• Water is a cyclic resource with abundant supplies on the globe. Approximately, 71 per cent of the earth’s surface is covered with it but freshwater constitutes only about 3 per cent of the total water.
  • India accounts for about 2.45 per cent of the world’s surface area, 4 per cent of the world’s water resources and about 16 per cent of the world’s population.
  • The total water available from precipitation in the country in a year is about 4,000 cubic km.
  • India experiences an average precipitation of 1170 mm per year.
  • The availability from surface water and replenishable groundwater is 1,869 cubic km.
  • Out of this only 60 per cent can be put to beneficial uses.
  • Thus, the total utilizable water resource in the country is only 1,122 cubic km.


  • Water Resources of India
    1. Surface Water Resources
    2. Ground Water Resources


Surface Water Resources
  • There are four major sources of surface water à These are rivers, lakes, ponds, and tanks.
  • The mean annual flow in all the river basins in India is estimated to be 1,869 cubic km.
  • However, only about 690 cubic km (37 per cent) of the available surface water can be utilized because:
  • Over 90% of annual flow of the Himalayan rivers occur over a four-month period.
  • Potential to capture such resources is complicated and limited by suitable storage reservoir sites.


Ground Water Resources
  • The total replenishable groundwater resources in the country are about 432 cubic km.
  • Ganga and the Brahmaputra basins, have about 46 per cent of the total replenishable groundwater resources.
  • The level of groundwater utilization is relatively high in the river basins lying in north-western region and parts of south India.
  • The groundwater utilisation is very high in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu.
  • However, there are States like Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Kerala, etc., which utilize only small proportion of their groundwater potentials.
  • India also relies excessively on groundwater resources, which accounts for over 50% of irrigated area with 20 million tube wells installed.
  • India has built nearly 5,000 major or medium dams, barrages, etc. to store the river waters and enhance ground water recharging.


Water Demand and Utilization
  • Agriculture accounts for most of the surface and ground water utilization, it accounts for 89 per cent of the surface water and 92 per cent of the groundwater utilization.
  • While the share of industrial sector is limited to 2 per cent of the surface water utilisation and 5 per cent of the ground-water.
  • The share of domestic sector is higher (9 per cent) in surface water utilization as compared to groundwater.
Deterioration of Water Quality

Major water quality deterioration factors:

  • Water scarcity
  • Pathogenic pollution
  • Leaching of chemicals in groundwater
  • Oxygen depletion and eutrophication
  • Salinity and alkalinity
  • Toxicity
Central Ground Water Board

It is a subordinate office of the Ministry of Water Resources and is the National Apex Agency entrusted with the responsibilities of providing scientific inputs for management, exploration, monitoring, assessment, augmentation and regulation of groundwater resources of the country. It was established in 1970



Types of pollution sources:

  • Types of pollution sources
    1. Point source pollution
    2. Non-point source of Pollution


Point source pollution – Source can be identified:

Ø Domestic wastewater

Ø Industrial wastewater


Non-point source of Pollution –

Sources cannot be identified:

Ø Rural and slum pollution, open defecation, garbage etc

Ø Agricultural runoff

Ø Storm water

Ø Deposition of Air pollutants.

Some other pollutants:


Ø Heavy metals

Ø CoD & BoD

Ø Flooding during monsoon


Water Scarcity
  • Water scarcity is the lack of freshwater resources to satisfy water demand. It is manifested by partial or no satisfaction of expressed demand, economic competition for water quantity or quality, disputes between users, irreversible groundwater depletion, and negative effects on the environment.
  • One-third of the global population (2 billion people) live under situations of severe water scarcity at least one month of the year.


Measure of water scarcity
  • The water availability declines below 1000 cu. meters, the country will suffer from chronic water scarcity. Lack of water will then start to severely affect human health and well-being as well as economic development.
  • If the annual per capita supply declines below 500 cu. meters, the country will reach the stage of absolute scarcity.


