Demand and supply of water in India, 2008 and 2030 (forecast). Overall demand is expected to double by 2030. Twenty-one cities, including New Delhi, Chennai, and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people. Graphic: NITI

By Rahul Bedi
19 June 2018

New Delhi (The Telegraph) – An Indian government think tank has warned that New Delhi is set to run out of groundwater within two years as climate change and dramatic population growth hit supplies [Composite Water Management Index - June 2018 –Des].

Based on data collected from 24 of 29 Indian states, the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) warned that the country's worst ever water shortage is likely to adversely impact some 600 million people.

It said that by 2020 some 20 Indian cities besides Delhi, including global information technology centres like Bangalore and nearby Hyderabad, were also likely to run out of groundwater, impacting over 120 million residents or nearly twice Britain’s population.

It cautioned that like Cape Town in South Africa, Bangalore too faced the grim prospect of ‘Day Zero’, when its water taps would run permanently dry if drastic measures to avert the looming crisis were not swiftly implemented.

“Critical ground water resources that account for 40 per cent of India’s water supply are being depleted at unsustainable rates” the NITI analysis declared and called for the immediate implementation of sustainable water resources.

The report estimates that by 2030 India’s water demands would double and the resultant scarcity could trim six per cent off its annual gross domestic product, besides gravely impacting food security, as agriculture consumes some 80 per cent of water.

Groundwater levels in Bangalore have plummeted in recent years. In 2012 water could be found at a few hundred feet below the ground, compared with 1,500 feet now. To make matters worse much of the remaining water is badly contaminated by industrial effluents and sewage that seep into the ground. 

The report said that climate change, deficient rainfall, the onset of early and extended summer and rising populations across India were collectively making it impossible for urban municipalities to meet rising water demands. […]

But despite the impending water crisis, many of Delhi’s 20 million residents were unmindful of the impending drought and continued to hose down their cars, water their gardens and let their water tanks overflow.

“It’s the governments job to find the water and mine to use it” said Shakuntla Devi. "It’s the same story of water shortages each summer, which are resolved with the onset of monsoon rains in July," she optimistically added. [more]

New Delhi to run out of groundwater in two years as India faces 'day zero' crises


Baseline water stress in India, 2010. The ratio of total withdrawals and total flow is shown for each state. In 2018, 600 million people face high-to-extreme water stress. Seventy percent of the water is contaminated with industrial waste and sewage. Graphic: NITI

12 June 2018 (NITI Aayog) – India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat. Currently, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh [200,000] people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. The crisis is only going to get worse. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual ~6 percent loss in the country’s GDP.

As per the report of National Commission for Integrated Water Resource Development of MoWR, the water requirement by 2050 in high-use scenario is likely to be a milder, 180 billion cubic meters (BCM), whereas the present-day availability is 695 BCM. The total availability of water possible in country is still lower than this projected demand, at 1,137 BCM. Thus, there is an imminent need to deepen our understanding of our water resources and usage and put in place interventions that make our water use efficient and sustainable. […]

Food security is at risk

The  country  faces  significant  risks  as the  low  performers  on  the  Water  Index are  home  to ~50 percent of the country’s population and its agricultural baskets. The  low  performers are, worryingly, comprised of the populous northern states of UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana, and others, and are home to over 600 million people. The poor performance of these states on the Index highlights a significant water management risk for the country going forward. Further, these states also account for 20 - 30 percent of India’s agricultural  output.  Given  the  combination  of  rapidly declining  groundwater  levels  and  limited  policy action (as indicated by the low Index score), this is also likely to be a significant food security risk for the country going forward. […]

Significant improvements are required in states’ performance across critical indicator themes. The performance of states has varied widely at the level of the nine indicator themes. Most of the states have done well in the infrastructure-heavy themes of ‘Major and medium irrigation’ and ‘Watershed development’ and have also enacted policies corresponding to the recommendations within the ‘Policy and governance’ theme.

However, the critical themes of ‘Source augmentation (Groundwater), ‘Sustainable on-farm water use practices’, and ‘Rural drinking water’ are lagging behind. Most states have achieved less than 50 percent of the total score in the augmentation of groundwater resources, highlighting the growing national crisis — 54 percent of India’s groundwater wells are declining, and 21 major cities are expected to run out of groundwater as soon as 2020, affecting ~100 million people.

Further, 70 percent of states have also achieved scores of less than 50 percent on managing on-farm water effectively. Given the fact that agriculture accounts for 80% of all water use, this underperformance, as discussed in the analysis of low performers above, poses significant water and food security risks for the country.

Finally, states have also performed averagely on providing safe drinking water to rural areas. With 800 million people, or ~70 percent of the country’s population, living in rural areas, and about two lakh [200,000] people in the country dying each year due to a lack of access to safe water, this is one of the most critical service delivery challenges in the world. [more]

Composite Water Management Index - June 2018

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