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Environmental Studies - Water Resources

Water is a vital elixir for all living beings. Although it is a renewable resource, scarcity of quality
water is felt in many parts of the world. We need water to grow food, keep clean, generate
electricity, control fire, and last but not the least, we need it to stay alive.

World Ocean water covers about 75 percent of the surface of the earth. Therefore, the earth is
called the water planet. Ocean water is saline and not fit for human consumption. Fresh water is
just about 2.7 percent of the total water. Global warming and perpetuating water pollution have
made a considerable part of available freshwater unfit for human consumption. As a result, water
is very scarce.

Steps need to be taken to conserve water. Water is renewable, but its overuse and pollution make
it unfit for use. Sewage, industrial use, chemicals, etc. pollute water with nitrates, metals, and

Use of Water Resources

Water resources are used for agricultural, industrial, domestic, recreational, and environmental
activities. Majority of the uses require fresh water.

However, about 97 percent of water found on the earth is salt water and only three percent is
fresh water. A little over two-thirds of the available fresh water is frozen in glaciers and polar ice
caps. The remaining freshwater is found mainly as groundwater and a negligible portion of it is
present on the ground or in the air.

Following is a brief account of how water is used in different sectors.

Agricultural Use

Agriculture accounts for 69 percent of all water consumption basically in agricultural economies
like India. Agriculture, therefore, is the largest consumer of the Earth’s available freshwater.

By 2050, the global water demand of agriculture is estimated to increase by a further 19% due to
irrigational needs. Expanding irrigation needs are likely to put undue pressure on water storage.
It is still inconclusive whether further expansion of irrigation, as well as additional water
withdrawals from rivers and groundwater, will be possible in future.

Industrial Use

Water is the lifeblood of the industry. It is used as a raw material coolant, a solvent, a transport
agent, and as a source of energy. Manufacturing industries account for a considerable share in
the total industrial water consumption. Besides, paper and allied products, chemicals and primary
metals are major industrial users of water.

Worldwide, the industry accounts for 19 percent of total consumption. In industrialized

countries, however, industries use more than half of the water available for human use.

Domestic Use

It includes drinking, cleaning, personal hygiene, garden care, cooking, washing of clothes,
dishes, vehicles, etc. Since the end of World War II there has been a trend of people moving out
of the countryside to the ever-expanding cities. This trend has important implications on our
water resources.
Government and communities have had to start building large water-supply systems to deliver
water to new populations and industries. Of all water consumption in the world, domestic use
accounts for about 12 percent.

Use for Hydropower Generation

Electricity produced from water is hydropower. Hydropower is the leading renewable source of
electricity in the world. It accounts for about 16 percent of total electricity generation globally.
There are many opportunities for hydropower development throughout the world.

Today, the leading hydropower generating countries are China, the US, Brazil, Canada, India,
and Russia.

Use for Navigation and Recreation

Navigable waterways are defined as watercourses that have been or may be used for transport of
interstate or foreign commerce. Agricultural and commercial goods are moved on water on a
large scale in a number of regions in the world.

Water is also used for recreational purposes such as boating, swimming, and sporting activities.
These uses affect the quality of water and pollute it. Highest priority should be given to public
health and drinking water quality while permitting such activities in reservoirs, lakes, and rivers.

Overutilization of Surface and Ground Water

Water scarcity has become a burning global issue. The UN has held several conventions on water
in recent decades. Continuous overutilization of surface and ground water has led to virtual water
scarcity in the world today.

The depleting sources for high growth in human population over the centuries and increased
man-induced water pollution across the world have created unforeseen water scarcity around the
globe. As a result, there has been continuous overutilization of the existing water sources due to
mammoth growth in world population.
Groundwater is the major source of water in many parts of the world. However, there has been
continuous depletion of this source due to its overexploitation by rising human population and
the rapid rise in industrialization and urbanization in modern times.

Consequences of Overutilization

Water scarcity now becomes an important topic in international diplomacy. From village to the
United Nations, water scarcity is a widely-discussed topic in decision making.

