Emerging Water Crisis: Quality & Conservation Critical

Emerging Water Crisis: Quality & Conservation Critical
Emerging Water Crisis: Quality & Conservation Critical


The demand for water in India is growing at a rather fast pace at around 2.8% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2010 to 2030, facing a supply gap of 50% by 2030. Thus, water scarcity is inevitable, affecting all sections of society but specially those from the lower segments of society. Records reveal that Indian women spend 150 million-odd days collecting water annually losing an estimated Rs 10 billion (US$ 133 million) in incomes. Most people are unaware that availability of freshwater resources is such aacute problem that with just 4% of freshwater resources, India supports 18% of human population.

Indeed its distressing to note that our cities and towns have grown without planning for water need versus water availability. In 1951, the per capita water availability was about 5177 m3. This has now reduced to about 1486 m3 in 2021 with some regions being water stressed, as per figures with Central Water Commission. A few figures from the World Bank highlight the plight country is facing: 163 million Indians lack access to safe drinking water;210 million Indian lack access to improved sanitation; and 500 children under the age of five die from diarrhea each day in India.

Meanwhile, a recent report of National Statistical Office (NSO) pointed out that less than a quarter of rural households and under two-thirds of urban ones in India reported having piped water for drinking in their houses or yard. Though about 70% of the rural households reported having exclusive access to a latrine, most of these can’t be considered toilets in the sense that we understand. Over 21.3% have no access to a latrine.

The survey called the Multiple Indicator Survey (MIS) was part of the 78th round of National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), which was completed on August 15, 2020. Although the penetration of piped drinking water is abysmal in many States, over 95% of people reported having access to an “improved source of drinking water”. But this ‘improved’ source cannot be considered safe and free from impurities.

As per the report, among major States, Assam, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha are among the worst hit in access to tapped drinking water both in rural and urban households. Similarly, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha have the lowest proportion of rural households with access to an exclusive toilet.

Not India alone but in many parts of the world, 80% cent of the impacts of climate change are felt through water, say experts. Many countries are simultaneously grappling with three major kinds of water crises: “It’s too much, it’s too little or it’s too dirty to use or drink.” Recently, Csaba Kőrösi, President, 77th session of UNGA, called for transformative water management policies and practices to circumvent these conditions, at a media briefing in Geneva.

The fact is that around 97% of the usable freshwater comes from groundwater and the reliance on groundwater is immense and this is true even of India. Nearly half the global urban population today uses groundwater sources to meet their daily needs, according to UN World Water Development Report 2022. As agreed, water is essential for food security, the UNGA President noted. “Around 40% of the grain that we produce by 2030 will have to come from the lands that suffer droughts, more serious than what we are experiencing today.”

In such a critical situation, there have been projections that India would shortly become water stressed. Already most regions in the north, west and south India face severe water crisis during the summer months. And if rainfall is not adequate, the situation becomes quite acute.

This year, experts have already predicted that the El Nino effect would result in drought-like conditions, thereby raising food inflation. Several research reports highlighted the possibility of a drop in agricultural output, keeping inflation high during the current year. As is well known, El Nino and La Nino are climate patterns in the Pacific Ocean. They influence climate conditions worldwide. The US-based National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted a re-emergence of El Nino with a high probability (55-60%) in June-December 2023. This could adversely impact the Indian monsoon during June-October and this view is also shared by Indian meteorologists.

That climate change has affected water supply is evident from the fact that both floods and drought like situations affect the country, almost every year. Now, as predicted by various agencies, there is a likelihood of a drought this year, which will have a strong bearing on food prices and affect the poorer sections of the population. Moreover, the prediction of a heat wave in March ahead of the rabi harvest and initial forecasts of a below normal monsoon this year due to El Nino is further adding to concerns about food inflation.

Keeping the climate factor into consideration, the government has failed to effectively manage water resources, leading to wastage and misallocation of water. The lack of proper infrastructure for water storage, treatment and distribution also contribute to the crisis. The changing weather patterns have resulted in more frequent and intense droughts and floods, further exacerbating the water scarcity.

To address the grave situation, India needs a multi-pronged approach that includes effective water management policies, investment in infrastructure for water storage and distribution and promotion of sustainable water use practices. It is also essential to increase awareness and education about the importance of water conservation among the public.

The Government launched many initiatives such as Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA), Catch the Rain Campaign, National Perspective Plan for Water Resources, and Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)-Har Ghar Jal but these have not been effective enough. Under the JSA, it was the government’s goal to improve water availability and even improve the groundwater conditions in the 256 marked water-stressed districts in India. States like Punjab and Haryana have been facing extreme stress on their groundwater level, the water has receded 9.2 meters, which is the highest among all the States in the country.

Thus, rainwater harvesting and wastewater recycling has to be introduced – even made mandatory — at least in offices, institutions and factories where water usage is quite high. Other important measures include strict monitoring and implementation of laws by the government regarding release of chemicals and effluents into rivers, streams, and ponds., NGOs, and social activists are required.

Additionally, lack of on-time de-silting operations in large water bodies is necessary as these can enhance water storage capacity during monsoon. It is surprising that the state governments have not taken this up on priority as an annual practice. This act alone can significantly add to the water storage levels. In sum, there’s need for a concrete plan pertaining to efficient water management and distribution of water between urban consumers, the agriculture sector, and industry.—INFA

The government needs to enhance its investment in technology pertaining to all aspects of water, specially groundwater extraction and water contamination. Moreover all stakeholders need to be included at the planning level to ensure the optimization of existing water resources and also their judicious usage. In fact, there is need for a multi-pronged approach that includes effective water management policies, investment in infrastructure for water storage and distribution and promotion of sustainable water use practices. —INFA


The Dispatch is present across a number of social media platforms. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for exciting videos; join us on Facebook, Intagram and Twitter for quick updates and discussions. We are also available on the Telegram. Follow us on Pinterest for thousands of pictures and graphics. We care to respond to text messages on WhatsApp at 8082480136 [No calls accepted]. To contribute an article or pitch a story idea, write to us at [email protected] |Click to know more about The Dispatch, our standards and policies   
Emerging Water Crisis: Quality & Conservation Critical