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Fresh Water Resources: A Perspective



(International Year of Fresh Water – 2003)



Initial draft compiled by


Mr. C. P. Kumar


National Institute of Hydrology

Roorkee – 247667 (Uttaranchal)




July, 2003






Of all the planet's renewable resources, fresh water may be the most unforgiving. Difficult to purify, expensive to transport and impossible to substitute, water is essential to food production, to economic development and to life itself. Its importance to human health and well-being was underlined in mid-1993 when the United Nations' new Commission on Sustainable Development made improvement of water quality one of the first priorities for technology transfers from wealthy countries to poorer ones.

Total water on earth: 1.4 billion cubic kilometers.

Total renewable water falling on continents and islands each year: 41,000 cubic kilometers.

World population, 1955: 2.8 billion people

World population, 1990: 5.3 billion people

World population, 2025 (projected): Between 7.9 billion and 9.1 billion people

Only when taps run dry, as happened for a time in 1993 in places as far apart as Des Moines, Iowa, and Sarajevo, are those who live in the industrialized world reminded how critical access to water is to all aspects of life. In less prosperous countries millions of people, most of them women, need no such reminder. They walk miles each day to find the water they need and carry it home.

Yet water availability has not received the attention it deserves in global discussions of the sustainable use of natural resources. It has been examined even less in the context of population growth. On a planet whose surface is more than two thirds covered by water, the illusion of abundance has clouded the reality that renewable fresh water is an increasingly scarce commodity.

While the world's oceans may seem unbounded, the amount of fresh water actually available to people is finite--and a mere fraction of the water visible from outer space. Over the long term, the water humanity can count on for use year after year is the planet's renewable supply. That is the water that falls from the sky, seeps into the ground or collects in rivers and lakes, and flows back to the sea, from which it was first drawn up by the sun. To be used sustainably, water cannot be withdrawn from reservoirs and other sources faster than it is replenished through this natural hydrologic cycle.

Our capacity for capturing and storing fresh water has expanded throughout history, and we are learning how to use it more efficiently. But no technology can significantly expand the basic resource. The use of desalination may suggest the world's oceans are potentially inexhaustible sources of fresh water, but the process of extracting salt from seawater remains expensive and dependent on polluting and non-renewable fossil fuels. The reality is that there is essentially no more fresh water on the planet today than there was 2,000 years ago when the earth's human population was less than three percent its current size of 5.5 billion people.

The finite nature of renewable fresh water makes it a critical natural resource to examine in the context of population growth. Few other resources so essential to daily life are bounded by such fixed limits on supply--limits that in dozens of countries are already constraining efforts to improve health and living standards.

As population grows, the average amount of renewable fresh water available to each person declines. Hydrologists and other water experts agree that when certain ratios of human numbers to renewable fresh water supplies are exceeded, water stress and outright scarcity are all but inevitable.

In recent decades these ratios have been approached or exceeded in more than two dozen countries. And the projected population growth of the next few decades could push yet another two dozen countries and hundreds of millions more people over the brink of water shortage. Moreover, predicted changes in global climate could redistribute or reduce water supplies and intensify storms, adding to the challenge of managing water supply.

Acute water shortages already have required extraordinary measures in some countries. When thousands of refugees from Djibouti, the most water-scarce country in the world, crossed into Ethiopia in the summer of 1993, the Red Cross had to send tankers up to 300 miles to find water for them. During severe droughts in western India, the government brings drinking water to some rural areas by railway.

Life is tied to water as it is tied to air and food. And food is tied to water since plant growth depends on its flow from roots to foliage. Throughout history, secure access to water has been essential to social and economic development and the stability of cultures and civilizations. Since ancient times agriculture has depended on fortuitous combinations of good soils and predictable water supplies, and dependable sources of abundant water played a prominent role in the industrialization of Europe and North America. Even if less developed nations pursue new development paths that avoid the errors of the past, it is difficult to imagine how sustainable development will proceed if renewable fresh water is in short supply.

Efforts to encourage water conservation face special challenges not encountered with other natural resources. In much of the world, water is not controlled by market mechanisms because it is either free for the taking or unmetered. Nor is water a global resource that can be traded like petroleum or given in aid like food or medicine. Whether people waste water in one river basin is irrelevant to those who live in another. People need sources of clean water close to home.

National data, admittedly, masks huge regional differences in many large countries. The water shortages faced in recent years in California and in northeastern Brazil, for example, demonstrate that regional scarcity can occur even in nations generally well endowed with renewable water. A detailed analysis of how population interacts with renewable water at local levels would demand data on regional supply and quality that are currently unavailable.

Since 1940, the amount of fresh water used by humanity has roughly quadrupled as world population has doubled. Some water experts estimate the practical upper limit of usable renewable fresh water lies between 9,000 and 14,000 cubic kilometers yearly. That suggests a second quadrupling of world water use is unlikely.

World Population and Fresh Water Use, 1940 to 2000


The IWMI Global Water Scarcity Study is a groundbreaking piece of research for the Institute and an important new planning tool for the worldwide water and development community. The first phase was completed in 1998. It forecasts future water supply and demand in 118 countries worldwide. Read more.

The Study's second phase (completed in January 2000) makes use of the IWMI Policy Dialogue Model (PODIUM). This is a software based planning tool that helps countries shape their water and food security policies for the coming years. Several countries are currently using Podium data for policy planning, by including more detailed water and food production data. Podium was also used to generate many of the food and water security scenarios discussed at the World Water Forum in The Hague in March 2000. Read more.

This work overcomes the limitations of previous methodologies and builds on their strengths. It computes water withdrawals for 2025 based on estimates of future domestic, industrial, and irrigation demands in each country, using the United Nations 1994 `medium' growth population scenario. The study categorizes countries according to their predicted water scarcity based on two factors: the percent increase in water withdrawals over the 1990 to 2025 period; and the projected water withdrawals expressed as a percentage of annual water withdrawals.

By 2025, 1.8 billion people will live in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity. Most countries in the Middle East and North Africa can be classified as having absolute water scarcity today. By 2025, these countries will be joined by Pakistan, South Africa, and large parts of India and China. This means that they will not have sufficient water resources to maintain their current level of per capita food production from irrigated agriculture—even at high levels of irrigation efficiency—and also to meet reasonable water needs for domestic, industrial, and environmental purposes. To sustain their needs, water will have to be transferred out of agriculture into other sectors, making these countries or regions increasingly dependent on imported food.

The remainder of the 118 countries included in the study theoretically have sufficient water resources to meet their needs. But many of them will have to develop their water supplies by 25 percent or more. This will mean embarking on large and expensive water-development projects. For many countries, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa, it will be difficult to mobilize the necessary financial and other resources to achieve this goal.

The second phase of the Water Scarcity study was completed in January 2000. This analysis and the data used in the first study were refined through the development of the IWMI Policy Dialogue Model (PODIUM).

This is an interactive software tool that helps countries forecast their situation in 2025 and develop alternative water scenarios. At the country data level, PODIUM gives countries a realistic vision of their food-water scenarios. All country data have been analyzed using PODIUM from a global perspective, and used to assess the world food security/water scarcity situation for 2025 as a part of the `Water for Food' segment of the World Water Vision, for March 2000 in The Hague.

The current global version of PODIUM presents water scenarios of 45 countries, which represent major regions of the world, counting over 80% of its population. IWMI's PODIUM predictions show that, by 2025, 33%, or some 2 billion people, will live in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity. All of these absolute water-scarce countries, except South Africa, will have to import a substantial portion of their cereal consumption. Also by 2025, some 45% of the population of these countries—roughly 2.7 billion people _ will live in areas whose water resources must be developed by at least 25%. The analysis also shows that overall, these 45 countries will have a 2% surplus of cereal production in 2025, after their food needs have been met.

Globally, IWMI predicts that, to meet the 2025 water needs, the world must develop 22% more primary water supply. The irrigation sector—by far the largest water user today—will still account for 69% of the total primary water supply. To meet food needs, the primary water supply to irrigation must be increased by 17%. IWMI's conclusion is that, while the world must continue investing in water development projects to meet future food demands, investments in research to improve crop water productivity could be a cost-effective means to limit the requirement for new dams.


Water as a resource is under relentless pressure. Due to population growth, economic development, rapid urbanization, large-scale industrialization and environmental concerns water stress has emerged as a real threat. The scarcity of water for human and ecosystem uses and the deteriorating water quality leads to "water stress" and intense socio-political pressures. Many areas in the country are already under severe water stress. Any addition to the intensity of water stress in the existing water scarcity areas, or addition of new areas to water stressed list, will only further push the problem in to the realm of a disaster.

Although about three-fourth of earth is water, the estimated volume of freshwater our rivers, groundwater, snow and ice, is about 2.5% only, the rest being the sea / salt water. Most of the freshwater are either in the form of ice and permanent snow cover in Antarctic/Artic regions (about 69%) or is stored underground in the form of deep underground basins/aquifers, soil moistures etc (30%).

Total usable freshwater supply to ecosystem and humans from river system, lakes, wetlands, soil moisture and shallow groundwater is less than 1% of all freshwater and only 0.01% of all the WATER ON EARTH. As per WHO estimates only 0.007% of all water on earth is readily available for human world consumption. This indicates that Freshwater on earth is finite and also unevenly distributed.

How Freshwater Resources are Affected?

Wherever it appears and whatever its form, every drop of the world's water is locked into the hydrological cycle. However, the speed of movement of water through different phases of the hydrological cycle varies considerably. The average time a drop of water stays in the atmosphere is about eight days and in a river about 16 days. But this time can run into centuries for a glacier and tens of thousands of years for water moving sluggishly through a deep aquifer. Though Water drops are continuously recycled, freshwater available in form of lakes and river storage (which is about 0.3% of all freshwater resources) are renewable.

Human actions modify the hydrological cycle and can seriously pollute available freshwater. Climate change also affects the hydrological cycle significantly thereby affecting freshwater production and its distribution. With the population growth, urbanisation and ever increasing demand on the finite amount of water for different uses like drinking water, industry, agriculture, hydropower and , increased pressure are mounting on our freshwater resources.

Importance and Need of Freshwater

No matter who we are, where we are, and what we do, we are all dependent on water. We need it everyday, in so many ways. We need it to stay healthy, for growing food, vegetation, transportation, irrigation, industry and its sheer life giving properties.

However, despite the importance of Freshwater Resources in our lives and well-being, we are increasingly beginning to take this resource as being infinite, and for granted. In today's world, much water is wasted, used inefficiently and polluted through its abusive use. The per capita availability of freshwater is fast declining all over the world. If the present consumption pattern continued, two out of every three persons on earth will live in water stressed conditions- moderate or severe water shortages- by the year 2025 A.D.

In India, the per capita average annual freshwater availability has reduced from 5177 cubic meters from 1951 to about 1869 cubic meters in 2001 and is estimated to further come down to 1341 cubic meters in 2025 and 1140 cubic meters in 2050.

