Water scarcity is the biggest concern of India. This year, Chennai and Bengaluru faced a major brunt as monsoon got delayed. About half of India is facing an acute drinking water crisis which demands a serious concern. Last year Niti Ayog released a report which predicts Day Zero for 21 Indian cities by next year. Here Day Zero means the day without drinking water of its own.

The Niti Aayog’s Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) indicates that Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi and Hyderabad are among the most that will soon run out of water. The government has created a new scheme under Jal Shakti ministry to deal with the drinking water scarcity.

Water scarcity

The key reasons behind water scarcity in India

Over-exploitation of groundwater

India is the biggest user of groundwater. The groundwater extraction is more than the combined extraction of US and China.  Groundwater is a source of clean water which provides more than half of the total requirement in the country.

The standing committee on water resources after studying in 2015 found that groundwater constitutes the majority share of India’s agriculture and drinking water supply. About 89% of groundwater is used for irrigation while only 9% for household uses. Then follows the utility industries which is 2%.

The groundwater fulfils the 50 per cent requirement of urban water requirement and 85 per cent of rural domestic water. These exponential use of groundwater has caused such decline in the level of the source.

The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), presented a report in the Lok Sabha last year. The report shows that the overuse of groundwater has led to the decline of water by 61 per cent between 2007 and 2017.

In addition, the ministry of water resource prepared a report which says that rapid urbanisation, rising population, inadequate rainfall and industrialisation as reasons for the sharp decline in groundwater volume in the country.

A team from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur and Athabasca University of Canada conducted a study which said that Indians use an estimated 230 km3 of groundwater every year which is equivalent to over a quarter of the global total.

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Unequal distribution and availability

There is an unequal distribution of water in rural households as compared to rural household. There is 81 per cent of all households have access to 40 litres of water per day through some source. On the contrary, about 18 to 20 per cent of rural households in India have connections for piped water supply. 

The World Health Organisation suggests every day each person must have 25 litres of water to meet all basic hygiene and food needs. In addition, WHO estimates that the extra available water is used for non-potable purposes like mopping and cleaning.

Jal Shakti Ministry has set an ambitious task to provide adequate water to every household through piped water connections by 2024.

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Wastage of water

If we need to consider the data of the Central Water Commission, India requires a maximum of 3,000 billion cubic metres of water a year. However, it receives 4,000 billion cubic metres of rain. Hence, it shows that India is still a water surplus and receives enough annual rainfall to meet the need of over one billion-plus people. 

Unfortunately, only eight per cent of its annual rainfall is captured in ponds which is the lowest in the world. The traditional modes of water conservation in ponds have been lost to the demands of the rising population and liberal implementation of town planning rules.

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About 80 % of the water in India drains out due to poor in treatment and re-use of household wastewater. These wastewaters flow through sewage to pollute other water bodies including rivers and also land.
On the other side, Israel, a country that is located in the desert has proficiently learnt to deal with a water crisis situation.
Israel recycles 94 per cent of its water back to households after treating 100 per cent of its used water. More than half of irrigation in Israel is done using reused water.

Law regulating groundwater

Another factor that leads to overexploitation of groundwater is liberal law regulating the use of it. The Easement Act of 1882 gives every landowner the right to collect and dispose of groundwater and surface water within the limits. Hence, the law is still in operation. Further, the waterfalls that come under the state list of the Constitution are entitled to be framed under the regulatory law by the state government. However, in 2011, the central government published a Model Bill for groundwater management for the states.

But not all the states have passed matching legislation which endorses the doctrine that resources meant for public use cannot be converted into private ownership.

And, finally, loss of wetlands, water bodies

With the expansion of cities and the rising population has led to the drying up and shrinking of water bodies to meet its every escalating needs.

Hence, Chennai is facing acute water shortage. The city had nearly two dozen of water bodies and wetlands, however, most of them are out of use today. According to a recent assessment, only nine of them could be reclaimed as water bodies.

The Wildlife Institute of India carried out a survey which reveals that the country has lost 70-80 per cent of freshwater marshes and lakes in the Gangetic flood plains.
In December 2015, The Standing Committee on Water Resources found that while 92% of the districts in the country had a safe level of groundwater development in 1995. But it came down to 71 per cent in 2011.
On the other hand, the percentage of districts with overexploited state of groundwater level increased from 3 in 1995 to 15 in 2011. Hence, water security has only worsened since then.

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How to solve the problem of water scarcity?

Water scarcity is a major concern for the people of India as the groundwater is depleting and it needs immediate action. Therefore, there are certain preventive measures that we should take before its too late.

1 Decreasing run-off losses:

Allowing most of the water to infiltrate into the soil can prevent water-loss occurs due to run-off on most of the soil. Henceforth, contour cultivation, terrace framing, water spreading, chemical treatment or improved water-storage system helps in solving this issue.

2 Reducing evaporation losses:

The evaporation of water is leading to water shortage. So, If you place horizontal barriers of asphalt below the surface of the soil which will increase water availability and also increase crop yield by 35-40%.

This is more effective on sandy soil than on loamy sand soils. A co­polymer of starch and acrylonitrile called ‘super slumber’ absorbs water up to 1400 times its weight. Hence the chemical is very useful for sandy soils.

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 3 Reducing irrigation losses:

The covered canals that will minimize which will solve the loss of irrigation. Moreover, the evaporation process is low during the early morning or in the late evening. Hence, irrigating your lands during the specific hours can be helpful. The sprinkling irrigation and drip irrigation to conserve water by 30-50%.

4 Re-use of water:

Reusing water through treating wastewater for ferti-irrigation is the best way to solve the problem of water shortage. Re-use water for washings, bath-tubs etc. for watering gardens, washing cars or paths help in saving freshwater.

5. Increasing block pricing:

The consumer has to pay a proportionately higher bill with higher use of water. This helps in the economic use of water by consumers.

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