Chapter # 21. Water Resources
By 2022-23, India’s water resources management strategy should facilitate water security to ensure adequate availability of water for life, agriculture, economic development, ecology and environment. This broader vision can be achieved by attaining the following sectoral goals:
- Provide adequate (rural: 40 litres per capita per day (lpcd); urban 135 lpcd) and safe drinking water (piped) and water for sanitation for citizens and livestock.
- Provide irrigation to all farms (Har Khet Ko Pani) with improved on-farm water-use efficiency (more crop per drop).
- Provide water to industries, encourage industries to utilize recycled/treated water and ensure zero discharge of untreated effluents from industrial units.
- Ensure Aviral and Nirmal Dhara in the Ganga and other rivers along with their tributaries.
- Create additional water storage capacity to ensure full utilization of the utilizable surface water resources potential of 690 billion cubic metres (bcm).
- Ensure long-term sustainability of finite ground water resources.
- Ensure proper operation and maintenance of water infrastructure with active participation of farmers/consumers.
- Promote R&D to facilitate adoption of the latest technologies in the water sector.
Annual precipitation in India, including snowfall, which is the main source of water, is about 4000 bcm. About 53.3 per cent of the total precipitation is lost due to evapo-transpiration, which leaves a balance of 1869 bcm water in the country. Of this, the available utilizable water resource potential is 1137 bcm, comprising 690 bcm of surface water and 447 bcm of ground water.
According to the Water and Related Statistics pub-lished by the Central Water Commission, per capita annual water availability in the country has decreased from 1816 cubic metres (cu m) in 2001 to 1544 cu m in 2011. As per the Falkenmark Index, one of the most commonly used measures of water scarcity, if the amount of renewable water in a country is below 1,700 cu m per person per year, the country is said to be experiencing water stress; below 1000 cu m it is said to be experiencing water scarcity. The National Commission for Integrated Water Resources Develop-ment (NCIWRD) has projected the total demand for water at 1,180 bcm for a high demand scenario.
Water resources are facing pressure due to population explosion, urbanization, rising demand for water from the agriculture, energy, and industry sectors, pollution, inefficient use, poor management and poor institutional mechanisms. Several regions experience water scarcity due to the uneven distribution of water resources over space and time.
The government has specific programmes for various aspects of water resources. The scheme, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), which is an umbrella scheme for irrigation has prioritized 99 major and medium irrigation projects for completion by December 2019. The government also launched the “Namami Gange” scheme in 2014-15 to clean and rejuvenate the River Ganga to maintain “Aviral” and “Nirmal Dhara” and ensure its ecological and geological integrity.
Data for the period 2015-17 indicates improvement in water quality in terms of dissolved oxygen and coliform bacteria. However, a lot needs to be done in terms of meeting the targets of sewage treatment plans (STP) and of controlling household and industrial waste. Besides, a scheme for groundwater development and management to prepare aquifer management plans and facilitate sustainable management of groundwater has been launched.
- There is a huge gap between the irrigation potential created (112.5 million ha in 2012) and the irrigation potential utilized (89.3 million ha in 2012). Apart from the underutilization of the potential, the efficiency of the irrigation systems is low at 30 per cent to 38 per cent for surface water and 55 per cent for ground water.
- Despite clear evidence of rising water stress, water is still used inefficiently and indiscriminately, particularly in agriculture. Poor implementation and maintenance of projects, absence of participatory irrigation management, non-alignment of cropping patterns to the agro-climatic zones, and absence of field channels (CAD works) are some of the challenges.
- The Easement Act, 1882, which grants groundwater ownership rights to the landowner is one of the reasons for water over-use and depletion of groundwater levels.
- The subsidized pricing of water in various states has resulted in non-revenue water and a sharp decline in groundwater levels in all states.
- As per 2011 Census, only 30.8 per cent of the total rural households and 70.6 per cent of the total urban households get piped water supply.
- The sustainability of the source and growing contamination of ground water in newer areas are constraints in ensuring safe drinking water supply in rural and urban areas.
- On-going programmes
- By 2022-23, the water storage capacity needs to be increased from the current level of 253 bcm to 304 bcm by completing on-going projects on time.
- A coordination mechanism at the field level may be set up for PMKSY to find the reasons for delays in the completion of projects and corrective measures undertaken project wise to ensure speedy implementation.
- The Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) may draw up an action plan to complete CAD works in 317 identified projects to reduce the gap between the irrigation potential created and utilized.
- Other notable programmes that need to be completed include the Ken-Betwa River linking project, the Pancheshwar project, the Rajasthan feeder and Sirhind feeders (Punjab &Rajasthan) and the Siang project in North-East India.