Water Facts

* 1.1 billion people lack access to save drinking water (1\6th of population) and 2.4 billion lack safe sanitation (40% of pop.)

* 6000 children die every day from diseases associated with unsafe water and sanitation and hygiene.

* More than 2.2 million die each year from disease associated with poor water and sanitation.

* Women and girls-most affected-lack sanitation facilities.

* Unsafe water and sanitation leads to 80% of all the diseases in the developing world.

* In developing countries 90% of waste water is discharged without treatment.

* Over pumping groundwater caused decline of water levels by tens of meters in many regions, forcing people to use low quality water for drinking.

* Loss of water through leakage, illegal hook-ups and waste is about 50% of water for drinking and 60% of water for irrigation in developing countries.

* Floods and drought – affect most part of the country.

* One flush of a western toilet uses as much water as the average person in the developing world uses for a whole day’s washing,cooking ,cleaning and drinking.

Freshwater eco-system have been severely degraded :half the world’s wet land lost and more than 20% known freshwater species extinct.

* During 1990s, about 835 million gained access to safe drinking water and about 784 million to sanitation facilities.

* Millennium Global Target-Halving people unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water and sanitation.

* Present global investment level-$70-80 billion per year to increase up to $180 b/year.

Water Conservation

Water conservation has three dimensions.

Water resources conservation - efficient management of rainwater through storage, allocation and transfer for use and preservation of the quality of the resource including the supporting ecosystems.

Water use conservation - water supply and distribution with minimal losses and consumption through prevention of wastage.

Efficient use of water through adoption of water saving technologies & cropping patterns.

While creating awareness, the main thrust of the program shall be "Water Conservation". Therefore the Water Conservation Campaign forms the most important component of the Year of the Freshwater observation program. Various target groups to be reached out, the likely participating agencies and mechanism proposed to be used for delivering the required message is as follows.


By 2015 nearly half the world's population—more than 3 billion people—will live in countries that are "water-stressed"—have less than 1,700 cubic meters of water per capita per year—mostly in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and northern China. In the developing world, 80 percent of water usage goes into agriculture, a proportion that is not sustainable; and in 2015 a number of developing countries will be unable to maintain their levels of irrigated agriculture. Overpumping of groundwater in many of the world's important grain-growing regions will be an increasing problem; about 1,000 tons of water are needed to produce a ton of grain. The water table under some of the major grain-producing areas in northern China is falling at a rate of five feet per year, and water tables throughout India are falling an average of 3-10 feet per year.

Measures undertaken to increase water availability and to ease acute water shortages—using water more efficiently, expanding use of desalinization, developing genetically modified crops that use less water or more saline water, and importing water—will not be sufficient to substantially change the outlook for water shortages in 2015. Many will be expensive; policies to price water more realistically are not likely to be broadly implemented within the next 15 years, and subsidizing water is politically sensitive for the many low-income countries short of water because their populations expect cheap water.

Water has been a source of contention historically, but no water dispute has been a cause of open interstate conflict; indeed, water shortages often have stimulated cooperative arrangements for sharing the scarce resource. But as countries press against the limits of available water between now and 2015, the possibility of conflict will increase. Nearly one-half of the world's land surface consists of river basins shared by more than one country, and more than 30 nations receive more than one-third of their water from outside their borders.

Turkey is building new dams and irrigation projects on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which will affect water flows into Syria and Iraq—two countries that will experience considerable population growth. Egypt is proceeding with a major diversion of water from the Nile, which flows from Ethiopia and Sudan, both of which will want to draw more water from the Nile for their own development by 2015. Water-sharing arrangements are likely to become more contentious. Water shortages occurring in combination with other sources of tension—such as in the Middle East—will be the most worrisome.

Quantities of renewable fresh water qualified 20 nations in 1990 as water-scarce, 15 of them with rapidly growing populations. By 2025, between 10 and 15 nations will be added to this category. Between 1990 and 2025 the number of people living in countries in which renewable water is a scarce resource will rise from 131 million to somewhere between 817 million under the UN's low projection of population growth and 1.079 billion under the high projection. In this case, the difference between the high and low projections--262 million--is precisely twice the number of people living in water-scarce countries in 1990.

For several countries varying population scenarios could mark the difference between potentially manageable water stress and outright water scarcity in 2025. In 1990 Peru, for example, had 1,856 cubic meters of renewable water per person per year. Under almost any conditions, that figure will plunge, but the rate of population growth could determine whether Peru crosses into water scarcity or hovers in water stress with nearly 1,200 cubic meters per person in 2025. Similar possibilities face Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Cyprus. For Sri Lanka, Mozambique and Mauritania, the population trajectory will determine whether the threshold is crossed from relative water abundance to stress.

Among the countries projected to fall into the water stress category before 2025 is India (1990 annual per capita water availability: 2,464 cubic meters), currently the second most populous country in the world with nearly 900 million people. By 2025, India's population is expected to exceed 1.4 billion under the UN's medium projection, and the chronic water scarcity that already plagues many regions of the country is all but certain to intensify.

China, today's most populous nation (1990 annual per capita water availability: 2,427 cubic meters), only narrowly will miss the water stress benchmark in 2025, according to all three UN projections. In that year, according to the medium scenario, each of China's projected 1.5 billion citizens will have 1,818 cubic meters available. In the North China Plain, however, water shortages are already acute, and demand is expected to outstrip supply by the turn of the century.3

Oil-rich Arab states--Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates--make up five of the nine countries with the least water per capita. Every time Saudi Arabians prospect for water, a joke runs, they strike oil. And, in fact, oil is in some ways as close to a substitute for water as one can find, for it provides an energy source both for desalination and the pumping of deep aquifers. Many countries in the Middle East rely heavily on desalination and nonrenewable groundwater supplies to augment their meager renewable fresh water supplies. And with continuing high family size in these countries, renewable water will become increasingly scarce. Populations in the region are currently doubling every two or three decades. It may appear that the wealth these countries now enjoy will enable them to buy their way out of any future water shortages. The key point, however, is that wealthy countries as well as poor ones are now using water unsustainably. Eventually they will have to face the consequences and place their water management on a sustainable path.

Israel and Jordan are high on the list of water-scarce nations, and their placement there says much about the potential for continued conflict in the Jordan River valley. Israel probably uses water more efficiently than any other country, yet its demand has exceeded the sustainable annual yield of its available sources since the mid-1970s. Israel strictly controls Palestinian use of water in the occupied 5,890-square-kilometer West Bank, from which it draws 40 percent of its groundwater and more than 25 percent of its renewable water supplies. Palestinians, noting that Jewish settlers use four times as much water on a per capita basis, charge that deep wells dug for the settlers sap the yields of their own shallower wells.16 Israel is projected to grow from 4.7 million people in 1990 to about 8 million in 2025.

For Jordan, whose population more than doubled from 1.5 million in 1955 to 4 million in 1990, increasing scarcity means deteriorating water quality and growing reliance on groundwater when water tables are dropping rapidly. In the summer of 1993, water shortages were endemic throughout Amman, the country's capital, despite ongoing water rationing. Jordan (1990 annual per capita water availability: 327 cubic meters) already exploits all its available water resources, and its population is projected to double again before 2015.17

A dozen or more African nations also are struggling to balance declining per-capita water supplies with the demands of rapidly rising populations. Of 20 African countries that have faced food emergencies in recent years, half are either already stressed by water shortage or are projected to fall into the stress category by 2025.18 Lacking the financial resources and technology to improve management of scarce water or gain access to more renewable supplies, these countries are in desperate need of improvement in the development and management of renewable fresh water resources. They include war torn Somalia as well as Algeria, Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda.

Certain countries currently enjoy adequate per capita renewable fresh water resources but will encounter water scarcity by 2025. Iran, for example, had 2,025 cubic meters a year per capita in 1990; by 2025 the figure is projected to be between 776 and 860. Haiti, with 1,696 cubic meters in 1990, could have anywhere from 761 to 981 per person in 2025, depending on population growth. Libya, close to scarcity already with 1,017 cubic meters per capita in 1990, is projected to have between 329 and 377 cubic meters in 2025.


Water scarcity may be the most underestimated resource issue facing the world today. As world water demand has more than tripled over the last half-century, signs of water scarcity have become commonplace. Some of the more widespread indicators are rivers running dry, wells going dry, and lakes disappearing.

Among the rivers that run dry for part of the year are the Colorado in the United States, the Amu Darya in Central Asia, and the Yellow in China. China's Hai and Huai rivers have the same problem from time to time, and the flow of the Indus River—Pakistan's lifeline—is sometimes reduced to a trickle when it enters the Arabian Sea.

The Colorado River, the largest in the southwestern United States, now rarely makes it to the sea. As the demand for water increased over the years, diversions from the river have risen to where they now routinely drain it dry.

A similar situation exists in Asia, where the Amu Darya—one of the two rivers feeding the Aral Sea—now is dry for part of each year. With the sharp decline in the amount of water delivered to the Aral Sea by the Amu Darya, the sea has begun to shrink. There is a risk that the Aral could one day disappear entirely, existing only on old maps.

China's Yellow River, the northernmost of its two major rivers, first ran dry for a few weeks in 1972. Since 1985, it has failed to make it to the Yellow Sea for part of almost every year. Sometimes the river does not even reach Shandong, the last province it flows through en route to the sea. As water tables have fallen, springs have dried up and some rivers have disappeared entirely. China's Fen River, the major watercourse in Shanxi Province, which once flowed through the capital of Taiyuan and merged with the Yellow, no longer exists.

Another sign of water scarcity is disappearing lakes. In Central Africa, Lake Chad has shrunk by some 95 percent over the last four decades. Reduced rainfall, higher temperatures, and some diversion of water from the streams that feed Lake Chad for irrigation are contributing to its demise. In China, almost 1,000 lakes have disappeared in Hebei Province alone.

Water tables are falling in several of the world's key farming regions, including under the North China Plain, which produces nearly one third of China's grain harvest; in the Punjab, which is India's breadbasket; and in the U.S. southern Great Plains, a leading grain-producing region.

Water shortages now plague almost every country in North Africa and the Middle East. Algeria, Egypt, Iran, and Morocco are being forced into the world market for 40 percent or more of their grain supply. As population continues to expand in these water-short nations, dependence on imported grain is rising.

Iran, one of the most populous countries in the Middle East, with 70 million people, is facing widespread water shortages. In the northeast, Chenaran Plain—a fertile agricultural region to the east of Mashad, one of Iran's largest and fastest-growing cities—is fast losing its water supply. Wells drawing from the water table below the plain are used for irrigation and to supply water to Mashad. The latest official estimate shows the water table falling by 8 meters in 2001 as the demand for water far outstrips the recharge rate of aquifers.

Falling water tables in parts of eastern Iran have caused many wells to go dry. Some villages have been evacuated because there is no longer any accessible water. Iran is one of the first countries to face the prospect of water refugees—people displaced by the depletion of water supplies.