Nearly three billion people in the world suffer from water scarcity. International, intrastate and
regional rivalries on water are not new to world. The ongoing Jordan River conflict, Nile River
conflict, and Aral Sea conflict are cases in point. The intra-state issues such as Cauvery Water
dispute in South India, 2000 Cochabamba protests in Bolivia is still a simmering cauldron
causing periodic tension at the national and regional levels.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) sources, a combination of rising global

population, economic growth and climate change means that by 2050 five billion (52%) of the
world’s projected 9.7 billion people will live in areas where fresh water supply is under pressure.
Researchers expect about 1 billion more people to be living in areas where water demand
exceeds surface-water supply.

Climate Change

Scientists, environmentalists, and biologists worldwide are now alarmed that climate change can
have an impact on the drainage pattern and hydrological cycle on the earth thereby severely
affecting the surface and groundwater availability.

Climate change is believed to rise the global temperature at an increasing pace. Temperature
increase affects the hydrological cycle by directly increasing evaporation of available surface
water and vegetation transpiration.

As a result, precipitation amount, timing and intensity rates are largely affected. It impacts the
flux and storage of water in surface and subsurface reservoirs.
Floods & Draughts

Floods and droughts are two well-known natural hazards in the world. The former is due to
excess in water flow and the latter is due to scarcity of water.

The amount of rainfall received by an area varies from one place to another depending on the
location of the place. In some places it rains almost throughout the year whereas in other places it
might rain for only few days. India records most of its rainfall in the monsoon season.

Heavy rains lead to rise in the water level of rivers, seas, and oceans. Water gets accumulated in
the coastal areas, which results in floods. Floods bring in extensive damage to crops, domestic
animals, property and human life. During floods, many animals get carried away by the force of
water and eventually die.

On the other hand, droughts set in when a particular region goes without rain for a long period of
time. In the meantime, the soil will continuously lose groundwater by the process of evaporation
and transpiration. Since this water is not brought back to earth in the form of rains, the soil
becomes very dry.

The level of water in the ponds and rivers goes down and in some cases water bodies get dried
up completely. Ground water becomes scarce and this leads to droughts. In drought conditions, it
is very difficult to get food and fodder for the survival. Life gets difficult and many animals
perish in such conditions.

Frequent floods and droughts are mostly due to climate change and global warming. Various
environmental organizations world over are of the view that climate change is a long-term
change in weather patterns, either in average weather conditions or in the distribution of extreme
weather events.

India has about 4% of world’s freshwater resources ranking it among the top ten water rich
countries. Despite this, according to the Working Group II report of the Fourth Assessment of
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, India is designated a ‘water stressed region’
with current utilisable freshwater standing at 1122 cubic meter (cu m) per year and per capita
compared to international limiting standards of 1700 cu m. In future, at the current rate it is
expected that India with high demands will be termed a ‘water scarce region’ as utilizable
freshwater falls below the international standard of 1000 cu m per year and per capita. Water
demand is on a high due to rapid urbanization and industrialization along with the traditional
demand for agriculture. Overall, every year, precipitation in the form of rain and snowfall
provide over 4000 cu km of freshwater to India, of which 2047 cu km return to oceans or is
precipitated. A small percentage is stored in inland water bodies and groundwater aquifers.
Topographic constraints, distribution pattern, technical limitation, and poor management do not
allow India to harness its water resources efficiently.


In India, rivers have been the lifelines of growth and culture. India is drained by twelve major
river systems with a number of smaller rivers and streams. Major river systems in the north are
the perennial Himalayan rivers – Ganga, Yamuna, Indus and Brahmaputra. The south has the
non-perennial but rain fed Krishna, Godavari, and Cauvery while central India has the Narmada,
Mahanadi and Tapti.

The Ganges-Brahmaputra and the Indus systems are the largest as they drain almost half of the
country carrying more than 40% of the utilisable surface water from the Himalayan watershed to
the ocean. Over 70% of India’s rivers drain into the Bay of Bengal, mostly as part of the Ganges-
Brahmaputra system. The Arabian Sea receives 20% of the total drainage from the Indus and
other rivers. The remaining 10% drains into interior basins and natural lakes.