Falkenmark Indicator or Water Stress Index

  • It is one of the most commonly used measures of water scarcity.
  • It defines water scarcity in terms of the total water resources that are available to the population of a region; measuring scarcity as the amount of renewable freshwater that is available for each person each year.
  • If the amount of renewable water per person per year in a country is:
    • Below 1,700 m3, the country is said to be experiencing water stress.
    • Below 1,000 m3,it is said to be experiencing water scarcity.
    • Below 500 m3,it is experiencing absolute water scarcity.



Water Crisis in India

  • Water crisis is the difficulty of obtaining sources of fresh water for use due to depletion and deterioration of available water resources.
  • Water shortages may be caused by climate change, such as altered weather patterns including droughts or floods, increased pollution, and increased human demand and overuse of water.

In addition, water scarcity in India is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by year 2050.

Causes for Water Stress in India
  • Population growth leads to high water demand both by households and agriculture.
  • Large agricultural sector accounts for most of the water use in India leaving less resources for industry and households.
  • Rapid urbanization: High water demand by the dense population living in cities in India is causing stress on groundwater and surface water resources.
  • Climate change: Climate change will have significant impacts on water resources in Himalayas and monsoonal rainfall.
  • Rising temperatures will increase evaporation and lead to increases in precipitation, though there will be more stark regional variations in rainfall.
  • Both droughts and floods may become more frequent in different regions at different times, and dramatic changes in snowfall and snow melt are expected in mountainous areas.
  • Depletion of aquifers: Due to the expanding human population, many of the world’s major aquifers are becoming depleted. due both for direct human consumption as well as agricultural irrigation by groundwater.
  • Pollution and water protection: Many pollutants threaten water supplies, but the most widespread, especially in developing countries, is the discharge of raw municipal sewage, untreated industrial waste and agricultural runoff carrying pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers into natural waters.
  • Although India has made improvements over the past decades to both the availability and quality of municipal drinking water systems, its large population has stressed planned water resources and rural areas are left out.


A recent report by the Central Water Commission and ISRO asserted that India is not yet in “water scarcity condition”, but in a “water-stressed condition”, with reducing per capita water availability.


Consequences of Water Crisis
  • Increased International Conflict: Indian freshwater resources in Himalayas are crucial for Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tibet, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar etc. as well. Prolonged water stress may lead to international conflicts.
  • Lack of Access to Clean Water: Only 33% of the country has access to traditional sanitation. Without access to clean freshwater, these vulnerable populations are exposed to deadly water-borne illnesses and water gathering can limit educational and economic opportunities
  • Food Shortages: With a global population on pace to reach 6 billion by 2050, shrinking water resources will make it difficult for food production to keep up with rising demand. The United Nations warns that political turmoil, social unrest, civil war and terrorism could result from food shortages unless food production is increased by 60% by 2050. Agriculture already accounts for about 70% of global freshwater withdrawals to keep up with current food demand
  • Energy Shortages: World energy requirements are rapidly increasing with modernization and population growth; however, energy production is one of the world’s greatest consumers of freshwater resources. In the United States, thermoelectric power plants accounted for 38% of freshwater withdrawals in 2010. Global electricity demand is projected to grow 70% by the year 2035 with India and China accounting for half of the growth.
  • Economic Slowdown: The United Nations estimates that half of the world’s population will live in areas of high-water stress by the year 2030. It is difficult to have a thriving economy when fresh water is not easily accessible for industrial, farming, and individual use. Production of water-intensive goods like cars, food, and clothing could be limited by lack of freshwater resources.
  • In addition, rapid growth in India’s urban areas has stretched government solutions, which have been compromised by over- privatization leading to exclusion of urban poor from formal water supply.