In Yemen, a country of some 19 million people, water tables are falling everywhere by 2 meters or more a year. In the basin where the capital Sana'a is located, extraction exceeds recharge by a factor of five, dropping the water table by 6 meters (about 20 feet) a year. Recent wells drilled to a depth of 2 kilometers (1.3 miles) failed to find any water. In the absence of new supplies, the Yemeni capital will run out of water by the end of this decade.

Another way of looking at water security is the amount of water available per person in a country. In 1995, 166 million people lived in 18 countries where the average supply of fresh water was less than 1,000 cubic meters a year—the amount deemed necessary to satisfy basic needs for food, drinking water, and hygiene. By 2050, water availability per person is projected to fall below the 1,000-cubic-meter benchmark in some 39 countries. By then, 1.7 billion people will in effect be suffering from hydrological poverty.

At some point, the combination of aquifer depletion and the diversion of irrigation water to cities will likely begin to reduce the irrigated area worldwide. Data compiled by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, based on official data submitted by governments, show irrigated area still expanding. For example, between 1998 and 1999, the last year for which global data are available, irrigated area grew from 271 to 274 million hectares. This reported 1-percent growth would be reassuring, but it appears to be overstated since governments are much better at gathering data on new irrigation projects than on irrigation reductions as water is diverted to cities or aquifers are depleted. It is quite possible that the historical growth in world irrigated area has come to a halt, and the area could even be declining.



Rainfall in India is dependent largely on the southwest and northeast monsoons, on shallow cyclonic depressions and disturbances, and on violent local storms. Most of the rainfall takes place under the influence of southwest monsoon between June to September except in Tamil Nadu and some other Southern States where it occurs under the influence of northeast monsoon during October and November.

The rainfall shows great variations, unequal seasonal distribution, still more unequal geographical distribution and frequent departures from the normal. As much as 21 percent of the area of the countries receives less than 750 millimetre (mm) of rain annually while 15 percent receives rainfall in excess of 1500 mm. It generally exceeds 1000 mm in areas towards the east of Longitude 780 E. It extends to 2500 mm along almost the entire west coast and over most of Assam and sub-Himalayan West Bengal. The large areas of peninsular India have rainfall less than 600 mm. Annual rainfall of less than 500 mm is experienced in western Rajasthan and adjoining parts of Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab. Rainfall is equally low in the interior of the Deccan plateau east of the Sahyadris. A third area of low precipitation is around Leh in Kashmir. Rest of the country receives moderate rainfall. Snowfall is restricted to the Himalayan region.

The River Systems

The main Himalayan river systems are the Indus and the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna (Barak) system. The Ganga rising from the snow capped Himalayan mountains, flows through the great indo-gangetic plains. The Brahmaputra rises in Tibet where it is known as the Tsangpo and runs a long distance until it crosses over into India in Arunachal Pradesh under the name of Siang or Dihang. The Ganges and the Brahmaputra join inside Bangladesh and continue to flow under the name Padma forming the Sunderban delta.

The Indus, which is one of the great rivers of the world, rises near Mansarovar in Tibet, flows through India and thereafter through Pakistan and finally falls in the Arabian Sea near Karachi. Its major tributaries the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej originate in India and after flowing through the Punjab plains join the Indus.

The important river systems in the Deccan are the Narmada and the Tapi, which flow westwards into Arabian Sea. The east-flowing rivers of the Deccan, the Brahmani, the Mahanadi, the Godavari, the Krishna, the Pennar and the Cauvery fall into Bay of Bengal. There are numerous coastal rivers, which are comparatively small. While only handful of such rivers drain into the sea from the east coast, there are as many as 600 such rivers on the west coast.

Ground Water

Based on large volume of hydro-geological and related data generated by Central Ground Water Board and State Ground Water Organizations and the existing knowledge of ground water regime, replenishable ground water resources in the country have been estimated as 43.2 million hectare metres.

In the alluvium plains of the Indo-Gangetic valley, ground water depths measure upto 450 metre. The coastal aquifers also have similar depth range of ground water availability. Inland river basins in the country have recorded shallower depth within the range of 100 -150 m.

Static Ground Water resource also sometimes known as "fossil" water, considered as ground water available in the aquifer zones below the zone of water level fluctuation, available in the country has been assessed as 1081.2 million hectare metres, on the basis of the depth of availability of ground water and the productivity of deeper aquifers. However, as per the National Water Policy, development of ground water resources is to be limited to utilisation of replenishable component of naturally occurring ground water available in sub-surface domain.

Ground water is widely dispersed. It is an important source of water for drinking and irrigation. Ground water contributes 51 percent of the irrigation potential created in the country through more than 4 million dug wells, 5 million shallow tube wells and some ninety thousand public tube wells.

Assessing Freshwater Resources

Water resources assessment is the determination of the sources, extent, dependability and quality and the above parameters are based on our evaluation of its utilization. Planners and decision makers require such information on ways of meeting the expected demands. The existing and future uses of water must be determined giving due consideration to quality and ecosystems needs of the aquatic environment as a legitimate user of the resources.

The river basin is recognized as the appropriate unit for planning and development of our water resources. Measurement of its quantity and quality, and of other characteristics of the environment affecting water, are essential requisite basis for adopting effective water management strategies.

Measuring on a regular basis the hydrological elements, which control water resources, is necessary to determine how much water is available for use. These elements include precipitation, evaporation and river flow, as well as the water stored in soil, aquifers, reservoirs and glaciers. The water’s quantity, quality and biological characteristics are to be measured regularly.

Assessment of Ground Water

Ground water is an important source of irrigation and caters to more than 45% of the total irrigation in the country. The contribution of ground water irrigation to achieve self-sufficiency in food grains production in the past three decades is phenomenal. In the coming years the ground water utilization is likely to increase manifold for expansion of irrigated agriculture and to achieve National targets of food production. Although the ground water is annually replenishable resource, its availability is non-uniform in space and time. Hence, precise estimation of ground water resource and irrigation potential is a prerequisite for planning its development.

A complexity of factors - hydrogeological, hydrological and climatological, control the ground water occurrence and movement. The precise assessment of recharge and discharge is rather difficult, as no techniques are currently available for their direct measurements. Hence, the methods employed for ground water resource estimation are all indirect. Ground water being a dynamic and replenishable resource, is generally estimated based on the component of annual recharge, which could be subjected to development by means of suitable ground water structures.

For quantification of ground water resources proper understanding of the behaviour and characteristics of the water bearing rock formation known as Aquifer is essential. An aquifer has two main functions - (i) to transit water (conduit function) and (ii) to store it (storage function). The Ground water resources in unconfined aquifers can be classified as Static and Dynamic. The static resources can be defined as the amount of ground water available in the permeable portion of the aquifer below the zone of water level fluctuation. The dynamic resources can be defined as the amount of ground water available in the zone of water level fluctuation. The replenishable ground water resource is essentially a dynamic resource which is replenished annually or periodically by precipitation, irrigation return flow, canal seepage, tank seepage, influent seepage, etc.

The methodologies adopted for computing ground water resources, are generally based on the hydrological budget techniques. The hydrologic equation for ground water regime is a specialized form of water balance equation that requires quantification of the items of inflow to and outflow from a ground water reservoir, as well as of changes in storage there in. A few of these are directly measurable, some may be determined by differences between measured volumes or rates of flow of surface water and some require indirect methods of estimation. These items are elaborated as below

I. Items of supply to ground water reservoir

1. Precipitation infiltration to the water table.

2. Natural recharge from stream, lakes and ponds.

3. Ground water inflow into the area under consideration.

4. Recharge from irrigation, reservoirs, and other schemes especially designed for artificial recharge.

II. Items of disposal from ground'water reservoir

1. Evaporation from capillary fringe in areas of shallow water table, and transpiration by phreatophytes and other plants / vegetation.

2. Natural discharge by seepage and spring flow to streams, lakes and ponds.

3. Ground water outflow.

4. Artificial discharge by pumping or flowing wells or drains.

Over the years the ground water assessment techniques have evolved from progressive understanding of ground water occurrence and movement, recharge and discharge processes.

A Ground Water Estimation Committee was constituted by Government of India in 1982 to recommend methodologies for estimation of the ground water resource potential in India. It was recommended by the committee that the ground water recharge should be estimated based on ground water level fluctuation method. However, in areas, where ground water level monitoring is not being done regularly, or where adequate data about ground water level fluctuation is not available, adhoc norms of rainfall infiltration may be adopted.

With a view to review the Ground Water Resources Estimation Methodology and to look into all the related issues, a Committee on Ground Water Estimation was again constituted in November 1995. The report of the Committee was released in 1997. This Committee proposed several improvements in the existing methodology based on ground water level fluctuation approach. Salient features of their recommendations are given below.

(a) It is proposed that watershed may be used as the unit for ground water resource assessment in hard rock areas, which occupies around 2/3rd part of the country. The assessment made for watershed as unit may be transferred to administrative unit such as block, for planning development programmes. For alluvial areas, the present practice of assessment based on block-wise basis is retained. The possibility of adopting doab as the unit of assessment in alluvial areas needs further detailed studies.

(b) It is proposed that the total geographical area of the unit for resource assessment is to be divided into subareas such as hilly regions, saline ground water areas, canal command areas and non-command areas, and separate resource assessment may be made for these subareas. Variations in geomorphological and hydrogeological characteristics may be considered within the unit.

(c) The focus of ground water recharge assessment may be for unconfined aquifers. In specific alluvial areas where resource from deep confined aquifer is important, such resource may have to be estimated by specific detailed investigation, taking care to avoid duplication of resource estimation from the upper unconfined aquifers.

(d) It is proposed that for hard rock areas, the specific yield value may be estimated by applying the water level fluctuation method for the dry season data, and then using this specific yield value in the water level fluctuation method for the monsoon season to get recharge. For alluvial areas, specific yield values may be estimated from analysis of pumping tests. However, norms for specific yield values in different hydrogeological regions may still be necessary for use in situations where the above methods are not feasible due to inadequacy of data.

(e) The problem of accounting for ground water inflow/outflow and base flow from a region is difficult to solve. If watershed is used as a unit for resource assessment in hard rock areas, the ground water inflow/outflow may become negligible. The base flow can be estimated if one stream gauging station is located at the exit of the watershed.

(f) Norms for return flow from ground water and surface water irrigation are revised taking into account the source of water (ground water/surface water), type of crop (paddy/non-paddy) and depth of ground water level.

These norms of Ground Water Estimation Committee 1997, are currently utilized by the Central Ground Water Board and State Ground Water Departments to compute the ground water resources.

