2008): Compendium of Sanitation Systems and Technologies. Duebendorf, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG) and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC). URL [Accessed: 15.02.2010].

This compendium gives a systematic overview on different sanitation systems and technologies and describes a wide range of available low-cost sanitation technologies.

See document in FRENCH

Reference icon

UNEP (Editor) (2004): A Directory of Environmentally Sound Technologies for the Integrated Management of Solid, Liquid and Hazardous Waste for SIDS in the Caribbean Region. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme Global Programme of Action (UNEP-GPA)) and Caribbean Environmental Health Institute (CEHI).

This directory is part of UNEP collaboration with SIDS on the implementation of the Waste Management chapter of the Barbados Programme of Action. It focuses primarily on proven sound environmental technologies for solid, liquid and hazardous waste management plus those currently successfully being used in SIDS within the Caribbean Region.

Reference icon

BARRETO DILLON, L. (Editor); DOYLE, L. (Editor); LANGERGRABER, G. (Editor); SATISH, S. (Editor); POPHALI, G. (Editor) (2013): Compendium of Natural Water Systems and Treatment Technologies to cope with Water Shortages in Urbanised Areas in India. Berlin: EPUBLI GMBH. URL [Accessed: 11.12.2015].

The Compendium of NaWaTech Technologies presents appropriate water and wastewater technologies that could enable the sustainable water management in Indian cities. It is intended as a reference for water professionals in charge of planning, designing and implementing sustainable water systems in the Indian urban scenario, based on a decentralised approach.

Important Weblinks [Accessed: 11.12.2015]

This is the official webpage of the NaWaTech Collaborative Project, containing all key information related to the different case studies, activities and results of the project.