Flow in India’s rivers is strongly influenced by monsoon resulting in an annual peak in most
rivers. The northern rivers with sources in the Himalayas see an additional peak during the spring
snowmelt. Because of this, water levels increase and flooding is a common phenomenon that
also leads to yearly calamity in states like Bihar and Assam. During the dry season, the flow
diminishes in most large rivers and even disappears entirely in smaller tributaries and streams.
Due to low rains, and dry rivers, drought is another common calamity across vast areas,
especially the Deccan trap. Hence, some parts of India suffer from flood and some parts from
Apart from the floods and droughts, most Indian rivers are cesspools of waste dumped from
various urban and industrial centres. In 1995, the Central Pollution Control Board identified
severely polluted stretches on 18 major rivers in India. The pattern of destruction is similar for
any river - industrial and domestic pollution, jagged urbanization and encroachment, agricultural
fertilizer and pesticide runoffs, erosion and silting, over withdrawal of water, and inconsiderate
religious practices. All 44 rivers in Kerala face extinction through deforestation, sand mining,
riverbank brick making and pollution.

The rivers are the sources of drinking water for urban and rural areas, raw water for industries,
and irrigation. The demand for water is ever increasing leading to over-extraction. This
abstraction of water in excess from the river lessens the flow in it. It is very important to
maintain the flow as it helps in diluting and carrying the sewage and pollutants away. Irrigation
canals and industrial units extract huge volumes of water, and in return, discharge agricultural
runoff waste and poisonous effluents. Many rivers suffer from silt deposition in its bed —
reducing flow, and disturbing the ecosystem. Deforestation near the source of the rivers, is
leading to soil erosion, landslide, floods, silt formation and sedimentation in rivers. In Indian
rivers, siltation rate is among the highest in the world. It has been estimated that about 135
thousand million metric tonnes of sediment load and 32 thousand million tonnes of soluble
matter enter into ocean through various rivers. Water flowing through Indian rivers is 5 % of the
water flowing through all the river of the world but carry 35 % of sediments. To regulate the
flow in these rivers and store water and divert water for irrigation, and generate power, a number
of large dams and barrages have been built on many rivers. However, these measures have been
detrimental to the flow of water resulting in silt deposition. With the storage of water, the natural
flow in rivers is obstructed affecting the ecosystems.


Apart from rivers, India is house to some of the most beautiful lakes of the world, some natural,
others artificial. They are there in the high Himalayas under the ice sheath, in the virgin
northeast, semi-arid deserts of Rajasthan, coastal zones, or in metros, small towns and villages.
In India, lakes serve as source of water for drinking, agriculture, and even industries. It acts as
sewage absorbers, flood cushions and recharge zones for groundwater aquifers. It is an
ecosystem where a variety of birds and animals breed; pisciculture, and aquaculture thrive
leading to a source of income for people. Lake tourism is an immensely profiting sector. In India,
there are urban and rural lakes along with natural water bodies which have been categorized
under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (1971) and are important mostly from ecological
sustenance and as a source of livelihood for many people.

Slowly, many of these prized possessions have vanished or are vanishing. Reasons: draining of
lake water for real estates in cities and cultivable and factory land in villages; dumping of
effluents — both domestic and industrial; agricultural runoff; encroachments, and general
neglect. Earlier the farmers would take away the lake silt to their fields to fertilize the soil, but
now with the usage of chemical fertilizers, the use of silt has stopped, leading to silt
accumulation. Many cities of India like Hyderabad, Bangalore and Ahmedabad have a number of
lakes, but there is a virtual seize on their survival.

In many lakes, uncontrolled tourism has resulted in disturbance to the biodiversity of flora and
fauna — examples are the high altitude Tsomoriri and Tshangu glacial lakes. The coastal lakes
have been seriously affected due to an imbalance in salinity levels. This is attributed to lack of
balance between fresh water from the inland catchment of the lake and entry of seawater into the
lake at the mouth of the estuary.