Hydrogeological Situation

India is a vast country having diversified geological climatological and topographic set-up, giving rise to divergent ground water situations in different parts of the country. The prevalent rock formations, ranging in age from Archaean to Recent, which control occurrence and movement of ground water, are widely varied in composition and structure. Similarly, not too insignificant, are the variations of land forms, from the rugged mountainous terrains of the Himalayas1 Eastern and Western Ghats to the flat alluvial plains of the river valleys and coastal tracts, and the aeolian deserts of Rajasthan. The rainfall pattern, too, show similar region-wise variations. The topography and rainfall virtually control runoff and ground water recharge.

The high relief areas of the northern and north-eastern regions occupied by the Himalayan ranges, the hilly tracts of Rajasthan and peninsular regions with steep topographic slope, and characteristic geological set-up offer high run-off and little scope for rain water infiltration. The ground water potential in these terrains are limited to intermoutain valleys.

The large alluvial tract in the Sindhu Ganga - Brahmaputra plains extending over a distance of 2000 kms. from Punjab in the west to Assam in the east, constitutes one of the largest and most potential ground water reservoir in the world. The aquifer systems are extensive, thick, hydraulically interconnected and moderate to high yielding. To the north of this tract all along the Himalayan foot hills, occur the linear belt of Bhabar piedmont deposits, and the Tarai belt down slope with characteristic auto flowing conditions.

Almost the entire Peninsular India, is occupied by a variety of hard and fissured formations, including crystalline, trappean basalt and consolidated sedimentaries (including carbonate rocks), with patches of semi consolidated sediments in narrow intracratonic basins. Rugged topography, compact and fissured nature of the rock formations, combine to give rise to discontinuous aquifers, with limited to moderate yield potentials. The near surface weathered mantle, forms the all important ground water reservoir, and the source for circulation of ground water through the underlying fracture systems. In the hard rock terrain, deep weathered pediments, low-lying valleys and abandoned river channels, generally contain adequate thickness of porous material, to sustain ground water development under favourable hydrometeorological conditions. Generally, the potential water saturated fracture systems occur down to 100 m depth, and in cases yield even upto 30 Litres per Second (Lps). The friable semi consolidated sandstones also form moderate yielding aquifers, and auto flowing zones in these formations are not uncommon.

The coastal and deltaic tracts in the country form a narrow linear strip around the peninsula. The eastern coastal and deltaic tract and the estuarine areas of Gujarat are receptacles of thick alluvial sediments. Though highly productive aquifers occur in these , tracts salinity hazards impose quality constraints for ground water development. In this terrain ground water withdrawal requires to be regulated so as not to exceed annual recharge and not to disturb hydro-chemical balance leading to sea water ingress.

The quality of ground water in both hard rock and alluvial terrains is by and large fresh and suitable for all uses. The specific conductance is generally less than 1000 us/cm at 25 ºC. But in coastal areas, estuarine tracts of Gujarat, Rann of kutch and arid tracts of Rajasthan, the degree of mineralization in ground water is rather high and salinity hazards are not uncommon.

The salinity hazards in ground water are also noticed in the inland areas of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat, generally confined to arid and semi-arid tracts.

The varied modes of ground water occurrence in the country may be broadly summarized as:

a) Porous formations comprising unconsolidated and semi consolidated sediments. Aquifers interconnected, often extensive, both continuous and discontinuous; modrate to very high yield potentials.

b) Consolidated and fissured formations. Aquifers discontinuous; Limited yield potentials.

Water and Culture

Water is one of the five basic elements (Earth, Water, Air, Atmosphere and Fire) from which creation emantes. Evolution of human culture and civilization has revolved around river systems. Ancient civilizations such as Mohanjodaro and Harrapa alongside known as the Indus Valley had started around 4000-5000 B.C. several other river systems have similarity such heritages.

Our ancient religious texts and epics give a good insight into the water storage and conservation systems prevailing in earlier times. The importance given to water in ancient India is reflected from the several hymns of the Vedas and epics and the narratives from other valuable works such as the Arthasastra of Kautilya.

River waters are treated Holy by the people of India and are utilized in various festivals/poojas/religious ceremonies. It is believed that Ganga, the heavenly river was brought down to the earth through the efforts of King Bhagirath, who underwent great penance to wash away the sins of his forefather. So intense are the beliefs of people of India in rain god that even today people pray in mass gatherings for rain to occur on time. The water of river Ganges is considered so sacred that people keep it in their homes for use in prayer as at the time of death.

Since Vedic times, water has been enjoying the most respectable and unique status. Melas and fairs are held in and around rivers. Since time immemorial, the Kumbh Mela, the greatest of the Fairs is observed while standing in water, It has attracted people from all walks of life. It is celebrated every 12 years on river Ganga (Prayag/Sangam). The Kumbh Mela has wielded a mesmeric influence over the mind and hearts of the Indian masses. Other water related festival include the Pushkar Mela is held every year in Kartika month in around Pushkar lake near Ajmer in Rajasthan.

Water and Health

Human health is dependent on wholesome and reliable supply of water and safe sanitation. It is estimated that at any given time about half the people living in developing countries are suffering from water-related diseases caused directly by infection, or indirectly by disease-carrying organisms that breed in water, such as mosquitoes. Diarrhea, infections by parasites, river blindness and malaria are among the most widespread of these diseases. Health concern also arise due to exposure to various chemicals in drinking water, for example high levels of nitrates, effect of which are not easy to quantify. Pollutants can build up in shellfish to the point that they harm the people who eat them; for example eating seafood contaminated by mercury from industrial discharges results in Minimata disease. Also due to over extraction of ground water several parts of the country faces facing problems relating to arsenic, fluoride and salinity.

The effects of pollution on wildlife can also be far reaching. These include death, eggshell thinning, population decline, reduced success of hatching, birth defects and a range of other health hazards for the birds, fish and other forms of life which live in the rivers, lakes wetlands and deltas. These are, of course, places of pollution accumulation, as near the estuaries, lagoons and bays of the coastal zone. Changes in the conditions of the aquatic environment arising from human activities can endanger the different species living there, in some cases leading to the decline and extinction .

National Water Development Strategy

In future the margin between the national available resource and the volume of water used is going to diminish. Population growth is the major factor. As mentioned earlier, country’s population is projected to reach 1.6 billion by the middle of the next century.

As the crisis approaches and as water resources become scarcer, the risk of conflict over them will become greater. After 2025 AD climate change could also make conditions worse if precipitation amounts decrease in the major food producing regions and evaporation rates increase. The bulk of the increase in food production has to come from irrigated lands and this, in turn, will require more money to be spend on long distance water transfers, dams and the like, should the resources be available. The increasing size and number of cities will create a much bigger pollution load unless sanitation systems are provided. Urgent and decisive action must begin now if impending water crisis of a national proportions later in the 21st Century – are to be avoided during the next 30 years.

Water and Development

Prior to independence, the country suffered time and again by droughts leading to famines and starvation. The poor suffered the most. Mainly failure of the monsoon or deficient rains leading to crop-failure and sometimes, intensive rains causing floods and destruction of standing crops caused perpetual these distress. Omuta so the remedy was lay in developing our water resources of the country to provide assured irrigation so as it overcome the vagaries of the nature.

Population growth and high living standards have increased the demand for food and water. This has exerted additional pressure on our natural resources including environmental degradation. Alleviating poverty is equally essential. If sustainable development is to be mean anything, such development must be based on an appropriate understanding of the environment.

Poverty alleviation has been one of the main objectives of our development planning. Government has been a key player in the development of water resources of the country. There are many success stories and some failures too. About 83% of the developed water resources of the country are presently used for irrigation that has contributed to significant agricultural growth.

Rain Water Harvesting

For recharging depleted ground water aquifers, arresting deteriorating ground water quality including salinity ingress initiatives would be undertaken in several parts of the country through programmes of roof-top water harvesting, artificial recharge and rain water harvesting structures to restore the depleting quantity and quality of ground water.

Polluting Water

Steams and rivers are now being used as convenient places to dump wastes. When the world's populationwas small and industry and agriculture were primitive, this posed no problems. But conditions have changes as cities swell and industry and agriculture demands increase. Today water pollution comes from many different sources, often in large volumes. Some of is in the forms of untreated sewage, industrial discharges, leakage from oil storage tanks, mine drainage and leaching from min waste, and drainage from the residues of agricultural fertilizers and pesticides. Water pollution varies in severity from one region to the other depending on the density of urban development, agricultural and industrial practices and the presence or absence of systems for collecting and treating waste waters.

In most of the cities in the country untreated sewage finds its way into the nearest watercourse. Sewage requires to be adequately treated, so that the wastewater discharges from the treatment works reaches standards, which ensure a minimal impact on the receiving waters. Such systems allow the reuse of water in a number of river basins. Pollution can get locked away in river sediments and dumps of mine waste, which continue to haunt future generations. The release of heavy metals such as lead, mercury, silver and chromium which are highly toxic to aquatic life is one of such inherited problems. Some heavy metals are stored by fish and then passed on to humans through its comsumption.

Excessive Ground Water Exploitation

More water is being pumped out of a number of aquifers than is being replaced by the natural recharge. Groundwater levels in some aquifers have declined by tens of meters because of over-pumping, making it more difficult and expensive to abstract more water. This has resulted in land subsidence. Declining groundwater levels have reduced the dry weather flow and have caused some to disappear completely. . This is serious in arid areas where the aquifers contain "fossil" water and there is no possibility of recharge under current climatic conditions. This also causing deterioration in the quality of the groundwater.

Based on the hydro-geological surveys carried out in twelve major states covering 627 administrative blocks, 351 blocks have been declared as dark blocks where the groundwater extraction is more than the replenishable resources resulting in the reduced ground water tables. Another 276 blocks have been identified as gray blocks where similar problems are developing. Exploitation of ground water from dark blocks is being regulated through Central Ground Water Authority set up under Environmental Protection Act (1986).

Using Water

Demand for water is rising and is estimated to have risen six to seven times from 1900 to 2001, more than the rate of population growth. It is a rise, which seems likely to accelerate in to the future, because the population is expected to reach 1.3 billion by the year 2025 and 1.6 billion by 2050. A tentative study indicates that total annual requirement of freshwater for various sectors in the country will be about 1093 by 2025 AD. This freshwater requirements by 2025 AD will be almost at par with exploitable water resources including both surface and ground water. Thereafter additional supply will be necessary or else scarcity conditions would prevail in majority of our river basins.





























Presently the areas of inland drainage in Rajasthan and Sabarmati basin are already facing the deficiency of water, which has been partly met through inter-basin transfer. However, by 2025 AD many other basins like Indus, east flowing rivers between Mahanadi and Pennar, between Pennar and Kanyakumari, west flowing rivers in Kutch and Saurashtra including Luni will be water deficit.

The National Water Development Agency set up by the Union Government under the Ministry of Water Resources has prepared in 1980 prepared a National Perspective Plan for development of country's water resources, disregarding political boundaries of States. The National Perspective Plan envisages the construction of about 180 of storages, which, along with the interlinks, will facilitate additional utilisation of nearly 240 of water for beneficial use. This will enable irrigation over an additional area of 35 million hectare, comprising 25 million hectare by surface water and 10 million hectare by increased use of ground water, besides 34,000 MW of substantial hydro power generation, flood control and other multifarious benefits would accure.

