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  • 22 March, 2021

  • 2 Min Read

Water Resources

Water Resources

About 71% of our earth is covered by water and hence our earth is called a watery planet.

  • 97% of the earth's water is found in the oceans (Unused due to saltiness-for drinking, growing crops, and most industrial uses except for cooling).
  • 326M cu. miles of water there on the planet. 320 million cubic miles of that is in the oceans
  • 3% of the earth's water is fresh.
  • 2.5% of the earth's freshwater is unavailable: locked up in glaciers, polar ice caps, atmosphere, and soil; highly polluted, or lies too far under the earth's surface to be extracted at an affordable cost.
  • 0.5% of the earth's water is available fresh water.
  • If the world's water supply were only 100 litres (26 gallons), our usable water supply of fresh water would be only about 0.003 liters (one-half teaspoon).
  • In actuality, that amounts to an average of 8.4 million litres (2.2 million gallons) for each person on earth.
  • This supply is continually collected, purified, and distributed in the natural hydrologic (water) cycle.
  • Worldwide, over 80% of all wastewater returns to the environment without being treated.
  • 700 M people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030.

India’s Water Resources

  • Rainfall is the main source of fresh water in India, receiving 4000km3 water.
  • Of which South West Monsoon accounts for 3000km3.
  • India accounts for about 2.45% of the world's surface area, 4 % of the world's water resources and about 16% of the world's population. Thus, the total utilisable water resource in the country is only 1,122 cubic km (690 bcm surface water + 433bcm groundwater).

India is blessed with a large number of major, medium and small-sized rivers. As many as 13 of them are classified as major rivers, whose total catchment area is 252.8 million hectares this is about 83 % of total area of all drainage basins.

  • Ganga Brahmaputra system has the largest catchment area of about 43% of all major rivers in the country.

Following findings of the report released by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in August 2014:

(a) 54% of rural women in India had to travel between 200 metres and 5 kilometres daily to fetch drinking water in 2012.

(b) They walked 20 minutes a day, on average, and spend another 15 minutes at the source of water

c) Every second woman has to spend 210 hours in a year fetching water which means a loss of 27 days' wages for these households. Collectively, these women cover 64,000 times the distance between the earth and the moon.

(d) Water crisis is imminent in villages because of over-harvesting of ground-water resources. About 80% of the country's drinking water needs are met by groundwater.

(f) 75% of the women in states like CJ, MN, OD, and JH have to travel long distances for drinking water.

  • India records the world’s highest per capita water-borne diseases even more than some of the least developed nations.
  • In most of large cities about one-third of water never reaches the consumer because of leaks and poor maintenance. According to the Centre for Science and Environment, over 35% of water in Delhi and about 30% in Mumbai is lost because of leakage.

Ground Water

  • Annual utilizable groundwater resources in India is assessed as 433 bcm.
  • The main source of ground water is the recharge from monsoon precipitation. About 58% of countries annual rechargable ground water is contributed by monsoon rainfall. Other sources of recharge viz. seepage from canals, tanks, ponds and other water structures and irrigation account for about 32%.
  • Among the states of India, Uttar Pradesh has the highest net annual groundwater availability (~ 72 bcm) while Delhi has the least (0.29 bcm)(Central Ground Water Board, 2018 report).
  • Countries with per-capita water availability of less than 1700 m3 per year is categorized as water stressed, with per capita available water of 1545 m3 India is definitely water-stressed country (India-WRIS wiki 2015, Census, 2011).
  • The projected per capita water availability will become 1401 m3 and 1191 m3 by 2025 and 2050 respectively and eventually India is likely to become a water-scarce country (India-WRIS, 2015).
  • In India, 85% of rural and other 50% of Urban water supplies depend upon groundwater for meeting drinking and domestic water needs.
  • Central Ground Water Board noted that Punjab has only 20BCM of annual groundwater availability but extracts 35BCM and similarly Haryana extracts 13BCM while its availability is only 10BCM. consequently, they fall under dark zones or higher groundwater exploited areas.

Water Usage

  • Irrigation by far is the largest user of India’s water reserve with hooping usage of 78% of total water reserve, followed by the domestic sector (6%) and the industrial sector (5%)(PIB 2013).
  • National Commission on Integrated Water Resources Development (NCIWRD) the irrigation sector alone is going to need an additional 71 bcm by 2025 and 250 bcm of water by 2050 compared to the demands of 2010 (Press Information Bureau 2013)

% Use of Water Resources by different Sectors



Domestic Use




Power Generation








  • GW is also a major source of drinking water in urban and rural India. 45% of total irrigation and 80% of domestic water come from groundwater reserves.
  • In states like DL, PN, HR and UP over-exploitation of groundwater has led to water scarcity. In states like RJ, GJ arid climate leads to water-stressed conditions, while in TN, KA, AP poor aquifer properties are responsible for water scarcity. Other reasons being increasing population pressures, industrial growth and the unprecedented pace of urbanization.

How safe is our water

  • About 70% of surface water resources in India are polluted.
  • The major contributing factor to water pollution is wastewater from different sources, intensive agriculture, industrial production, infrastructure development and untreated urban runoff.
  • Every day 2.9 billion litres of wastewater from industrial and domestic sources are dumped into the river Ganga without treatment

Habitations impacted due to various pollutants in Ground Water

  • According to WHO, Half of India’s morbidity is water related.
  • Waste management has not been as efficient as required to manage the increasing volume of waste generated daily in India, especially in cities. Municipal wastewater treatment capacity developed so far in India accounts for only 29% of waste generated in urban habitations having a population of more than 50,000 and the gap is projected to increase.

  • WFR & EFR West Flowing Rivers and East Flowing Rivers
  • Domestic effluents contribute a substantial proportion of water pollution in India. More than 70% of domestic untreated effluents are disposed-off of the environment.

The costs of unsafe water

  • 2.2 billion people do not have access to clean water at home.
  • 2.3 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines.
  • Every day, more than 800 children under five years of age die from diarrhea caused by dirty water.
  • 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030.

The dilemma of Water Accessibility in Rural Areas

  • More people in rural India have access to phones than to safe drinking water. It is estimated that only 18 per cent of the total rural population of 833 million have access to treated water. In comparison, 41 percent of the rural population, or 346 million people, own mobile phones.(Forbes India, 2015).
  • 30% of rural Indians lack a drinking water supply (World Bank, UNICEF).
  • According to National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), 57% of the rural women in India have to walk up to 5 km every day to fetch potable water as compared to just 21% in Urban areas.

Climate Change and its implications on water

  • IPCC AR5 reports that the mean annual temperature is increasing all over Asia and it is projected to increase >2oC till the end of the 21st C. Rising temperature contributes to glacial melts resulting in glacier retreat and affecting the water availability in Himalayan rivers.
  • Almost 67% of the glaciers in the Himalayan mountain ranges have retreated in the past decade due to warming effects.

Water Footprint

  • When virtual footprints of different products were calculated, chocolate and leather had the highest -24000 and 17000 litres per kg product. Followed by sheep(10400 lt), cotton(10000 lt), butter(5550 lt), chicken (4330 lt). Fruits and vegetables had the least virtual water footprints.

Source: Khullar CWC Oxfam

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