Other threats include water hyacinth growth which is common in many lakes resulting in
breeding of vectors and consequently causing endemic diseases —Loktak Lake, Dal lake, and
Ropar Lake are some examples. Or idols’ immersion in lakes during religious festivals in many
cities like Bangalore, Bombay and Bhopal, leading to discharge of dyes and paints.

Water shortages in lakes, which sources of replenishment are seriously impaired due to
encroachment and loss of catchments, have resulted in bird sanctuaries and fisheries getting
seriously affected.
Groundwater aquifers

Regarding groundwater aquifers, in India, the mountainous regions of the north and west do not
allow adequate infiltration and thus, groundwater availability is mostly limited to valleys and
other low-lying areas. In peninsular India, the underlying geology limits the formation of large
continuous aquifers. The overall yield potential in this region is low although some areas may
see medium to high potential depending on the local hydro geology. Coastal regions are rich in
groundwater owing to the largely alluvial terrain, but the aquifers risk being contaminated by
saltwater ingress due to over pumping.

Groundwater development has been rampant across the country. About 80 % of irrigation and 90
% of drinking water comes from groundwater sources. It is contributing more than 85 % of the
drinking water requirements of rural areas, about 58 % of irrigation requirements and more than
50 % of the urban and industrial water supplies. There are 20 million users of groundwater in the
country. The incessant and mindless withdrawal over the past decades has suddenly triggered off
a series of crisis. Foremost among them is the plummeting of the water table. This led to
exploring of fossil aquifers that cannot be replenished. Excessive drilling of borewells, along
with the use of mechanised pumping has led many parts of the country’s groundwater aquifers to
go dry and have been declared as ‘dark zones’. The rate of extraction is alarming – for instance,
the Central Ground Water Board has recorded a yearly 2.5-3 m drop in groundwater levels of
Ahmedabad’s, urban areas where the rate of exploitation of the city’s aquifers is 123 %. The
worst affected are the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, parts of Andhra Pradesh and western Madhya
Pradesh where water was abundantly available 10-15 years ago. The groundwater table in these
areas has fallen below 300 m now, and drought has become a yearly phenomenon. Wells are
drying at a fast pace – 25% of Rajasthan’s wells run dry every year. In the Indus basin as a
whole, groundwater pumping is estimated to exceed recharge by 50 %. In India, the number of
shallow tubewells used to draw groundwater was 3000 in 1960, and in 1990, reached 6 million.

Another major problem due to the abstraction of groundwater from the fossil aquifers resulted in
chemical reaction of water with the rocks ushering in another contaminated water. The aquifer
waters became contaminated with high levels of arsenic and fluoride from the rocky layers.
People across many states are affected by diseases due to intake of fluoride or arsenic laden
water. Again, excessive abstraction of groundwater especially in coastal areas has resulted in
seawater ingression making the available water useless. The coastal metro of Chennai has been
dependent on groundwater for decades, and now the table has plummeted to more than 80 to 100
m with water turning saline in many areas of the city.

India – Physiography

India, with a geographical area of about 329 Million Hectares (M.ha), is a land of many
mountains and rivers, some of them figuring amongst the mightiest rivers of the world.
Physiographically, India may be divided into seven well defined regions. These are: the Northern
Mountains comprising the mighty Himalayan ranges; the Great Plains traversed by the Indus,
Ganga and Brahmaputra river systems; the Central Highlands, consisting of a wide belt of hills
running east-west between the Great Plains and the deccan plateau; the Peninsular Plateaus; the
East Coast, a belt of land of about 100-130 km wide, bordering the Bay of Bengal; the West
Coast, a narrow belt of land of about 10-25 km wide, bordering the Arabian Sea; and the islands,
comprising the coral islands of Lakshadweep in Arabian Sea and Andaman and Nicobar group of
islands in the Bay of Bengal.