Water Use

In today's estimated demand for water, some 605 cubic kilometers a year, agriculture takes more than 80 percent, mostly for irrigation. To meet the demand for water, humankind has been supplementing and reinforcing the hydrological cycle by constructing wells and boreholes, reservoirs, aqueducts, water supply systems, irrigation schemes, drainage systems, irrigation schemes and dimilar facilities. Government and public bodies spend large sums of money to develop and maintain these facilities. Excessive use of our rivers, are causing downstream problems, of water quality and ecological stress.

Water Losses

Unfortunately, much of the water abstracted from surface and groundwater sources for human activities is used very inefficiently. In irrigation, for example, more than 60 per cent of the water seeps from the channels of the distribution systems and is lost by evaporation. To make matters worse, seepage causes water logging and salinization in irrigated lands, resulting in significant reductions in crop yield. Many industrial processes use water inefficiently and fail to make savings through techniques such as recycling.

Losses also occur in the public water supply distribution systems, particularly where the water mains are old and are not well maintained. Leakage of 50 per cent or more of the water is not uncommon and there are losses due to illegal connections as well. There are also losses from the sewers, which carry away the wastewater, which can cause serious pollution problems.

Water Under Stress

Water scarcity occurs when the supply of water is unable to meet demand. Water resources and water use vary considerably across the country. A widely used measure of a nation's economic status is its gross national product per head of population. A similar index of the level of development of a nation's water resources and the stress places on them by the demand for water is the water used as a percentage of the available water resource.

Year Population Per Capita Water Availability

(in million) (in cubic metre)

1951 361 M 5177

1955 395 M 4732

1991 846 M 2209

2001 1027 M 1820

2025 1394 M (projected) 1341

2050 1640 M (projected) 1140

The basin wise per capita water availability, which is around 1859 cu.m. per annum for the country as a whole, varies between 13,393 cu. m per annum for Brahmaputra-Barak basin to about 300 cu.m. per annum for Sabarmati basin.

Climate change is another human-included stress that is generally not yet taken into account. Water resources assessment and planning start from the assumption that past records of variability are reflections of what will happen in the future. The evaluations of the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change point to temperature increases, precipitation change increased variability, and sea level rise. All these factors impact directly on the availability of water resources both in space and time. The global models do not yet have the precision to provide scenarios of possible change at the local or small basin level; however, the implications are increased stress on already scarce water supplies, as well as one more unknown to consider in water resources assessment and planning.

Fresh Water from the Sea

Desalination of seawater could theoretically be a sustainable source of fresh water--at least for wealthy nations with access to seawater--but it falls far short of sustainability today. In 1990 just over 13 million cubic meters of fresh water were being produced per day in some 7,500 facilities around the world through desalination. That represents a 13-fold increase in global capacity over 20 years. Yet desalinated water still supplies barely one thousandth of the fresh water used worldwide, according to calculations by Peter H. Gleick, an expert on water issues with the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, California. Between the high capital and energy requirements, desalinated water costs several times more than water supplied by conventional means. To make it affordable, Kuwait and other wealthy countries heavily subsidize the costs of water to their citizens. With world population growing by 1.6 percent a year, it is hard to imagine this technology expanding fast enough to make a major contribution to meeting water needs around the world.

Desalination as currently practiced has a further constraint: It is driven almost entirely by the combustion of fossil fuels. These fuels, in extensive but still finite supply, pollute the air and contribute to the risk of global climate change. At present, solar powered desalination plants--which hold the promise of using renewable energy to take the salt out of seawater--account for only 5,240 cubic meters a day, a negligible proportion of all desalinated water.

New sources of fresh water will be developed, and no doubt water will be used with increasing efficiency. Solutions that work over time, however, must respect the limits imposed by the global water cycle. At least until renewable energy can be coupled inexpensively with desalination technologies, sustainable development of water resources means working with the 41,000 cubic kilometers the water cycle provides each year. To allow for flooding and nature's needs, a quarter to a third of that amount may be the upper limit of water available for sustainable human use.

Freshwater Resource: International Concern

The decreasing freshwater availability is causing concern not only in India but also all over the world. Protection and Quality of Freshwater Resources has been identified as one of the main action for sustainable development in the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Rio, Brazil in 1992. Realizing this the Ministerial declaration at the Second World Water Forum in The Hague in March 2000 called upon the nations to work toward water security in the 21st century and make water as everybody’s business. Further the Ministerial Declaration at Freshwater meet in Bonn, 2001 placed greater commitment on agreed principles of water resources management and called upon for new partnership to create water wisdom, cleaning up watersheds, to reaching communities and innovative solutions for sustainable use, protection and management of freshwater resources.

Combining Conservation and Population Strategies

Water experts increasingly agree that the most effective long-term strategies for dealing with water scarcity include conservation and more efficient water use. Water shortages are already forcing many people to use and re-use water more efficiently. And the efficiency of water use can be further improved--in many cases dramatically. Over the longer term, however, human populations will need to come into balance with available renewable water supplies.

Realizing relatively easy gains through efficiency is essential today while populations grow rapidly. In many nations, conservation and efficiency efforts can buy time that could spell the difference between getting by and suffering a crisis in fresh water supply. A "Blue Revolution" in water supply and sanitation is needed as much today as the "Green Revolution" in food production was needed to feed the billions of people added to world population after 1950. But nations cannot afford to make the mistake some made in the Green Revolution, convincing themselves gains in food production would continue indefinitely and that no efforts to slow population growth were needed. Just as gains in per-capita grain production now show signs of leveling off, new approaches to water supply and management will ultimately reach their own limits.

It is true that great civilizations evolved in conditions where water was anything but abundant. And human ingenuity will undoubtedly continue to produce and refine innovations in resource development and management. But until very recently, our numbers were so low that the merest fraction of the earth's renewable fresh water supplies sufficed to meet our needs. Today, with 5.5 billion people and well-drilling technologies capable of reaching water buried deep in the earth, human populations for the first time are capable of depleting and polluting fresh water supplies on a massive scale. Governments must act now to prepare for inevitable increases in population that will further strain their fresh water supplies. And they need to help create conditions that will encourage the stabilization of population while there is still time to bring human needs and natural resources into a sustainable balance.

Alternative Futures

More than any hydrologist or urban planner, it is women in the developing world--the drawers, carriers and household managers of water--who understand what water scarcity is and what its implications are for families and communities. What is needed is better opportunities for women to translate their knowledge and their energies into action and personal control--over natural resources such as water, and over their own lives. Real opportunities for women--in education, in economic and political life, and in family decisionmaking--could vastly improve the management of water and women's own well-being. Women also need the opportunity to make decisions about their own fertility and the capacity to put those decisions into effect. Efforts to improve the lives, health and status of women can be justified on their own merits, and together they would act powerfully to reduce fertility.

Over the last 30 years, a number of countries have demonstrated that rapid declines in birth rates are possible through a combination of relatively inexpensive measures, especially widespread provision of high quality, voluntary family planning services.

Because record numbers of people will be moving into their childbearing years over the next two decades, the impact of lower birthrates will not be fully felt until well into the next century. But the momentum of population growth is such that policies and programs contributing to eventual population stabilization must be initiated today--at the same time that improved water management technologies, programs and projects are being developed to meet higher future levels of water demand.

Access to family planning services already has had a dramatic impact. Fertility has declined much faster in parts of Asia and Latin America than it ever did in Europe and North America in earlier decades. It took the United States, for example, nearly six decades to move from an average family size of 6.5 to 3.5 children. In Colombia the change occurred in just 15 years, while Thailand reached replacement fertility of two children per couple after only 17 years. If the number of births per woman averaged around five today, as it did in the early 1960s, world population would be growing today by 160 million people each year. Instead, with fertility averaging 3.4 births per women, the annual population increment is 90 million.

World population is lower today by an estimated 400 million than it would have been if organized family planning programs had never been initiated.40 In many parts of the world, water problems are today more manageable than they otherwise would be because demand for and access to family planning began rising so dramatically 30 years ago. Economic and social development, especially improved opportunities for women, also have made a significant contribution to reductions in population growth. Policies that extend and accelerate these trends today could have an even more dramatic impact on fresh water availability in the next century and beyond.

The importance of large differences in alternative population scenarios to the mid-21st century can be seen in their effect on per-capita renewable fresh water availability in India and China. These are the only two countries for which projections to 2150 are currently available, but together they account for more than a third of the world's population. Only the beginnings of a divergence in water availability are evident in each country in 2025, but between 2050 and 2075 the per capita water availability paths diverge dramatically. The path of greatest fertility decline leads to water abundance and increasing per-capita supply, while the path of least decline pushes the countries into scarcity by 2050, in the case of India, or 2125, in the case of China.

A nation's per capita renewable water supply is not just an accounting measure of an important natural resource. Availability of and access to clean water and sanitation are among the most important determinants of the health of individual human beings. Without sufficient water, economic development becomes virtually impossible and conflict over scarce resources virtually inevitable. Long-term sustainability requires a shift from non-renewable to renewable supplies of fresh water, a new sense of urgency about water conservation, and ultimately stabilization of population size.

Substantial worldwide experience has demonstrated that making high quality, voluntary family planning widely available to men and women of reproductive age can bring down fertility rates independently of other social and economic factors. Recent research also suggests how powerfully family planning programs work in concert with improved opportunities for women--especially secondary-school education for girls. Efforts in family planning and education may seem far from the concerns of hydrologists and engineers, but they may matter just as much--and over the long term even more--to the future of water availability around the world.

If sustainable development is not a mere platitude, if the nations of the world take seriously the Earth Summit's charge that natural resources must be used in ways that ensure their availability to future generations, then early stabilization of population size is vital to any strategy. We need to develop water supplies in ways that assure every human being abundant, renewable quantities of clean and healthful water for life, prosperity and well-being. And we need to stabilize our numbers at a level that respects not just the quantities of water we can produce today, but that the earth can provide forever.


A major fresh water crisis is gradually unfolding in India. The crisis is the lack of access to safe water supply to millions of people as a result of inadequate water management and environmental degradation. The crisis also endangers the economic and social prosperity of the country.

The fresh water crisis is already evident in many parts of India, varying in scale and intensity at different times of the year. Many fresh water eco-systems are degrading. The fresh water crisis is not the result of natural factors, but has been caused by human actions. During the early 1980s, India developed indigenous capabilities for water well drilling in hard rock areas which provide drinking water for millions of people. But at the same time, the number of energized wells drilled for irrigation of cash crops rapidly increased, encouraged by easy credit and subsidized diesel and electricity. India's rapidly rising population and changing lifestyles also increases the need for fresh water. Intense competition among competing users — agriculture, industry and domestic sector - is driving the ground water table deeper and deeper. Widespread pollution of surface and groundwater is reducing the quality of fresh water resources. Attempts to introduce and enforce legislation have by-and-large failed. Fresh water is increasingly taking centre stage on the economic and political agenda, as more and more disputes between and within states, districts, regions, and even at the community level arise.