Solutions To Water Crisis
  • CO2 cleaning: Water is used in many industrial applications, sometimes as a wet coolant or cleaning agent on a grand scale. CO2 cleaning involves the use of carbon dioxide in solid form, highly propelled dry ice particles out of a nozzle to clean a variety of different surfaces.
  • Put a realistic price on water: We charge so little for it, yet it costs so much to manage, that there’s little motivation to address the pressing needs of the aging water infrastructure.
  • Educate to change consumption and lifestyles: In the end, changing the face of this crisis involves education to motivate new behaviours. Coping with the coming era of water scarcity will require major overhaul of all forms of consumption.
  • Invent new water conservation technologies: In areas where aquifers are drying up and rainwater is increasingly unpredictable, innovation is needed.
  • Recycle waste water
  • Solar-powered water purifiers: Hot climates suffer from water shortage the most. Deepika Kurup invented a way to use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in containers that expose it to ultraviolet radiation and cleanse the water, making it suitable to drink.
  • Improve irrigation and agricultural practices: Some 70 percent of the world’s freshwater is used for agriculture like drip irrigation, sprinkle irrigation, less extraction of ground water.
  • Develop energy efficient desalination plants: To date, desalination has been an energy- intensive solution to water scarcity. Typically, the Middle East has capitalized on its large energy reserves to build desalination plants. But Saudi Arabia could be fostering a new kind of desalination with its recent announcement to use solar-powered plants.
  • Improve water catchment and harvesting: Rainwater harvesting is a method to capture and store rainwater for various uses. It is also used to recharge groundwater aquifers. It is a low cost and eco-friendly technique for preserving water by guiding the rain water to borewell, pits and wells:
    • Rainwater harvesting increases water availability,
    • Checks the declining groundwater table,
    • Improves the quality of groundwater through dilution of contaminants, like fluoride and nitrates,
    • Prevents soil erosion, and flooding and
    • Arrests salt water intrusion in coastal areas if used to recharge aquifers.
  • Look to community-based governance and partnerships: Community organizations elevate the experiences of those whose voices merit more influence.
  • Improve distribution infrastructure: Poor infrastructure is devastating to health and the economy. It wastes resources, adds costs, diminishes the quality of life, and allows preventable water-borne diseases to spread among vulnerable populations.
  • Address pollution: Measuring and monitoring water quality is essential to human health and biodiversity.
  • R&D / Innovation: Access to water in a water- scarce world will become a much higher priority in business decisions. Communities are likely to pursue public-private partnerships that draw on the innovative capacities of companies. One example— cities that operate sewage treatment plants are likely to pursue partnerships with clean energy producers to fertilize algae and other biofuel crops with wastewater.


Measures taken by Government to de-stress Water Crisis:
  • Ministry of Jal Shakti launched ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan’– campaign for water conservation and water security. The campaign run through citizen participation while focus on water-stressed districts and blocks in the country.
  • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchay Yojana (PMKSY) – ‘Har khet ko pani’ and ‘More Crop per Drop’ – focuses on improving water use efficiency.
  • Other measures such as National Water Mission, National Mission for Clean Ganga, Dam Improvement and Rehabilitation Programme, Ground water management, Flood control and Forecast, Biodiversity Conservation, Wetland conservation, Green India Mission, CAMPA, etc.
  • Jal Kranti Abhiyan: The government is making active efforts to revolutionize villages and cities through block-level water conservation schemes. It aims at turning one water scarce village in each district of the country into water surplus water village through a holistic and integrated approach by adopting conservation and management techniques.
  • National Water Mission:
    • The Government of India has launched the National Water Mission with the objective of conservation of water, minimizing wastage and ensuring more equitable distribution both across and within states through integrated water resources development and management.
    • One of the objectives of the Mission is to increase the water use efficiency by 20%.
  • The new ‘Jal Shakti’ Ministry is formed by merging erstwhile two ministries, namely:
    • Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
    • Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation
  • Atal Bhujal Yojana – Aims to promote sustainable ground water management with community participation in select over-exploited and water stressed areas.
  • Restructured Natioanal Rural Drinking Water Programme – Improving coverage of piped drinking water in rural areas. Increase level of service delivery. Thrust on coverage of water quality affected habitations.


Government of India has restructured and subsumed the ongoing National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) into Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) to provide Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) to every rural household i.e., Har Ghar Nal Se Jal (HGNSJ) by 2024.


