Water Conservation & Management

According to a Niti Aayog report on Water Management Index; India is currently suffering from the worst water crisis in its history with the country ranked at 120 among 122 countries in the quality of water. By 2020, it said, 21 major cities of India will run out of water.The report said 600 million people are living in high water stress conditions, 75% of households do not have drinking water on premises and 84% rural households do not have access to piped water.

Water is indispensable resource and increasing pollution of water coupled with drying up of water storage structures has led government to act in urgent manner.

Various surveys highlight the seriousness of the issue and some important ones are following:

  • The Central Ground Water Board Survey: survey conducted in July, 2018 found that exploitation of groundwater severely impacted its levels and quality in Maharashtra, with nearly 20 districts showing presence of heavy metals in excess of the maximum acceptable concentration.
  • Centre for Water Resources Development and Management, Kozhikode: According to its report in July 2018, water in 83 per cent of open wells and most of the rivers in Kerala is highly contaminated.
  • West Bengal Pollution Control Board: According to its Annual Report 2015-16 published on 15/1/18, In 17 major rivers of the state, including the Ganges, the levels of coliform bacteria (found mainly in human faeces) are much higher than the permissible limit. It implies that the river waters in the state are not even fit for bathing.
  • World Resources Institute Report: According to its report published on August 2019, India is ranked 13th among the 17 most water stressed countries of the world.

Government Initiatives

Although Government has adopted numerous steps in past to arrest the degradation of quality and quantity of water such as guidelines for repair, renovation and restoration of water bodies with external assistance and domestic support, National Water Mission and National Water Policy, but their shortfall has propelled it to take slew of measures in recent past.

  • Ministry of Jal Shakti: The Government of India is being proactive about water management and has created the Ministry of Jal Shakti in May 2019 to consolidate interrelated functions pertaining to water management amalgamating the ministries of water resources, river development and Ganga Rejuvenation with the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Jal Shakti Ministry has strived to over bridge the water challenge by launching the Jal Shakti Abhiyan. It includes water conservation, rainwater harvesting, renovation of traditional and other water bodies/tanks, bore well recharge structures, watershed development and afforestation.
  • Composite Water Management Index (CWMI): The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has developed the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) in June 2018 to enable effective water management in Indian states. The CWMI is the first comprehensive collection of country-wide water data in India. It represents a major step towards creating a culture of data-based decision-making for water in India. CWMI 2.0 was released in august 2019.
  • Jal Jeevan Mission: It is launched by Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti and will become operational on 25 December 2019 that is on good governance day.
  • Background: For improving the coverage of adequate and safe drinking water to the rural population, government provides technical and financial assistance through a Centrally Sponsored Scheme ‘National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP)’ which was launched on 01.04.2009.
  • As per CAG reported that NRDWP was insufficient as only 44% of rural households and 85% of government schools and anganwadis were provided access to safe water. Also 18% of rural population was provided potable drinking water as against 50%. Only 17% of rural households were given household connections as against 35%.
  • Government of India has restructured and subsumed the ongoing National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) into Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) to provide Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) to every rural household i.e., Har Ghar Nal Se Jal (HGNSJ) by 2024.
  • Jal Shakti Abhiyan: It is launched by Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti. The JSA was in two Phases: Phase 1 from 1st July to 15th September 2019 for all States and Union Territories; and Phase 2 from 1st October to 30th November 2019 for States and UTs receiving the retreating monsoon (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu). Due to deficiency of water as illustrated by NITI Aayog report of water management index, Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) is launched as a water conservation campaign.
  • During Jal Shakti Abhiyan, all stakeholders will work together with state administration at State and district level in India’s water deficient districts in areas of water conservation and rainwater harvesting, Renovation of traditional and other water bodies/tanks, Reuse and recharge structures, Watershed development, Intensive afforestation .It aims at asset creation and widespread communication to masses.

Note: Lack of targets in Jal Shakti Abhiyan is a challenge as the impact cannot be quantified. Thus fully quantifiable targets need to be given.

  • Water Conservation Fee: Central Ground Water Authority under the erstwhile Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation had notified revised dated 12.12.2018 to regulate and control ground water extraction in India, which was proposed to be effective from 01.06.2019.In line with National Water Policy concept of water use charge water charges, Water Conservation Fee (WCF) would be levied for use of ground water depending on the category of area, type of industry and quantum of ground water withdrawal. There was no provision for exemption from WCF to Government infrastructure, water supply agencies and mining projects. Exemption is given to agriculture users.

Note: Main groundwater user is agriculture sector which is close to 90 per cent. Therefore agriculture sector should be levied water conservation fee.

  • Revised Guidelines for Ground Water Extraction: Central Ground Water Authority under the erstwhile Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation had notified revised dated 12.12.2018 to regulate and control ground water extraction in India, which was proposed to be effective from 01.06.2019.
  • Measures Adopted: To address the problem of water pollution and its wastage, revised guidelines for Ground Water Extraction has been notified. It includes use of recycled and treated sewage water by industries, provision of action against polluting industries, mandatory requirement of digital flow meters, piezometers and digital water level recorders, mandatory water audit by industries abstracting ground water 500 m3/day or more in safe and semi-critical and 200 m3/day or more in critical and over-exploited assessment units, mandatory roof top rain water harvesting except for specified industries and measures to be adopted to ensure prevention of ground water contamination in premises of polluting industries/ projects.
  • Ganga Aamantran Abhiyan: It was launched by Ministry of Jal Shakti to increase awareness about pollution of river Ganga. The ‘Ganga Aamantran Abhiyan’ is a pioneering and historic exploratory open-water rafting and kayaking expedition on the Ganga River to be held during 10th October 2019 to 11 November 2019. Starting at Devprayag and culminating at Ganga Sagar, the expedition will cover the entire stretch of over 2500 kms of the Ganga River.

Apart from the awareness campaign, the team will collect water samples from across diverse ranges of the river for the purpose of water testing, while members of the Wildlife Institute of India will undertake flora and fauna census for the year 2019.


  • Difficult to monitor the initiative due to shortage of manpower.
  • Need to upgrade technology and methodology for collection of data and cleaning of water.
  • Water is a State subject, so states have to be proactive in plan formulation and implementation.
  • Top down approach is not sustainable.

Way Forward

  • More awareness campaign needs to be done. Water Act, 1974 needs to be followed in letter and spirit.
  • Point source pollution sources needs to be upgraded with technology to non harmful discharge of used water and sewage.
  • Non point sources of pollution should be identified by using services of ISRO.
  • Dedicated water conservation cadre needs to be established.
  • Bottom up approach with involvement of local communities is the need of the hour.
  • Federal co-operation is required for resolution of inter-state water disputes and it efficient utlisation to usher in shared prosperity.