MAR 2020  
Green Challenges
Conserving Scarce Water Resources: Dealing with Water Crisis in India

Can a water-stressed country achieve a high economic growth rate, environmental sustainability, and quality of life for its citizens? No, it is not possible. First, we must take care of our water resources and only then achieving the economy target of $5 trillion would be possible. India constitutes 17% of the world’s population but has only 4% of the world’s freshwater resources. More than 75% households do not have access to clean drinking water and nearly 90% rural households don’t have any access to piped water.

As per the Composite Water Management Report of NITI Aayog, each year, 2 lakh people die due to lack of access to clean water and nearly 600 million people of India face high to extreme water stress. India gets on an average 1197 mm of rainfall every year, which is equal to 4000 billion cubic metres (BCM) of total precipitation. However, 3000 BCM are lost due to run-off, and only the remaining 1000 BCM are available as surface and groundwater resources, amounting to around 1000 m3 annually for per capita. When the per capita water availability goes lower than 1700 m3, a water-stressed situation arises, and India has been battling it for the past few years.

India is the world’s largest groundwater extractor and every year, it pumps out around 25% of global groundwater that is utilized in agriculture and domestic sectors. This leads to more than half of India’s districts facing the issue of groundwater depletion and/or contamination.

As per the World Resources Institute Report, India ranks 13 in the world on the national Water Stress Index and we have 5 most water-stressed cities in the world among the list of 20 water-stressed cities where the national capital of India stands second after Tokyo. The water demand of the country is projected to almost double by 2030 and get worsen in the years ahead. In the domestic sector, about three-fourths of the households in the country do not have drinking water in their premises. If the situation remains unchanged, 21 cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020 (NITI Aayog Report). Rural areas are also adversely affected due to a lack of access to clean drinking water. The irrigation sector is the main consumer of water, consuming 80–85% of available freshwater. The irony is-20 million wells in India get free electricity from the state governments. The cultivation of water-guzzling crops (rice and sugarcane) in water-stressed states is another major concern in this sector. Punjab alone consumes three times more water to produce rice than Bihar. Punjab uses 80% of its groundwater to flood its paddy fields. Every year, India exports 10 trillion litres of virtual water through exports of rice. Additionally, as per the State of the Environment Report, India, industrial water demand will rise from 37 BCM in 2010 to 81 BCM by 2050. This growing demand from all the sectors would affect food security and energy supply in the country, and it is expected that there will be a 6% loss in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050.

Water crisis in the country is created by factors such as climate change, water pollution, inefficient use of water across sectors, rapid growth of population, and spatio-temporal variability along with inequitable resource distribution. Due to a change in rainfall patterns, there is an increase in the likelihood of drought and flood. According to the Drought Management Division, Ministry of Agriculture, 4 out of 9 droughts in the last 15 years were severe, which affected millions of lives in the country and had serious impacts on the agriculture-based economy. The Economic Survey of India, 2018 observed if the rainfall level drops by 100 mm in any year, then it that year, a farmer’s income would fall by 15–18%. The frequency of heavy rainfall has also increased. In 2018, around 91 districts in 12 states were affected by floods, crops in an area of 81,147 ha land were damaged, 511 people lost their lives and many were severely injured. The water quality also suffers in areas experiencing an increase in rainfall, further causing problems for the water infrastructure, as sewer systems and water treatment plants are overwhelmed by the increased volume of water. Heavy downpours can increase the amount of run-off in the rivers and lakes, washing sediments, nutrients, pollutants, trash, animal waste, and other materials into water supplies, making them unusable and unsafe.

As per the National Commission for Integrated Water Resources Development (NCIWRD) assessment, the water requirement by 2050 will be 1180 BCM, whereas the present day availability is only 695 BCM. The total availability of water possible in the country is already lower than the future projected demand. Thus, there is an imminent need to deepen our understanding of water resources and usage and put in place strict interventions that would make our water use efficient and sustainable before the $5-trillion economy target.