The great mountain mass of Himalayas in the North and the ocean in the South are the two major
influences operating on the climate of India. The Himalaya poses an impenetrable barrier to the
influence of cold winds from central Asia and gives the sub-continent the elements of tropical
type of climate. The oceans are the source of moisture-laden winds, giving India the elements of
the oceanic type of climate.

India has a very great diversity and variety of climate and an even greater variety of weather
conditions. The climate ranges from extremes of heat to extremes of cold; from extreme aridity
and negligible rainfall to excessive humidity and torrential rainfall. The climatic condition
influences to a great extent the water resources utilization in the country

Rainfall in India is dependent on the South-West and North-East monsoons, on shallow cyclonic
depressions and disturbances and on violent local storms which form regions where cool humid
winds from the sea meet hot dry winds from the land and occasionally reach cyclonic dimension.
Most of the rainfall in India takes place under the influence of South West monsoon between
June to September except in Tamil Nadu where it is under the influence of North-East monsoon
during October and November. The average rainfall, i.e. total precipitation divided by the total
land area, is about 1215 mm. However, there is considerable spatial variation in rainfall which
ranges from less than 100 mm in the western Rajasthan to more than 2500 mm in North-Eastern

Rivers of India

India is blessed with many rivers. Land slope determines the river to which the rain falling on an
area will eventually flow. A river basin, also called catchment area of the river, is the area from
which the rain will flow into that particular river. The shape and size of the river basin is
determined by the topography. Following are the major river basins groups in India.

Indus system

This comprises the river Indus and its tributaries like the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej.
These originate in the North and generally flow in a West or South-West direction to eventually
flow into Arabian Sea through Pakistan.

Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghana system

The main river Ganga and its tributaries like the Yamuna, Sone, Gandak, Kosi and many others;
similarly main rivers Brahmaputra, Meghna and their tributaries. All these eventually flow into
Bay of Bengal, through Bangladesh. Some of the tributaries of these rivers are larger than other
independent rivers. e.g. Yamuna, a tributary of Ganga, has a larger catchment area than the Tapi,
a small peninsula river.

Rivers of Rajasthan and Gujrat

Mahi, Sabarmati, Luni etc. These are rivers of arid regions, they carry relatively little flow, some
of them flow to Arabian Sea through Gujrat while some are land-locked and their flow is lost
through percolation and evaporation in the vast arid regions.
East Flowing Peninsular Rivers

The important membes of this group are :Damodar, Mahanadi, Brhamanai, Baitrani,
Subarnarekha, Krishna-Godavari and Kaveri. The all flow in to Bay of Bengal at various places
along the Eastern coast of India.

West Flowing Peninsular Rivers

Narmada and Tapi. These originate in Central India and flow in a Western direction to meet
Arabian Sea south of Gujrat.

Western Coast Rivers

A large number of rivers in the Western Coast - i.e. coastal Maharashtra and Karnatka, and entire
Kerala. These rivers are small in length but carry a significant amount of water due to very high
rainfall in western ghats. They drain only 3 % of the India’s land area but carry 11 % of India’s
water resources.

Major River Basins Of The Country

Name of the River Origin Length (Km.) Catchment Area (Sq. Km.)
Indus Mansarovar (Tibet) 1114 + 321289 +
a) Ganga Gangotri (Uttar Kashi) 2525 + 861452 +
b) Brahmaputra Kailash Range (Tibet) 916 + 194413 +
c) Barak and other
rivers flowing into 41723 +
Aravalli Hills
Sabarmati 371 21674
Mahi Dhar (Madhya Pradesh) 583 34842
Amarkantak (Madhya
Narmada 1312 98796
Tapi Betul (Madhya Pradesh) 724 65145
Brahmani Ranchi (Bihar) 799 39033
Nazri Town (Madhya
Mahanadi 851 141589
Godavari Nasik (Maharashtra) 1465 312812
Krishna 1401 258948
Pennar Kolar (Karnataka) 597 55213
Cauvery Coorg (Karnataka) 800 81155
Total 2528084

On an average, India receives about 4000 Cubic Kilometers (1 Cubic Km is same as one billion
cubic meters, abbreviated as bcm) of precipitation every year. Precipitation means rainfall and
snowfall together. As explained above, this precipitation is not uniformly distributed over the
entire land area and varies from less 100 mm in Rajasthan to more than 2500 in Assam.
Of all the rain that falls on the land and mountains and forests, some evaporates back in to the
atmosphere, some is percolates in the ground and some is used by the forests. The remaining that
flows in to the rivers is less than 50% on the total precipitation. The total annual flow in the
rivers is estimated as 1869 bcm.

