Drastic steps needed to avoid water crisis

Drastic steps needed to avoid water crisis

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As per the NITI Aayog estimation, at present 60 crore people in India face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. 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 in the country’s GDP

Water is the most essential input for our survival which is becoming increasingly scarce due to challenges of rising population, rapid urbanization, industrial growth, increasing water pollution and consequent increasing scarcity of Clean and Safe Drinking Water.

The average annual per capita water availability in India in the years 2001 and 2011 was assessed as 1816 cubic meters and 1545 cubic meters, respectively, which may further reduce to 1486 cubic meters in the year 2021. It is estimated to decline further upto 1140m3/year in the year 2050. Reducing per capita water availability is the direct result of our increasing population.

As per the NITI Aayog estimation, at present 60 crore people in India face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. 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 in the country’s GDP.

According to the estimates made by the government, demand for water from various Sectors viz. Irrigation, Drinking Water, Industry, Energy and others is expected to rise from 710 Billion Cubic Metre (BCM) in the year 2010 to 843 BCM in the year 2025 and further to 1180 BCM in the year 2050. According to the India Infrastructure Report, 2011, Irrigation is the largest consumer of water, which accounted for 85 per cent of the water demand in 2010 followed by Domestic Use (6 per cent), Energy Development (3 per cent), and Industries (6 per cent). The demand for water in the Domestic Sector will grow 2.6 times, Energy 3.7 times, and Industry 2.2 times during 2010–50.

Census 2011 makes some startling revelations about the drinking water availability for urban households. Though 70.6 per cent of the urban household had access to tap water in 2011, rest are dependent on Covered Wells, Uncovered Wells, Handpumps/Tube wells/Borewells for their water needs.

Drinking water availability in Urban Areas (As per Census 2011)

Total no .of Households78,865,937
Households getting tapped water55,702,01170.6%
Households getting treated water48,904,34362.0%

Heavy dependence on Privately Extracted Ground Water is driving down water table in most of the Cities. Ground water table in 21 Major Cities including Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad is expected to reach Zero Level by 2021 affecting access for 100 million people. Recycling/reuse of waste water is the need of the hour, and the government needs to take appropriate measures to reduce dependence on fresh water.

The use of grey water to increase the availability of potable water supplies can be taken one stage further by separating black water from grey water and treating it centrally before combining it with grey water for secondary treatment. This water can then be mixed with storm water and held in a storage pond for further treatment before being recycled back to households as reclaimed water for non-potable uses. This approach requires each household to be piped to receive both potable and non-potable services; thus, considerable costs may be incurred. However, the potential benefits are considerable. Potable resources can now be reserved for their most valuable purpose – human consumption. This type of approach is not limited to households. Many types of industry, golf courses, and even cooling systems can also use recycled or grey water with very few or no difficulties.

Steps are also required to be taken to reduce the use of water that can be achieved through a combination of water conservation measures, controls on accessibility, price structuring, constraints on abstraction, and legal tools. Further, there is need to educate people about the significance of these measures.

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