Water Conservation
  1. Enhance water availability: it is achieved by focusing on the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems, increasing green cover, managing riparian forest buffers, adoption of diversified agriculture, water budgeting, recycling and re-use.
  2. Improve water quality: by effective law enforcement and stringent regulations, pollution control, restrictions on pouring of sewage, urban waste, industrial wastes, establishment of STPs and water treatment plants and adoption of bioremediation techniques.
  3. Reducing water-related risks: adoption of integrated watershed management programme, flood control mechanisms, climate resilient agriculture, promotion of alternate income activities and sustainable livelihoods and disaster management.

Mihir Shah Committee Report for India’s Water Reforms

Restructuring the CWC and CGWB’ has recommended for the formation of a new National Water Commission (NWC) to be established as the nation’s apex facilitation organization dealing with water policy, data and governance.


GIWEH (Input to the 2030 Agenda)




  1. Administrative
  2. Social
  3. Economic
  4. Political



  1. Water Management
    • Quality; quantity: supply-demand; sanitation drought and flood protection waterborne diseases
  2. Innovation and Technology
  3. Equity
    • Gender, affordability, rural and urban regions
  4. Water Use
    • Allocation: water and energy: water and food; trans-boundary water
  5. Ownership
  6. Standardization
Best water conservation practices
  • In Rajasthan, there is a scheme called ‘Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan’. One of its objectives is to ensure effective implementation of water conservation and water harvesting related activities in rural areas.
  • Maharashtrahas launched a project called ‘Jalyukt-Shivar’, which aims to make 5000 villages free of water scarcity every year.
  • The Telangana government has launched a mission called “Mission Kakatiya”, the objective of which is to enhance the development of agriculture-based income for small and marginal farmers, by accelerating the development of minor irrigation infrastructure, strengthening community-based irrigation management and adopting a comprehensive programme for restoration of tanks.


Facts about water

  • 70% of India’s water is contaminated.
  • 75% of households do not have drinking water on its premises.
  • 84% of rural households do not have access to piped water.
  • 54% of the country’s groundwater is declining rapidly than it is being replenished.
  • Chennai witnessed the worst drinking water woes.
  • Nearly half of the country (around 600 million people) face severe water scarcity with around 2 lakh people dying every year due to inadequate access to potable water.


Availability of Water in India
  • India receives an average rainfall of about 1170 mm which corresponds to an annual precipitation of about 4000 BCM(Billion Cubic Meter) including snowfall.
  • For instance, on the one side, there are water surplus states such as Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and on the other side, there are water scarce states such as Maharashtra (Vidarbha, Beed), Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and parts of Gujarat.
  • The groundwaterin most of the parts of northwestern India is now available at 100 meters below the ground.


Central Water Commission (CWC)

  • Central Water Commission is a premier Technical Organisation in the country in the field of water resources.
  • It is charged with the general responsibilities of initiating, coordinating and furthering, in consultation with the State Governments concerned, schemes for control, conservation and utilization of water resources throughout the country, for purpose of Flood Control, Irrigation, Navigation, Drinking Water Supply and Water Power Development.

NITI Aayog Composite Water Management Index:
  • With the objective of achieving effective utilization of water, NITI Aayog has developed the Composite Water Management Index.
  • The index revolves around issues ranging from water scarcity and related morass like deaths due to lack of access to safe water, its projected increase in demand over the years and finding ways for its effective conservation.
  • A tool for water management’ stated that 21 major cities are expected to run out of groundwater as soon as 2020, affecting nearly 100 million people.
  • Establish a clear baseline and benchmark for state-level performance on key water indicators.