Basinwise Surface Water Potential

Name of the River Basin Average flow bcm/year

Indus (up to Border) 73.31
a) Ganga 525.02
b) Brahmaputra Barak and others 585.6
Godavari 110.54
Krishna 78.12
Cauvery 21.36
Pennar 6.32
East Flowing Rivers Between Mahanadi and Pennar 22.52
East Flowing Rivers Between Pennar and Kanyakumari 16.46
Mahanadi 66.88
Brahmani and Baitarni 28.48
Subernarekha 12.37
Sabarmati 3.81
Mahi 11.02
West Flowing Rivers of Kutch, Sabarmati including Luni 15.1
Narmada 45.64
Tapi 14.88
West Flowing Rivers from Tapi to Tadri 87.41
West Flowing Rivers from Tadri to Kanyakumari 113.53
Area of Inland drainage in Rajasthan desert Negligible
Minor River Basins Draining into Bangladesh and Myanmar 31
Total 1869.37

Groundwater also flows in the underground strata, though much slowly than the surface flow. At
times the groundwater oozes out from the river banks and river bed into the river. At times water
flowing in a river seeps back into underground formations. The relationship between surface
water and ground water is dynamic and complex. Further, the groundwater flow is not
determined by the surface topography and follows some features of the underground strata which
can not be easily measured.

For all these reasons, estimation of groundwater potential, i.e. the amount that can be used in a
year on a sustainable basis, is a difficult task. The basinwise groundwater potential has been
estimated and is given in the table below.

Basinwise Ground Water Potential Of Country

Name of Basin Ground Water potential (bcm)

Brahmai with Baitarni 4.05
Brahmaputra 26.55
Cambai Composite 7.19
Cauvery 12.3
Ganga 170.99
Godavari 40.65
Indus 26.49
Krishna 26.41
Kutch and Saurashtra Composite 11.23
Tamil Nadu 18.22
Mahanadi 16.46
Meghna 8.52
Narmada 10.83
Northeast Composite 18.84
Pennar 4.93
Subarnrekha 1.82
Tapi 8.27
Western Ghat 17.69

Total 431.42

The rainfall is distributed unevenly not only in space but also in time. Almost 80% of rainfall
occurs in the four monsoon months of June to September. Within these four months also, most of
the rainfall comes in a few spells of intense rain. It is estimated that in Himalayan rivers, where
there is some flow due to snowmelt also, about 80 % of the total annual flow takes place within
these four monsoon months. In peninsular rivers, where there is no contribution from snowmelt,
monsoon flow accounts for more than 90% of the annual flow.

Due to this uneven distribution of flow in time and is space, it is possible to utilize only a small
part of it. It is estimated that out of this 400 bcm of precipitation, the annual flow in the rivers is
only 1869 bcm out of which only 690 bcm can be put to use. Another 432 bcm can be used from
ground water. Thus, total utilizable quantity of water is 690 + 432 = 1122 bcm per year. Trans-
basin transfer of water, also called interlinking of rivers, will enable utilisation of an additional
200 bcm of water.


The abundant water resources in India are sufficient for the water supply in whole of India only
if proper and efficient water supply management is adopted. The water infrastructure in India
includes tapping of the available water sources by the water board and department in India,
proper water treatment and purification, water storage facilities with regular cleaning of the
water storage tanks, usage of water, crisis in water supply, water pollution, problems due to
scarcity of water, Indian water policy for water conservation and water harvesting etc.