In 1995, UNICEF and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) commissioned case studies in five different ecological regions of the country with the objective of providing insights in the trends in water availability and use at the local level for all purposes to study the water balance situation. The studies gathered primary data and information through participatory rural appraisals, surveys, testing of water and soil quality and hydro-geological observations over a full one year cycle covering all the seasons. The studies examined the fresh water situation using an eco-system approach and documented the actions of people to meet their basic water needs, but also their actions to increase family income, using available water resources. They bring out the diversity of the situation, which provides both opportunities and challenges for action. The synthesis report of these case studies "Fresh Water for India's Children and Nature" provides policy and programmatic recommendations for fresh water management.

The common thread in the preservation of bio-diversity and meeting people's needs is water. The studies show the close linkages between household water security, food security and environmental restoration. Water use and water regeneration has to be integrated effectively, as was done in many traditional technologies. Renovation of forest tanks in drought prone regions will have a significant impact on wildlife and forest cover. Similarly, in some urban cities there is a need to regenerate ground water aquifers because of the high degree of dependence on them for drinking water. Actions such as renovation of temple tanks and their protection from pollution require urgent attention which will at the same time contribute to other aspects of environmental protection such as reduction of salt water ingress. Low availability of water causes immense stress on the health and nutrition of women as seen in the Himalayan foothills. The causes of low water availability in this regions are directly linked to the reducing forest cover and soil degradation.

Nearly one million children in India die of diarrhoeal diseases each year directly as a result of drinking unsafe water and living in unhygienic conditions. Some 45 million people are affected by water quality problems caused by pollution, by excess fluoride, arsenic, iron or by the ingress of salt water. Millions do not have adequate quantities of safe water, particularly during the summer months. In rural areas, women and girls still have to walk long distances and spend up to four hours every single day to provide the household with water. With increasing opportunities for women to engage in productive employment, the opportunity cost of their time increasingly carries monetary value. If opportunity costs were taken into account, it would be clear that in most rural areas households are paying far more for water supply than the often nominal rates charged in urban areas. These considerations are yet to become a part of the decision-making criteria in water supply programmes.

The National Water Policy states that water is a prime natural resource, a basic human need and a precious national asset. It gives primacy to drinking water for both humans and animals over its other uses. The policy calls for controls on the exploitation of ground water through regulation and an integrated and coordinated development of surface and ground water. The Central Government identified strategies for meeting drinking water needs and micro-watershed management and conducted pilot projects in different regions in the country. Even so, India is facing a fresh water crisis.

The root causes of the crisis are:

* The system of ‘water rights' under common law in India which gives the ownership of groundwater to the landowner, despite the fact that ground water is a shared resource from common pool aquifers.

* Uncontrolled use of the borewell technology which has allowed the extraction of ground water, primarily for irrigation, to grow at phenomenal rates, often exceeding recharge.

* Communities not being in control of their water resources. Water is used as a political tool, controlled and cornered by the rich, who do not pay the price for this scarce resource. The poverty of incomes, capabilities and opportunities of many is compounded by ‘water poverty'.

* Rampant pollution of fresh water resources.

* The lack of adequate attention to water conservation, efficiency in water use, water re-use, ground water recharge and eco-system sustainability.

The underlying strategy is to decentralise the management and regulation of water resources to communities, and to provide them with the authority, responsibility and financial support to manage and protect their water environment.

1. Community awareness and management of fresh water resources should be enhanced.

2. Government should implement effective ground water legislation and regulations through self- regulation by communities and local institutions.

3. In water supply programmes, re-define basic service levels and re-orient technological options.

4. Water quality should be a central consideration in designing and implementing programmes.

5. Water should be treated as an economic resource.

6. External support agencies should support fresh water resource management.

7. Environmental restoration should be promoted along with household water security.

No single action whether community based, legislation, techo-fix, including traditional water harvesting systems, or reliance on market forces will in itself alleviate the crisis in India. The effective answer to the fresh water crisis is to integrate conservation and development activities at the local level — moving from water extraction to water management. Making communities aware and involving them fully is critical for success. The programmatic suggestions above provide scope for combining conservation of the environment with the basic needs of people. The studies strengthen the dictum that what is good for nature is good for people.


There is a general feeling that our country with mighty rivers like the Ganga, the Brahmaputra, the Krishna, the Godavari, the Narmada etc. has abundant water resources. But from the last decade it was realised that this impression is not correct. It is therefore necessary to review the availability of water.

- Annual precipitation 400 million hectare metres

- Available surface water 186.9 million hectare metres (46.7%)

- Utilisable water resources 69.0 million hectare metres (36.9%)

- Utilisable ground water 43.2 million hectare metres

Thus, the total water resources available for utilization including ground water is only about 112.2 million hectare metres. Only 28.3% of the water derived from rainfall can be utilized. The position in some of our largest river basins is worse. For example in the Brahmaputra basin, which contributes 62.9 million hectare metres of surface water of the country’s total flow, only 3.33% i.e. 2.1 million hectare metres is utilizable. With the increasing population as well as all round development in the country, the utilization of water has also been consequently increasing at a fast pace. In 1951, the actual utilization of surface water was about 20% and 10% in the case of ground water. In 1997 - 1998, the country used about 57.8% (32.9 million hectare metres) of utilizable quantum of surface water and about 53.2% (23.0 million hectare metres) of the ground water.

Out of an ultimate hydropower potential of 84,000 MW at 60% load factor at present we are able to utilize only 22,000 MW. There is severe shortage in overall availability of power, which hydropower can compensate.

Future Demand Scenario

The food requirement of the growing population will be about 450 million tons in 2050 as against the present highest food grain production of around 198 million tons. Two-third of this is obtained from irrigated food grain production areas. Thus irrigation requirements of the country are likely to share a major chunk even in the future.

Even with the full development of the estimated ultimate irrigation potential of 139.89 million hectares by 2050 AD only 65% of net sown area will receive irrigation, and the balance 35% will still depend on vagaries of the monsoon. Consequently, irrigation will continue to be a bulk consumer of water.

Need for Conservation

However, when this is applied in the case of water, it has the following broad connotations viz.:

Economical and optimal use including prevention of wastage/leakage.

Multiple use (reuse and recycling)

In the hydrological sense, water conservation means improving the dependability of the water through augmenting additional resources through storage of rainwater in reservoirs, ponds, lakes, shallow and deep ground water or in the soil moistures. A present day definition may also include the conservation of water as defined above in both qualitative and quantitative assessment. As of now, the storage capacity created in the country is about 50% of the ultimate possibility.

Conservation of Water - A Micro Approach

The Concept

Water conservation is a loose and undefined concept which brings out the need for judicious use of water through engineering means to meet the human needs by modifying the space and time availability and the quality of water. It brings out the need to store water, where such storage is necessary, due to a mismatch in timing between supply and demand and to the transportation of the water from the place of demand without unavoidable wastage.

In India, the water available through precipitation on an average is around 4000 billion cubic metres per year. It is estimated that after accounting for the natural evapo-transportation the natural run off through the rivers or through the aquifers would be around 1950 billion cubic metres per year. However, both the precipitation and the run off (particularly, the river run off) are very unevenly distributed in time and space. Out of the run off, around 500 billion cubic metres per year occurs in the heavy precipitation areas of the North-East where demands are low.

The Indian Position

In India, it is estimated that after considering all these constraints, the utilizable water in terms of diversions would be around 690 billion cubic metres per year from surface sources and about 432 billion cubic metres per year from the ground sources. However, unconventional techniques like inter-basin transfers and artificial recharge of ground water could overcome some of the constraints and increase the utilizable flows.

Water is part of a closed hydrologic circle and in scientific terms there can be no use of water in the ultimate sense. However, the net utilization of water can be considered as the water which reaches, evaporated through various processes and that water which returns at a place where re-use is not possible.

Water Treatment

The precarious balance between growing demands and supplies brings forth the importance of maintaining quality of both surface and ground water. In the face of the very large scale re-use water, unless the return flows are of reasonably good quality, very serious problems of quality degradation would occur both in surface and ground water. Correction of quality degradation, particularly, in ground water is a very difficult process.

Treatment of waste water is essentially a very costly proposition while this is inescapable in the future, the costs could be a very serious constraint in encouraging treatment. In particular, treatment of domestic sewage for all the growing urban centres would be somewhat impracticable, considering that most municipalities are not financially self-sustainable, until cheaper alternatives for human waste disposal could be evolved. Such alternatives are available by the way of Oxidization Ponds, Waste Stabilization Ponds, use of Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) technology, Duck Weed Pond technology, utilization of raw or partially treated sewerage for forestry, artificial wetlands, Root Zone technology etc.

The total investment required in India for urban and rural water supply treatment of domestic and industrial wastes, is not readily available. An attempt in this direction has been made by the Indian National Committee on Irrigation and Drainage (INCID), as also by others.

Water Conservation and Treatment

Although the industrial requirement of water constitutes only a small percent, it again cannot be met without construction of storage dams. For example, to meet the needs of the Bokaro Steel Plant another dam in the Damodar Valley at Tenughat has been constructed. Similarly, a cluster of thermal and super-thermal power stations in UP are entirely dependant on the waters stored at Rihand dam.

Conservation through Optimal & Economical Use of Water

Various crops need a certain quantum of water for maximum yields. It has been established that with a slightly less supply, the yields are not affected considerably. In fact, in scarcity conditions, there is a much better and optimal use of water.

Conservation through Multiple use - Reuse and Recycling

The third aspect of conservation would be to minimize the wastage and misuse of water if not prevent it altogether. This will again apply to all the uses of water. For example, it is estimated that in urban water supply almost 30 to 40% of the water is wasted through the distribution system. In almost all the major urban centres of the country there is already an acute problem of adequate water supply while the sources of augmentation are very few. It is, therefore, most significant to prevent such wastage.

In industries also, there is a scope for economy in the use of water. For example, in India water used for production per ton of paper is 300 kiloliters while in USA it is only 20 kiloliters. It is estimated by the Bureau of Industrial Costs and Prices that 10 - 30 % saving is possible by recycling, modifications in processing, evaporation control etc.

Strategies for Conservation

Against this backdrop, we have to consider strategies for conservation of water. Some of the strategies, which can be seriously considered, are as follows:

Education: It is necessary to undertake a vigorous mass campaign of education so as to continuously hammer into the minds of the public that water is a precious asset which is becoming increasingly scarce and it is the sacred duty of every citizen to use it most economically and efficiently.