Indicator themes and weights

No. Themes Weights
1 Source augmentation and restoration waterbodies 5
2 Source augmentation (Groundwater) 15
3 Major and medium irrigation-Supply side management 15
4 Watershed development-Supply side management 10
5 Participatory irrigation practices- Demand side management 10
6 Sustainable on-farm water use practices-Demand side management 10
7 Rural drinking water 10
8 Urban water supply and sanitation 10
9 Policy and governance 15
Total 100



Interlinking of Rivers Project

The government has identified four priority links for the preparation of detailed project reports (DPR) under the Peninsular Component:

  1. Ken – Betwa link project (UP and M.P.),
  2. Damanganga – Pinjal link project (Maharashtra and Gujarat),
  3. the Par – Tapi – Narmada link project (Maharashtra and Gujarat)\
  4. the Godavari – Cauvery link project (Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu)


Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project

  • It is a world bank assisted state sector scheme.
  • It was started in 2010. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2020.


  • Rehabilitation of Dam and its Appurtenant Structures
  • Institutional Strengthening
  • Project Management.


Arguments in favour of Interlinking of Project

  • Judicious Use of Water Resources
  • Address the issue of Water Stress-
  • Can improve the irrigation coverage
  • Power generation
  • Disaster Management


Arguments against the Interlinking of Project

  • Artificial change of course
  • Bypass the crucial dryland areas
  • Impact on Environment
  • Impact on rivers-
  • Lead to shoreline loss
  • Impact on Monsoons
  • Increased vulnerability
  • Federal contentions


Ground Water Extraction Rules
  • India is the largest user of ground water in the world which is about 25% of the global ground water extraction.
  • 90% of the annual ground water extraction is primarily for agricultural activities.
  • 10% of the extraction is for drinking and domestic as well as industrial uses.
  • Industrial use is estimated to account for only 5% of the annual ground water extraction in the country.
  • Central Ground Water Authority is constituted under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 in 1997.

Challenges in Water governance
  • Information – The lack of credible “water information.
  • Multiple institutions
  • Unsustainable extraction
  • Absence of National Policy
  • Water infrastructure perform far below its optimum
  • Soil moisture – Soil moisture represents another major challenge
  • Increasing water footprint
  1. National Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme
  • The National Aquifer Mapping and Management program (NAQUIM) is being implemented by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB).
  • NAQUIM envisages mapping of aquifers(water bearing formations), their characterization and development of Aquifer Management Plans to facilitate sustainable management of groundwater


Day Zero instances
  • Day Zero is a situation when taps in a region start running dry.
  • The Capital of South Africa ‘Cape Town’, last year, launched a countdown to the day when tap water would be cut-off to millions of residents as a result of a three-year drought.
  • Brazil’s Sao Paulo faced its own Day Zero in 2015. The city turned off its water supply for 12 hours a day forcing many businesses and industries to shut down.
  • In 2008, Barcelona in Spain had to import tankers full of fresh water from France.


Day Zero instances in India
  • It has been reported that Shimla, Himachal Pradesh and Udupiand Mangaluru in coastal Karnataka are on the verge of becoming Tier 2 cities which would have a ‘Day Zero’ situation soon


Traditional ways of water conservation

India with its rich culture and heritage in terms of images, rituals, traditional knowledge to conserve water, cultural practices and metaphors on water wisdom can suffice the efforts of water conservation in a traditional way by using cultural images on water, ancient practices and work by water warriors to affirm the value of traditional heritage on water wisdom.