Water Resources in India:

The water sources in India include the vast oceans surrounding the Indian peninsula - Indian
Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, the inland rivers - both the Himalayan rivers and the
rivers in the south, ground water and rain water available in plenty through the abundant
monsoons in India. The problem area here is the water resources management, where India fails.
The management of water resources and sources in India is the responsibility of the Ministry of
Water Resources India. It looks after the water management services in India, the issues and
problems related to the water supply in India, arrangement of abundant water supply facilities,
methods all over India, formulating the water supply policies and strategies for an equated
supply and division of water resources of India.

Water Management Policies of GoI

The Government of India (GoI) has formed various water management systems and authorities
in India. These include Central Water Commission, Central Ground Water Board, National
Water Development Agency, National Projects Construction Corporation Ltd. etc. for efficient
water resources management. The policies thus formulated include Irrigation Management
Policy, National Policy Guidelines to allocate water resources like rivers flowing through
multiple states, National Commission for Integrated Water Resources Development Plan, Water
Information Bill, River Basin Organization Policy, and many more. Various water reservoir
projects were also taken up by the Ministry of Water Resources like construction and
management of dams on various rivers.

Water Supply in India:

Continuous water supply is the requirement of every industry in India. India being a primarily
agriculture-based society requires huge amounts of water sources for regular irrigation of the
farms as the monsoons are not a reliable water source considering the vast geographical as well
as climatic variations in India.

Also safe drinking water supply is another area where the government needs to emphasize more
as groundwater is not an everlasting water resource. The water quality is tested at regular
intervals and only if the water quality standards fulfill certain quality parameters, the water is
certified to be safe for drinking.

Water Conservation:

The Indian government provided the masses with adequate water supply but the management of
the water supply systems wasn't undertaken efficiently this has resulted in deteriorating condition
of the water supply network. Thus majority is forced to pump out ground water to fulfill the
water requirements that has in turn created a huge drop in the ground water levels.
Thus an effective strategy for water conservation is the need of the hour. The steps taken in this
regard include water treatment plants, water pollution control so as to keep the water resources
safe for other usage, careful scrutiny of water supply division and projects. The water supply
department by adopting timely conservation methods can help solve the water shortage problem
in India and deal with the ongoing water crisis in India.

Rainwater harvesting can also provide a solution to the water crisis in India. Certain areas in
India receive plenty rainfall and thus creating huge rainwater harvesting water tanks can help is
accumulation of natural water and then after some treatment can be utilized as a drinking water

Water Purification Industry

Large-scale water treatment is being undertaken so as to utilize the existing water resources to an
optimum level. Water purification has become an industry in itself. The water purification
industry in India deals in improving water quality standards of drinking water, management and
treatment of ground water, bottling of mineral water available in various parts of the country and
providing this bottled water throughout India as a safe drinking water solution. The major water
treatment plants owners and water treatment companies in India products in the bottled water
industry include Kinley, Bisleri, Aquafina, and Kingfisher etc.

Water Reservoir Dams and Projects:

As a solution to the water crisis in India, the government took up building of huge dams and
water reservoirs that provided multiple solutions. The dams build on various rivers provided
safety against the floods that used to frequent these rivers, effective use of natural water
resource, providing irrigation facilities to the surrounding field and farms and also in the
production of hydroelectricity.

The major dams and water reservoirs in India include:

Nagarjuna Sagar Dam, Andhra Pradesh

Sardar Sarover Project build on river Narmada, Gujarat

Bhakra Nangal Dam build on river Sutlej, Himachal Pradesh

Gobind Sagar and Maharana Pratap Sagar Dam, Himachal Pradesh

Krishna Raja Sagara Dam on Cauvery River, Karnataka

Tunga Bhadra Dam

Neyyar Dam, Kerala

Narmada Dam Project, Madhya Project

Hirakund Dam Build on Mahanadi River, Orissa

Farakka Barrage

Significance of losses in water distribution systems in India

Effective management of water supply systems consists in supplying adequate quantities of clean
water to the population. Detailed pilot studies of water distribution systems were carried out in 9
cities in India during 1971-81 to establish the feasibility of a programme of assessment,
detection, and control of water losses from supply systems. A cost-benefit analysis was carried
out. Water losses from mains and service pipes in the areas studied amounted to 20-35% of the
total flow in the system. At a conservative estimate, the national loss of processed water through
leaks in the water distribution systems amounts to 1012 litres per year, which is equivalent to 500
million rupees.