There is an urgent need to sustain the available water resources to ensure water, food, and energy security for the nation. Water is an essential resource for livelihood activities on a daily basis. It contributes to the economic development of our country and therefore, it must be conserved. Although efforts are being made by the government through various initiatives, there is still a long way to go. Water conservation and efficiency must be the core areas of focus in sustainable water management initiatives across sectors. The short-term and long-term implementation-oriented and evidence-based solutions have to be prioritized in our current water management practices. A few suggestions could be considered on priority for better implementation of water management across sectors. First, create awareness on water conservation and share knowledge of traditional methods of water conservation. We have to work on existing local waterbodies at the panchayat level. A good example to learn from is that under Mission Kakatiya of Telangana, the state has restored 46,000 water tanks.

The use of technologies such as remote sensing and Geographical Information System (GIS) can enable real-time data on water and help sensitize communities in sustainable water resources management. Geo-tagging of water resources such as borewells can monitor groundwater levels on an online platform. States also need to segregate agricultural power feeders so that electricity consumption, particularly for water extraction, can be measured and monitored. Gujarat is a pioneer in effective water management and feeder segregation. At the grassroots level, community participation and community management of water and formation of water users’ association is the need of the hour. In Hiware Bazar village in Maharashtra, communities initiated a watershed management, banned digging of deep borewells, and began water budgeting. It is time to move away from intensive crops such as sugarcane and cotton. The farm sector consumes 84% water in India, and in terms of water efficiency, we occupy the lowest level in the world. Farmers in India use five times more water than farmers in Israel. After the Green Revolution, the agro-climatic pattern of crop production became unbalanced. We need to encourage our farmers to adopt farming methodologies according to agro-climatic patterns. High Minimum Support Price (MSP) and subsidies for producing coarse grains such as jawar, bajra, and ragi will enable better nutrition and more water efficiency in drought-prone areas. Legal framework is another major concern which gives unlimited rights to landowners to extract unlimited groundwater. Maharashtra is the only state in India which controls the extraction of groundwater through proper legislation. Under the Maharashtra Groundwater (Development and Management) Rules, 2018, a proper process must be followed for registration and digging up of a new well. Many municipal corporations such as Indore, Jabalpur, and Gwalior are giving rebate on property tax for rainwater harvesting. In 2018, NITI Aayog launched the Composite Water Management Index, which explains the efforts of every state toward water management and ranks them accordingly. In Maharashtra, to combat water stress, a water conservation scheme named Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan aimed to create water harvesting structures to make almost 11,000 villages drought-free. In Telangana, nearly 17,000 minor water irrigation tanks were restored that helped in supplying collected rainwater to 19 lakh acres of agricultural land.

There are many local examples to learn from, which could help in the sustainable management of water resources. The stress on water resources has been evident for long but the steps needed to overcome this situation should gain momentum as well. One of the primary concerns is to disseminate traditional knowledge and best practices to larger groups of users and mangers for better management of resources. Solutions do exist but these must be implemented too.

Dharmesh Kumar Singh is Research Associate at the Center for Himalayan Ecology (CHE), Water Resources Department, TERI, and Sonia Grover is Fellow at the Water Resources Division, TERI, New Delhi.

© TERI 2020

Nominations open for CSP Today India awards 2013

The inaugural CSP Today India awards ceremony takes place on March 12, and CSP developers, EPCs, suppliers and technology providers can now be nominated.

CSP has made tremendous progress since the announcement of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in 2010. With Phase I projects now drawing closer to completion, the first milestone in India’s CSP learning curve is drawing closer. CSP Today has chosen the next CSP Today India conference (12-13 March, New Delhi) as the time for the industry to reflect upon its progress and celebrate its first achievements.

At the awards ceremony, industry leaders will be recognized for their achievements in one of 4 categories: CSP India Developer Award, CSP India Engineering Performance Award, CSP India Technology and Supplier Award, and the prestigious CSP India Personality of the Year.

Matt Carr, Global Events Director at CSP Today, said at the opening of nominations that “CSP Today are excited to launch these esteemed awards, which will enhance the reputation of their recipients. I am particularly excited to launch the CSP India Personality of the Year award, a distinguished honor for the industry figure deemed worthy by their peers.”

All eyes will be on the CSP Today India 2013 Awards when nomination entry closes on February 4 and the finalists are announced on February 11. The awards are open to all industry stakeholders to nominate until February 4 at or by e-mail to [email protected]

Matt Carr
+44 (0) 20 7375 7248
[email protected]