Compulsions: Today, there is hardly any accounting of water, which is stored at considerable cost to the nation and distributed again through a costly distribution system. It should be made compulsory for every irrigation project that every year there is a complete account of water diverted from the dam/head works and the manner in which it was utilized. This will bring out the areas needing improvement in the use of water.

Leakage in Distribution Systems: There should be a similar compulsory time bound programme for all municipal authorities to reduce wastage/leakage in distribution systems to bring it to within 10% from the existing 30-40%.

Use of Improved Technology: There is considerable scope for application of new technologies in the use of water. In the case of irrigation, increased use of sprinkler and drip irrigation will enable considerable reduction in the use of water. Similarly, in the cases of urban water supply, change over to new water fittings and better distribution systems will also reduce considerable wastage. Similar attempts can be made in industrial water supply, if necessary, by concentrated R & D to reduce water consumption.

Drought Contingency Plan: Irrigation systems should have an established contingency plan. If not, planning for drought conditions should begin as soon as indications of a water shortage is apparent. The authorities should draft and circulate a proposed plan among farmers for comments before adopting. The plan should include:

The conditions that will cause the plan to be implemented;

A description of the method to be used to allocate water shortage;

A special water pricing;

A list of rules and regulations specifying water use restrictions and procedures that would be followed; and

A list of specific and enforcement procedures to be implemented.


We live in a water-challenged world, one that is becoming more so each year as 80 million additional people stake their claims to the earth's water resources. Unfortunately, nearly all the projected three billion people to be added over the next half century will be born in countries that are already experiencing water shortages. Even now many in these countries lack enough water to drink, to satisfy hygienic needs and to produce food.

By 2050, India is projected to add 519 million people and China 211 million. Pakistan is projected to add nearly 200 million, going from 151 million at present to 348 million. Egypt, Iran and Mexico are slated to increase their populations by more than half by 2050. In these and other water-short countries, population growth is sentencing millions of people to hydrological poverty, a local form of poverty that is difficult to escape.

Even with today's six billion people, the world has a huge water deficit. Using data on overpumping for China, India, Saudi Arabia, North Africa and the U.S., Sandra Postel, author of Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last? calculates the annual depletion of aquifers at 160 billion cubic metres or 160 billion tonnes. Using the rule of thumb, that it takes 1,000 tonnes of water to produce one tonne of grain, this 160-billion- tonne water deficit is equal to 160 million tonnes of grain or one half the U.S.'s grain harvest.

At an average world grain consumption of just over 300 kg or one- third of a tonne per person a year, this would feed 480 million people. Stated otherwise, 480 million of the world's six billion people are being fed with grain produced with the unsustainable use of water.

Overpumping is a new phenomenon, one largely confined to the last half century. Only since the development of powerful diesel and electrically driven pumps have we had the capacity to pull water out of aquifers faster than it is replaced by precipitation.

Some 70 per cent of the water consumed worldwide, including both that diverted from rivers and that pumped from underground, is used for irrigation, while some 20 per cent is used by industry, and 10 per cent for residential purposes. In the increasingly intense competition for water among sectors, agriculture almost always loses. The 1,000 tonnes of water used in India to produce one ton of wheat worth perhaps $200 (Rs. 10,000) can also be used to expand industrial output by $10,000 (Rs. 5,00,000), or 50 times as much. This ratio helps explain why, in the American West, the sale of irrigation water rights by farmers to cities is an almost daily occurrence.

In addition to population growth, urbanisation and industrialisation also expand the demand for water. As developing country villagers, traditionally reliant on the village well, move to urban high-rise apartment buildings with indoor plumbing, their residential water use can easily triple. Industrialisation takes even more water than urbanisation.

Rising affluence in itself generates additional demand for water. As people move up the food chain, consuming more meat and dairy products, they use more grain. A U.S. diet, rich in livestock products, requires 800 kg of grain per person a year, whereas diets in India, dominated by a starchy food staple such as rice, typically need only 200 kg. Using four times as much grain per person means using four times as much water.

Once a localised phenomenon, water scarcity is now crossing national borders via the international grain trade. The world's fastest growing grain import market is North Africa and the West Asia, an area that includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and West Asia through Iran. Virtually every country in this region is simultaneously experiencing water shortages and rapid population growth.

As the demand for water in the region's cities and industries increases, it is typically satisfied by diverting water from irrigation. The loss in food production capacity is then offset by importing grain from abroad. Since one tonne of grain represents 1,000 tonnes of water, this becomes the most efficient way to import water.

Last year, Iran imported seven million tonnes of wheat, eclipsing Japan to become the world's leading wheat importer. This year, Egypt is also projected to move ahead of Japan. Iran and Egypt have nearly 70 million people each. Both populations are increasing by more than a million a year and both are pressing against the limits of their water supplies.

The water required to produce the grain and other foodstuffs imported into North Africa and West Asia last year was roughly equal to the annual flow of the Nile. Stated otherwise, the fast- growing water deficit of this region is equal to another Nile flowing into the region in the form of imported grain.

It is now often said that future wars in the region will more likely be fought over water than oil. Perhaps, but given the difficulty in winning a water war, the competition for water seems more likely to take place in world grain markets. The countries that will "win" in this competition will be those that are financially strongest, not those that are militarily strongest.

The world water deficit grows larger with each year, making it potentially more difficult to manage. If we decided abruptly to stabilise water tables everywhere by simply pumping less water, the world grain harvest would fall by some 160 million tonnes, or eight per cent, and grain prices would go off the top of the chart. If the deficit continues to widen, the eventual adjustment will be even greater.

Unless governments in water-short countries act quickly to stabilise population and to raise water productivity, their water shortages may soon become food shortages. The risk is that the growing number of water-short countries, including population giants China and India, with rising grain import needs will overwhelm the exportable supply in food surplus countries, such as the U.S., Canada and Australia. This in turn could destabilise world grain markets.

Another risk of delay in dealing with the deficit is that some low-income, water-short countries will not be able to afford to import needed grain, trapping millions of their people in hydrological poverty, thirsty and hungry, unable to escape.

Although there are still some opportunities for developing new water resources, restoring the balance between water use and the sustainable supply will depend primarily on demand-side initiatives, such as stabilising population and raising water productivity.

Governments can no longer separate population policy from the supply of water. And just as the world turned to raising land productivity a half century ago when the frontiers of agricultural settlement disappeared, so it must now turn to raising water productivity. The first step toward this goal is to eliminate the water subsidies that foster inefficiency.

The second step is to raise the price of water to reflect its cost. Shifting to more water-efficient technologies, more water- efficient crops and more water-efficient forms of animal protein offer a huge potential for raising water productivity. These shifts will move faster if the price of water more closely reflects its value.


A world water development report of the United Nations has categorised India among the worst countries for poor quality of water, as well as their ability and commitment to improve the situation. The Asian rivers are the most polluted in the world, with three times as many bacteria from human waste as the global average. These rivers also have 20 times more lead than those of the industrialised countries, says the report.

The report ranks 122 countries according to the quality of their water as well as their ability and commitment to improve the situation. Belgium is considered the worst basically because of the low quantity and quality of its groundwater combined with heavy industrial pollution and poor treatment of waste water. It is followed by Morocco, India, Jordan, Sudan, Niger, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic and Rwanda.

Attributing this to "inertia at leadership level", the report entitled "Water for People, Water for Life" observes that "the global water crisis will reach unprecedented levels in future with growing per capita scarcity of water in many parts of the developing world". It further observes that water resources will steadily decline because of population growth, pollution and expected climate change.

"Globally the challenge lies in raising the political will to implement water-related commitments," says the report. "Water professionals need a better understanding of the broader social, economic and political context, while politicians need to be better informed about water resource issues. Otherwise, water will continue to be an area for political rhetoric and lofty promises instead of sorely needed actions."

The list of the countries with best quality is headed by Finland, followed by Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Japan, Norway, Russian Federation, Republic of Korea, Sweden and France.

It ranks over 180 countries and territories in terms of the amount of renewable water resources available per capita, meaning all of the water circulating on the surface and in the soil or deeper underground. The top 10 water rich countries are French Guyana, Iceland, Guyana, Suriname, Congo, Papua New Guinea, Gabon, Solomon Islands, Canada and New Zealand. The poorest countries in terms of water availability are Kuwait followed by Gaza Strip, United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, Qatar, Maldives, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Saudi Arabia, Malta and Singapore.

The report adds that by the middle of this century at worst seven billion people in 60 countries will be faced with water scarcity, at best 2 billion in 48 countries, depending on factors such as population growth and policy-making. Climate change will account for an estimated 20 per cent of this increase in global water scarcity.


Implementing the concept of rivers was concieved as early as in 1980 for optimum development and utilisation of water resources through inter-basin water transfer envisaging diversion of water from surplus river basins to water deficit basins/areas. Creation of storages and inter-basin transfer of water is a possible option for overcoming these disparities.

The vast variation both in space and time in the availability of water in different regions of the country has created what is normally referred to as a food-drought-flood syndrome, with some areas suffering from flood damages and other areas facing acute water shortage. Floods and drought affect vast areas of the country, transcending State boundaries. The drought prone area assessed in the country is of the order of 51.12 Mha, while the area susceptible to floods is around 40 million hectares. The States of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra are the worst drought prone States. The States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and Assam face the severe flood problems.

There has been significant development in the water resources sector in the post independence era to meet the food and fibre requirements of the people and accelerated economic growth. However, the scope and objectives of these developments have generally been confined to the respective basin development within the frame work of water sharing agreements among the riparian States.

A tentative study indicates that total annual requirement of freshwater for various sectors in the country will be about 1093 billion cubic meters by 2025 A.D. This freshwater requirements by 2025 AD will be almost at par with exploitable water resources including both surface and ground water. However, to meet water requirements beyond the year 2025 AD, inter-basin transfer of water would facilitate additional availability of water. Inter-basin transfer of water from surplus to water deficit region through inter-linking of rivers, for which comprehensive study has been done as one of solutions to reduce the gap between demand and supply. Also that utilisation of return flows from various sectoral uses such as irrigation, domestic, industry and energy could be of reused and recycled.


Monitoring progress in the water sector requires an interdisciplinary approach that may involve both qualitative and quantitative assessment techniques. These should be integrated in such a way as to allow a range of issues to be addressed, while at the same time allowing the views and values of a range of stakeholders to be represented.

In order to see how a country is progressing over time, it is necessary to examine the position as time passes. In order to do this, a monitoring system needs to be developed based on simple indicators. The most familiar of these is the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is an example of an easy-to-use indicator that helps us to see what is happening to consumer prices. All economic systems use this CPI tool for measuring inflation, and it has wide policy use, which is frequently quoted in the popular press. In a similar way, we can use a simple and easy-to-use indicator which people can apply to their own situations, to get a better understanding of how water can best be managed to meet their own needs. A possible approach to this is the Water Poverty Index (WPI), which is designed to provide a standardised framework for such an indicator, and for each country, appropriate and available data for each component can be identified.