  • Women’s Role:In ancient times, women were considered as the gatekeepers of water ecologies and were responsible for:
    • Building water bodies likestep-wells, tanks and even ponds such as the world heritage site of Queens Step-well (Rani Ki Vav) in Patan, Gujarat, and the Rani and Padam Sagar in Jodhpur, Tank Nagamandala in Karnataka.
  • Cleaning and Maintenanceof water bodies
  • Performance of dances and songs like:
  • Girja Devi singing the story of a woman making her way to fetch water.
  • Tales of Vidyadhari Bai of Varanasi practising to capture in her voice the friction of the rope against the stone wall of the well.
  • Songs like “Ganga Geet” in Uttarakhand.
  • Bhawai dance of Rajasthan.
  • Performance of water rituals like:
  • Worship of water body.
  • Jal yatras on Bhagwat pooja.
  • Jal yagya etc.
  • Sacred aspect:of water bodies can utilised for cleaning and maintenance water bodies.
  • Like in Uttarakhand it is believed that the water spirit (masaan) is present in all irrigation channels and he needs to be mollified to protect the crops.
  • Rajasthan’s pre – monsoon ritual called Lasipa ensures gathering, cleaning, and desilting of all water bodies by all villagers.
  • During fertility festivals of Gangaur and Akkha Teej, women come together to clean lakes and tanks.
  • Tribal Practices:Irrigation of the paddy fields in the entire Ziro valley (where the main source of water for households and irrigation is from a single small river and some spring wells) is carried out through a network of irrigation canals.
  • Heritage knowledge:On irrigation is also practised in the remote cold desert of Spiti.
  • The Khuls (channels)are designed to carry long distances the water from glaciers to villages. On reaching a village the water falls in a central tank and the use is regulated by the community.


Traditional water knowledge
  • Rain water harvestingsuch as building tanks.
  • Rejwanisystem where water percolates through sand, settles on the gypsum layer, and is brought for use by a complex capillary system called Beri.
  • Patali paniwhich are the deep aquifers that is determined by geological formation.
  • Community ownership:Traditionally, the water management was a community responsibility.
  • Neerugantiin Karnataka was a person who controlled and managed distribution of water.
  • System of water ownership is still prevalent in Spiti and Arunachaland few desert areas


Traditional water conservation systems around India




It is a community-managed irrigation system in the Tapi river basin in Maharashtra. It starts with check dam built across a river and canals to carry water to agricultural blocks with outlets to ensure excess water is removed from the canals.
Zing It is found in Ladakh, are small tanks that collect melting glacier water. A network of guiding channels brings water from the glacier to the tank.
Kuhls They are surface water channels found in the mountainous regions of Himachal Pradesh. The channels carry glacial waters from rivers and streams into the fields.
Zabo or Ruza System It is practised in Nagaland. Rainwater that falls on forested hilltops is collected by channels that deposit the run-off water in pond-like structures created on the terraced hillsides.


The Shompen tribe of the Great Nicobar Islands uses this system, in which bamboos are placed under trees to collect runoff water from leaves and carries it to Jackwells which are pits encircled by bunds made from logs of hard wood.

Pat system

It is developed in Madhya Pradesh, in which the water is diverted from hill streams into irrigation channels by diversion bunds. They are made across the stream by piling up stones and teak leaves and mud.


It is tank system, widely used in Tamil Nadu which acts as flood-control systems, prevent soil erosion and wastage of runoff during periods of heavy rainfall, and also recharge the groundwater.
Johads They are small earthern check dams used to conserve and recharge ground water, mainly constructed in an area with naturally high elevation.
Panam keni The Kuruma tribe (a native tribe of Wayanad) uses wooden cylinders as a special type of well, which are made by soaking the stems of toddy palms and immersed in groundwater springs.

Ahar Pynes

They are traditional floodwater harvesting systems indigenous to South Bihar. Ahars are reservoirs with embankments on three sides and Pynes are artificial rivulets led off from rivers to collect water in the ahars for irrigation in the dry months.
Jhalara Jhalaras are typically rectangular-shaped stepwells that have tiered steps on three or four sides in the city of Jodhpur.
Bawari Bawaris are unique stepwells that were once a part of the ancient networks of water storage in the cities of Rajasthan.
Taanka It is a cylindrical paved underground pit into which rainwater from rooftops, courtyards or artificially prepared catchments flows. It is indigenous to the Thar Desert region of Rajasthan.


Also called dhora, is a long earthen embankment that is built across the hill slopes of gravelly uplands. It is indigenous to Jaisalmer region and similar to the irrigation methods of Ur region (Present Iraq).
Kund It is a saucer-shaped catchment area that gently slopes towards the central circular underground well. It is found in the sandier tracts of western Rajasthan and Gujarat.





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