By 2030, Demand For Water Will Reach Twice The Available Supply In India

“Water is the driving force of all nature” – Leonardo da Vinci.

It is a precious natural resource since it is essential for the survival of life on earth. The demand for water for human consumption is increasing rapidly day by day due to the accumulation of several factors. This crisis of water has recently gained momentum in India along with other developing countries of the world.

By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people.

After two consecutive years of weak monsoon, almost a quarter of the country’s population has been affected by severe droughts. According to Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) of NITI Aayog, 21 major cities including Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, and Hyderabad are racing to zero groundwater levels by 2020, affecting almost 100 million people. The report also states that by 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual 6% loss of country’s GDP.

Various factors are working together in the direction of the water crisis in India. Some of the main reasons are:

  1. Increasing demand: Due to population growth, industrialization, rapid urbanization, increasing needs of irrigation, increase in domestic use, etc. have pushed the demand for water.
  2. Over-exploitation of groundwater and surface water.
  3. Water pollution: Release of industrial and domestic waste into rivers, lakes, and estuaries has polluted freshwater sources at an alarming rate in India. Those freshwater sources are not fit for drinking or other activities.
  4. Delay in monsoon and change in pattern.
  5. Shift in cash crops: Water is being diverted from food crops to cash crops that consume an enormous quantity of water.
  6. Deforestation and mismanagement of wetlands.

The water crisis has impacted India severely as is evident from the fact that nearly 50% of India is grappling with drought-like conditions prevailing particularly in western and southern states this year.

Some of the long term impacts include:

  • Reduction in economic growth.
  • Unavailability of water for irrigation, leading to poor production and agricultural crisis.
  • Shortage in power supply.
  • Scarcity of drinking water.
  • Climate change.

Looking at the current situation, there is a need for a paradigm shift. A recovery-based closed-loop system is the need of the hour. Some of the solutions which could be effective in dealing with the water crisis are listed below:

Rainwater Harvesting: India receives enough rainwater annually during monsoon. So rainwater harvesting should be encouraged in large scale, particularly, in cities where surface runoff of rainwater is very high. Rooftop rainwater can also be used to recharge groundwater by digging percolation pits around the house and filling it with gravels.

Moreover, traditional practices of rainwater harvesting like Jhalara, Bandhi, Bawari, Taanka, Ahar Pynes, Johads, Panam Keni, Khadin, Baoli, Bhandara Phad, Kulhs, Bamboo Drip Irrigation, etc., should be promoted on pan India basis.

2. Discouraging wasteful activities

3. Crop Diversification as a solution to reduce water usage in agriculture.

4. Micro-irrigation such as drip irrigation, sprinkler irrigation should be promoted.

5. Conservation techniques like zero-tillage, raised-bed planting, and precision have shown good results in soil and water conservation but need further improvement in technology for wider acceptance.

6. Organic and nature-based farming: Studies have shown that organic farming conserves water by requiring less water in irrigation, and also helps in improving the water-storage capacity of soil by improving its health.

7. Use of wastewater: More than 50% of wastewater can be reused.

8. Aquifer recharge and rainwater conservation through community ponds and recharge wells should be promoted with the involvement of gram sabhas. Lessons can also be drawn from the work of Sankalpa Rural Development Society (SRDS) which has been training farmers of Karnataka on the revival of defunct borewells.

It is important to understand that managing the water situation is not the government’s job only, all stakeholders including hydrogeologists, economists, planners and most importantly, communities themselves have a huge part to play. Emphasis on behavioural change is not getting enough attention because it is nuanced and complex. By keeping in check our usage and actions, we can contribute.

Participatory governance is needed to govern water resources. India’s rivers and groundwater can be protected only if the integral interconnectedness of catchment areas, rivers, and rural and urban aquifers is properly recognized.

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