- The National Mission for Clean Ganga needs to coordinate with the Ministry of Drinking Water, Supply and Sanitation for solid and liquid waste management in 1600 gram panchayats (covering 4464 villages situated on the banks of the Ganga in five states). Corrective measures need to be taken to expedite the completion of the projects.
- Water efficiency
- Incentivize the wider adoption of sprinkler and drip irrigation by diverting resources otherwise used to subsidize power and surface irrigation.
- As per the fourth Minor Irrigation (MI) Census, there are about 5 lakh water bodies/tanks with an irrigation potential of 5.89 million ha. For these, the MoWR’s programme to revitalize, renovate and repair water bodies should be significantly expanded and adequately funded.
- Special emphasis should be laid on desilting of water bodies, including river, lakes, ponds and reservoirs.
- Recycle of waste water
- With the country generating 140 bcm of wastewater annually, a pilot scheme to irrigate 10 lakh ha with treated waste water by 2020 may initially be taken up.
- Industries should be encouraged to meet a major share of their demand through recycled water. Besides, programmes for smart water meters and tradable permits for use of recycled water may be launched.
- Groundwater management
- As on date, development of groundwater, i.e., utilization of groundwater resources vis-à-vis replenishable quantity, is 62 per cent. There is a need to develop recharging zones at identified places to make groundwater resources sustainable using check dam, farm ponds, tanks and injection wells.
- Participatory aquifer management initiated in the 12th Plan National Aquifer Management (NAQUIM) under PMKSY should be strengthened through a network of partnerships to control unbridled, competitive extraction of groundwater since it is virtually impossible to police more than 30 million groundwater structures through licences and permits.
- The participatory approach to encourage behavioural changes and community engagement in ground water management at the gram panchayat level as envisaged in the Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY) should be adopted and extended to other regions.
- Promote the use of solar pumps to improve the utilisation of groundwater in Eastern India where utilisation is hampered by the lack of power. In Western India, solar pumps with a buyback guarantee for surplus solar power can offer reliable daytime energy for irrigation and stable cash income as well act as an incentive to conserve power and water.
- PMKSY – Har Khet Ko Pani – envisaging enhancement of food production more than two-fold in 96 prioritized most ‘deprived irrigation districts’ in 12 states by creating irrigation facilities through tube wells, dug wells, bore wells and dug-cum-bore wells, should be expedited. This will facilitate assured irrigation in tribal and backward areas that traditionally have been deprived of canal irrigation.
- Special focus should be placed on the quality of rural drinking water supply in arsenic and fluo-ride affected areas by tapping multiple sources through conjunctive use of surface water, ground water and rain water harvesting. All new, piped water supply schemes should have mandatory provisions on operation and maintenance involv-ing local communities and stakeholders.
- Water harvesting
- Watershed (check dam development)
- The MoWR may develop specific strategies to tap water through watershed development (check dams) in rain-fed areas, expand micro irrigation coverage to 80 lakh ha, and link ground water development to aquifer mapping.
- The timeline for watershed development projects needs to be shortened from seven to four years with special efforts by state governments. Funds available under MGNREGA and state plans may be used for watershed development projects.
- Introduce public-private partnerships in the water sector, initially to develop micro-irrigation-based CAD works based on a hybrid annuity model. This should be accompanied by a revision in water tariffs to recover at least operation and maintenance costs.
- Rainwater harvesting
- Model Building Bye Laws, 2016 circulated by Ministry of Urban Development includes the provision of rain water harvesting. Barring the states/UTs of Manipur, Sikkim, Mizoram and Lakshadweep, all states have incorporated the provision in their respective Building Bye Laws. It is suggested that the states ensure effective implementation of the rain water harvesting structures for buildings.
- Suggested reforms
- To mitigate conflicts and achieve equitable distribution of water, an integrated river basin management approach needs to be adopted. The setting up of river basin organisations for major basins may be expedited.
- NITI Aayog has developed a concept note on Revitalization of Rivers, which may be implemented on a pilot basis before being expanded across major states.
- To ensure Aviral and Nirmal Dhara in the Ganga, the river should be managed as a single system.
- There is need for a scheme on medium term measures for flood management. This should include completion of incomplete works in the states of Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttara-khand and West Bengal. Besides, long term measures for Bihar, UP and NE states should be explored to achieve permanent protection from floods. The formation of North East Water Management Authority (NEWMA) in North- East states will comprehensively address the flood issue in the region.
- A water regulatory framework should be established for water resources in all states.
- An action plan should be drawn up to improve water use efficiency (with 2017 as the base year) by 20 per cent in all sectors by 2022.
- The composite water management index developed by NITI Aayog may be used as a potent tool to assess and further improve the efficiency of water resources management.