As water scarcity becomes an increasingly pressing issue in India, this article explores potential solutions for creating a water-secure future, including innovations in technology, conservation efforts, and policy changes. The article draws on expert opinions and current research to provide actionable steps for individuals and organizations to address the water crisis in India.
The NITI Aayog’s 2018 Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) paints a bleak picture of India’s macro-water availability. Total water consumption in India is estimated to rise by 22% and 32% in 2025 and 2050, respectively, with industrial and household sectors accounting for 85% of this growth. Every year, over two lakh people die as a result of poor water, sanitation, and hygiene, and 820 million Indians live in twelve river basins across the nation with per capita water availability near to or less than 1000m3. To solve the coming water crisis and provide water security, a holistic urban water management system that can assist balance biodiversity, limit flood risk and damage, provide for sustainable and resilient communities, promote SDGs, and serve the needs of the last person in line is required.
Among the solutions available for this purpose are:
Water body rejuvenation / conservation: The single most effective technique of ensuring a safe source of water is to replenish and restore the health of natural water bodies and wetlands. Cities such as Bengaluru have 210 lakes that occupy 3,622 acres and have a capacity of 35,000 million ft3. Long-term initiatives like Namami Gange are also bearing fruit. Traditional water storage facilities such as vavs and baolis, on the other hand, must be revitalised and maintained for more localised solutions.
Rainwater harvesting: During the last Monsoon, India received 925 mm of rain in just four months. More than 1.19 million water conservation and rainwater harvesting structures have been built in India as of February 2, 2023, representing a portion of the tremendous potential for creating water sources through rainwater harvesting.
Government initiatives: In recent years, tremendous progress has been made in delivering piped water supply and last-mile water delivery. The first-of-its-kind JalJeevan Mission provided tap water to 10.64 crore (55% of rural India’s homes) until November 2022, and more than 15 lakh women were taught to evaluate water quality using field test kits.
Interventions on the internet: Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT) can aid with flood prediction, rain forecasting, water leak detection, wastewater treatment, and rainfall harvesting. AI systems may analyse data from recycling plants and recommend strategies to minimise energy use by up to 30%, so adding to overall sustainable practises.
Groundwater depletion: Because agriculture consumes the majority of groundwater, the World Bank has been backing creative programmes aimed at rural communities. Examples include the Atal Bhujal Yojana, the world’s biggest community-led groundwater management initiative, and Paani Bachao, Paisa Kamao in Punjab, which resulted in water savings ranging from 6 to 25% without compromising production. With states such as West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam, and Manipur reporting significant levels of arsenic in groundwater, decontamination operations would have to be included in the plan.
Water shortage in India is caused by a confluence of factors including the environment, population, governance, health, and well-being. 163 million people in the nation continue to live without access to clean water, and 0.2 million people die each year as a result of poor water, sanitation, and hygiene. The population density in Indian cities is disproportionately high, with 30 of them facing a serious water crisis, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). To overcome this, governments must use systems thinking and develop public-private partnerships (PPPs) that can be effective by including communities, donors, business stakeholders, and raising awareness.