In accordance with the United Nations World Water Development Report 2022, there is rising worldwide worry about the fast depletion of fresh water from streams, lakes, aquifers, and man-made reservoirs, as well as the imminent water stress and shortages faced across the world. Furthermore, altering weather patterns, frequent natural disasters, and abrupt pandemic quakes have exacerbated the problem.

Sustaining long-term economic development is critical in India's transformation into a $5 trillion economy. Water is an important resource in this endeavor. India, which has around 17% of the world's population, has just 4% of the world's freshwater water resources, emphasizing the importance of judicious use and efficient water risk management.

What is the difference between water stress and water risk?

Water stress arises when the demand for water exceeds the available supply during a specific time period or when poor quality limits its usage.

Water Stress Components:

  • Availability
  • Quality
  • Quantity

Water risk is the probability that an entity could face a water-related difficulty (e.g., water shortages, water stress, floods, infrastructure deterioration, drought) as a result of declining water health and ineffective water governance.

What is the Current Situation of Water Management in India?

Current Situation: 

  • India extracts more groundwater than the second and third largest extractors combined (China and the United States). However, only 8% of groundwater pumped in India is utilized for drinking.
  • 80% goes to irrigation
  • The remaining 12% is used for industrial purposes.
  • The NITI Aayog Composite Water Management Index has issued a warning about India's water crisis, with more than 600 million people experiencing acute water shortages.
  • It is also predicted that by 2030, the country's water consumption would be double the existing supply.

Provision of the Constitution - 

Fundamental Rights:

Water is a basic necessity for human living and is part of the right to life as established in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Entry 56 of the Union List:

The central government has the authority to manage and develop inter-state rivers and river valleys to the degree that Parliament deems necessary in the public interest.

Entry 17 on the State List:

Water supply, irrigation, canals, drainage, embankments, water storage, and water power are all included.

Article 262: 

It stipulates that in the event of a water-related dispute:

  • Parliament has the legal authority to settle disputes or complaints about the usage, distribution, or management of interstate rivers or river valleys.
  • By statute, Parliament may provide that no court, including the Supreme Court, shall have jurisdiction over any such dispute or complaint.

Legal Provisions -

1956 Inter-State Water Dispute Act: 

The Inter-State Water Dispute Act allows states to enlist the central government in the formation of an Advisory River Board to settle inter-state cooperation difficulties.

Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution)  Act of 1974: 

It creates an institutional system for preventing and mitigating water pollution while preserving water quality requirements.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is a legislative body established in September 1974 by the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.

What are the Water Management Challenges in India?

Potential Urban-Rural Conflict:

  • Cities are quickly increasing due to rapid urbanization, and a big inflow of migrants from rural regions has raised per capita water usage in cities, prompting water to be shifted from rural reservoirs to urban areas to fill the shortage.
  • Given the decreased trend in urban water levels, cities are expected to rely largely on rural regions for raw water supplies in the future, perhaps sparking a rural-urban conflict.

Dispute Over River Water:

The majority of rivers in India that run through two or more states have been the subject of water-sharing conflicts between the states over their usage, distribution, and management.

The following are some important inter-state river water disputes:

  • Periyar River - Tamil Nadu, Kerala.
  • Cauvery River - Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry.
  • Krishna River - Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana.
  • Narmada River- Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan.

River water conflicts exist in India not just among its states, but also with its neighboring nations.

For Example, the Brahmaputra River in India, China, and the Teesta River- in India, Bangladesh.

Inadequate Waste Water Management: 

  • In a severely water-stressed environment, inefficient wastewater management is preventing India from making the most economical use of its resources. The majority of this water in cities is greywater.
  • In accordance with a recent Central Pollution Control Board report (March 2021), India's present water treatment capacity is 27.3% and its sewage treatment capacity is 18.6% (with another 5.2% capacity being built).
  • Nonetheless, most sewage treatment plants do not operate at full capacity and do not meet the required criteria.

Food Security Threat:

  • Crops and cattle both require water to grow. Water is widely utilized in agriculture for irrigation and is a major source of residential consumption. Food insecurity is anticipated to result from the combination of rapidly dropping groundwater levels and ineffective river water management.
  • Water and food shortages can jeopardize fundamental livelihoods and aggravate social tensions.

Increasing Water Pollution:

A considerable quantity of home, industrial, and mining waste is released into bodies of water, which can cause waterborne infections. Furthermore, water pollution can cause eutrophication, which has a severe influence on aquatic ecosystems.

Groundwater overexploitation:

  • According to the most recent Central Ground Water Board survey, 256 of India's 700 districts indicated critical or overexploited groundwater levels.
  • Wells, ponds, and tanks are drying up as groundwater supplies are being depleted as a result of over-reliance and unsustainable usage. The water issue has worsened as a result.

What Should Be the Next Step?

Groundwater Management that is Sustainable:

    • A suitable system and rural-urban integrated projects for artificial recharge to groundwater and rainfall collection at the household level, conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater, and reservoir control are required.
    • Furthermore, there is a need to upgrade water infrastructure (groundwater wells, dams, storage tanks, pipelines, and so on), which will not only minimize the quantity of clean water squandered but will also assist lower the number of people who are continually looking for clean water on a daily basis.

 

  • Agriculture that is smart:

 

When compared to furrow (flood) irrigation, drip irrigation is a potent technique that may cut water use by 20-40% while boosting crop output by 20-50%.

In water-stressed areas, less water-intensive crops such as pulses, millets, and oilseeds should be cultivated.

 

  • Infrastructure that is Blue-Green:

 

Combining green and blue features in modern infrastructure development may be an efficient means of offering a long-term natural solution for watershed management and environmentally friendly infrastructure.

  • Green indicates: 

gardens, permeable pavements, and green roofs.

  • Blue indicates: 

Blue denotes water bodies such as rivers, canals, ponds, and marshes.

Zone of Water Conservation:

It is necessary to shift the attention to effective water governance and enhanced data discipline on the status of water bodies at the regional, state, and national levels, as well as the establishment of water conservation zones.

Making Use of Modern Water Management Techniques:

Water-related data systems can be integrated with information technology. In addition, developments in science and technology in recent years have made it feasible to clean and safe water that was previously considered unsuitable for eating.

Electrodialysis Reversal (EDR), Desalinization, Nanofiltration, and Solar and UV Filtration are some of the most often employed procedures.