This approach to the calculation of a Water Poverty Index is based on the formulation of a framework, which incorporates a wide range of variables. This is a holistic approach to water resource evaluation, in keeping with the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach used by many donor organisations to evaluate development progress. The scores of the index range on a scale of 1 to 100, with the total being generated as a weighted additive value of five major components. Each of the 5 components is also scored on a scale of 1 - 100, and they are:

Resource: This is a measure of ground and surface water availability, adjusted for quality and reliability

Access: This indicates the effective access people have to water for their survival

Use: This captures some measure of how water is used, including sectoral shares

Capacity: This variable represents human and financial capacity to manage the system

Environment: This tries to capture an evaluation of ecological integrity related to water.

By incorporating these five components into a framework, we provide a means for comparative measurement. While the components of the framework are constant, there is built-in flexibility in the weighting given to the individual components, and the choice of sub- components. These sub-components can be identified after consultation with local stakeholders, and appropriate variables can be defined. Each of these variables must then be positioned on a scale from 0 to 100, in order for them to be combined.

New Water Poverty Index defines world water crisis country by country. The newly developed international Water Poverty Index (WPI) finds that some of the world’s richest nations such as the United States and Japan fare poorly in water ranking, while some developing countries score in the top ten, say researchers from the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and experts from the World Water Council.

The Water Poverty Index has been developed by a team of 31 researchers in consultation with more than 100 water professionals from around the world. At the international scale, it grades 147 countries according to five different measures – resources, access, capacity, use and environmental impact -- to show where the best and worst water situations exist.

According to the WPI, the top 10 water-rich nations in the world are, in descending order: Finland, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Guyana, Suriname, Austria, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland. The 10 countries lowest on the Water Poverty Index are all in the developing world -- Haiti, Niger, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Malawi, Djibouti, Chad, Benin, Rwanda, and Burundi.

"The links between poverty, social deprivation, environmental integrity, water availability and health becomes clearer in the WPI, enabling policy makers and stakeholders to identify where problems exist and the appropriate measures to deal with their causes," says Caroline Sullivan, Ph.D., who led an interdisciplinary team to develop the WPI concept at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Wallingford, United Kingdom, part of the UK government’s Natural Environment Research Council. The new index demonstrates the strong connection between ‘water poverty’ and ‘income poverty.’

When thinking of the poor and vulnerable, there is a general tendency to think of them as helpless people for whom the only solution is aid. "The reality is that marginalized people are usually highly motivated to help themselves," says William Cosgrove, Vice-President of the World Water Council and a contributor to the development of the WPI. "They are very often held back by constraints imposed on them by society. In every case, these people should be looked upon as an important and powerful resource to be involved in planning and implementing solutions to their own water-related problems, whether access to drinking water or adapting to floods and droughts."

One of the advantages of this new index is that it draws on information already available from a number of sources, including the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index. This makes it easy to update without having to create new data gathering systems.

"The international Water Poverty Index demonstrates that it is not the amount of water resources available that determine poverty levels in a country, but the effectiveness of how you use those resources," says Dr. Sullivan. "The best illustration of how the utilization of water resources affect a nation’s water and poverty situation can be found by comparing Haiti and the Dominican Republic."

The two nations share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola and have more or less the same amount of water, but Haiti ranks last at 147th while the Dominican Republic ranks 64th. "The reasons for the wide divergence are partly due to the fact that Haiti’s resources are less well developed, with less infrastructure, and the people of the Dominican Republic have significantly better access to water than those in Haiti," says Dr. Sullivan. "However, perhaps more meaningfully, the capacity scores for the Dominican Republic are also very high, indicating a healthy, well-educated population with a reasonable financial base. In terms of both use and the environment, Haiti’s scores are much lower, reflecting the much lower level of development in that country than in the Dominican Republic."

The WPI assigns a value of 20 points as the best score for each of its five categories. A country that completely meets the criteria in all five categories would have a score of 100. The highest-ranking country, Finland, has a WPI of 78 points, while Haiti, the last, has a WPI of just 35.

According to statistical analysis, capacity, one of the five WPI components that defines a country’s level of ability to purchase, manage and lobby for improved water, education and health, has Iceland, Ireland, Spain, Japan and Austria as the top five countries. Four of these are in the top 10 percent as measured by the WPI as a whole. These countries, along with many others, have high incomes and healthy and well-educated populations. The bottom five are Sierra Leone, Niger, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and the Central African Republic. Besides being among the world’s poorest, these countries also suffer from inadequate health and education provision. Niger and Sierra Leone, for instance, have the highest rates of under-5 mortality in the world, respectively 320 and 316 per 1000 live births. Furthermore, four of these countries are among the 10 percent of countries with the lowest overall WPI rating.

For Resources, which measures the per capita volume of surface and groundwater resources that can be drawn upon by communities and countries, the top five countries are Iceland, Suriname, Guyana, Congo and Papua New Guinea. The bottom five are United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel. The top countries all have abundant resources, but most importantly they have small populations in relation to the amount of resources. The bottom countries are all in desert areas with minimal rainfall and no major rivers bringing water from outside. Despite the scarcity of water, Israel, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are in the top 50 percent as measured by the WPI, reflecting their ability to overcome these shortages through effective management and use.

In Access, which measures a country’s ability to access water for drinking, industry and agricultural use, 21 countries garnered very high scores – Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States. So many countries achieved this rating because they have the economic capacity to provide safe water supplies and sanitation to their whole populations. The lowest five countries in this category are Eritrea, Chad, Ethiopia, Malawi and Rwanda. Besides poor levels of access to safe domestic water and sanitation, these countries also need irrigation for food production, but the demand is not being met adequately.


Hydrologic cycle (also called the water cycle): the cycle by which water evaporates from oceans and other bodies of water, accumulates as water vapor in clouds, and returns to oceans and other bodies of water as rain and snow, or as runoff from this precipitation or as groundwater.

Runoff: water originating as rain or snow that runs off the land in streams, eventually reaching oceans, inland seas or aqifers unless it evaporates first.

Aquifer: a layer or section of earth or rock that contains groundwater.

Groundwater: any water naturally stored underground in aquifers, or that flows through and saturates soil and rock, supplying springs and wells.

Water withdrawal: removal of water from any natural source or reservoir--such as a lake, stream or aquifer--for human use. If not consumed, the water may later be returned to the same or another natural reservoir.

Water consumption: use of water that allows its evaporation or makes it unfit for any subsequent use.

Renewable water: water continuously renewed within reasonable time spans by the hydrologic cycle, such as that in streams, reservoirs or other sources that refill from precipitation or runoff. The renewability of a water source depends both on its natural rate of recharge and the rate at which the water is withdrawn for human ends. To the extent water is withdrawn faster than its source is recharged, it cannot be considered renewable.

Non-renewable water: water in aquifers and other natural reservoirs that are not recharged, or are recharged so slowly that significant withdrawals will cause depletion.

Desalination: production of fresh water by removing salt from seawater or brackish water through the application of energy, usually oil or other fossil fuels.

Water scarcity: as used in reference to countries by water engineers and in this report, condition in which the annual availability of renewable fresh water is 1,000 cubic meters or less per person in the population.

Water stress: condition in which the annual availability of renewable fresh water is less than 1,667 and greater than 1,000 cubic meters per person in the population.


149 Countries, Ranked by 1990 Availability

Country 1990 Renewable annual fresh water available per person (cubic meters )

Water-scarce Countries

Djibouti 23

Kuwait 75

Malta 85

Qatar 117

Bahrain 179

Barbados 195

Singapore 221

Saudi Arabia 306

United Arab Emirates 308

Jordan 327

Yemen 445

Israel 461

Tunisia 540

Cape Verde 551

Kenya 636

Burundi 655

Algeria 689

Rwanda 897

Malawi 939

Somalia 980

Water-stressed Countries

Libya 1,017

Morocco 1,117

Egypt 1,123

Oman 1,266

Cyprus 1,282

South Africa 1,317

South Korea 1,452

Poland 1,467

Water-abundant Countries

Belgium 1,696

Haiti 1,696

Lebanon 1,818

Peru 1,856

Comoros 1,878

Iran 2,025

Mauritius 2,047

Syria 2,087

United Kingdom 2,090

Ethiopia 2,207

Lesotho 2,290

Zimbabwe 2,312

China 2,427

India 2,464

Sri Lanka 2,498

Germany 2,516

Denmark 2,529

Dominican Republic 2,789

Nigeria 2,838

Spain 2,849

Tanzania 2,924

Afghanistan 3,020

North Korea 3,077

Burkina Faso 3,114

Italy 3,243

France 3,262

Thailand 3,274

Cuba 3,299

Madagascar 3,331

Togo 3,398

Jamaica 3,430

Ghana 3,529

Turkey 3,626

El Salvador 3,674

Uganda 3,759

Pakistan 3,962

Mozambique 4,085

Trinidad and Tobago 4,126

Mexico 4,226

Mauritania 4,387

Japan 4,428

Senegal 4,777

Sudan 4,792

Philippines 5,173

Benin 5,625

Vietnam 5,638

Niger 5,691

Czechoslovakia (both republics) 5,810

Greece 5,828

Netherlands 6,023

Iraq 6,029

Côte d'Ivoire 6,177

Namibia 6,254

Lithuania 6,433

Albania 6,462

Portugal 6,688

Mali 6,729

Chad 6,843

Switzerland 7,449

Nepal 8,686

Romania 8,963

Swaziland 9,268

United States 9,913

Hungary 10,897

Yugoslavia (former) 11,130

Estonia 11,371

Mongolia 11,416

Austria 11,670

Zambia 11,797

Guatemala 12,613

Latvia 12,654

Luxembourg 13,405

Indonesia 13,729

Ireland 14,273

Botswana 14,540

Angola 17,185

Cameroon 18,049

USSR (former) 19,428

Honduras 19,852

Australia 20,075

Bangladesh 20,733

Sweden 21,013

Finland 22,682

Bulgaria 22,801

Malaysia 25,488

Gambia 25,552

Myanmar 25,870

Zaire 27,253

Ecuador 29,771

Argentina 30,753

Costa Rica 31,301

Guinea-Bissau 32,158

Colombia 33,127

Chile 35,527

Sierra Leone 38,545

Guinea 39,270

Fiji 39,945

Uruguay 40,078

Bolivia 41,835

Brazil 46,631

Central African Republic 46,875

Nicaragua 47,606

Panama 59,553

Cambodia 59,741

Bhutan 61,728

Laos 64,255

Venezuela 68,164

Paraguay 73,416

Belize 84,656

Equatorial Guinea 85,227

Liberia 90,097

Norway 97,268

Canada 108,900

New Zealand 117,040

Solomon Islands 140,625

Gabon 141,501

Papua New Guinea 206,710

Guyana 302,764

Congo 359,803

Suriname 473,934

Iceland 666,667