It is possible to bring down the water losses in the pipe mains to 3-5% of the total flow, and the
cost incurred on the control programme can be recovered in 6-18 months. Appropriate
conservation measures will help in achieving the goals of the International Water Supply and
Sanitation Decade to provide clean water for all.
Urban Water Supply

Integrated Hydrological and Water Data Books - Central Water Commission (2005-09)

Integrated Hydrological Data Books are a compendium of important hydrological

information of twelve non-classified basins (i.e., other than Ganga and Brahmaputra)
consolidated at the national level by the Central Water Commission (CWC). It covers basic
hydrological data on gauge, discharge, silt, sedimentation and water quality collected on a
regular basis by the CWC regional field offices, who document it in the form of a Water
Year Book, Sediment Year Book and Water Quality Year Book. These along with the
relevant land use statistics collected by the Ministry of Agriculture are integrated into this
Data Book. The information is of use to planners, researchers, policy makers and the public
at large.Read More

Attachment Size

Attachment Size

Integrated Hydrological Databook by CWC (2009) 5.42 MB

Integrated Hydrological Databook by CWC (2007) 2.7 MB

Integrated Hydrological Databook by CWC (2006) 1.12 MB

Water Data - Complete book by CWC (2005) 1.05 MB

Water sector at a glance - Summary by CWC (2008) 88.23 KB

Water sector at a glance - Complete book by CWC (2007) 1.92 MB

Category: Discharge, Hydrograph Network Station, Hydrological Station, Minerals, Physical

Characteristics, Population, River Basins, Runoff, Sediment Load, Simulator for Water Resources in
Rural Basins (SWRRB), Storage Capacity, Stream Gauging, Water and Industry, Water Flow, Water
Level, Agriculture, Fisheries, Irrigation, Climate, Dams, Drainage, Drinking Water, Droughts,
Floods, Groundwater, Groundwater Exploitation, Hydrology, Land Use, Meteorological Data,
Rainfall, Reservoirs, Rivers, Rural Water Supply, Soils, Temperature, Urban Water, Urban Water
Supply, Water Quality

 Author: Central Water Commission (CWC)

 Source: Central Water Commission (CWC)

 Location / Time: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, Baitarni, Brahmani, Burhabalang, Cauvery, Godavari,
India, Indus, Krishna, Mahanadi, Mahi, Nagavali, Narmada, Rushikulya, Sabarmati, Sarada,
Subarnarekha, Tapi, Vamsadhara

Women and Water: A report by the National Commission for Women

This report by the National Commission for Women looks at social conflict and tension that arise
due to water crises and analyses the impact of these on women. The stress on water resources is a
result of rapidly rising population and changing lifestyles, which have increased the need for
fresh water. Intense competition among water users from agriculture, industry and domestic
sector is pushing the ground water table deeper. Women bear the burden of fetching drinking
water in rural areas and if opportunity costs are taken into account, it would translate to about
150 million women days each year. This amounts to a loss of a whopping 10 billion rupees per
year to the national exchequer.

Category: Gender and Water, Water Crisis, Public Public Partnership (PPP), Agriculture, Conflicts,
Drinking Water, Panchayati Raj Institutions, Rainwater Harvesting, Traditional Water-body
Restoration, Urban Water Supply, Women

Author: National Commission for Women

Source: National Commission for Women

Location / Time: 2005, Bangalore, Bhopal, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, India, Kochi, Kottaam,
Mumbai, Shimla, Sriganganagar
Progress on sanitation and drinking water - A report by WHO and UNICEF (2017)

This report by WHO and UNICEF, describes the global status and trends with respect to the use
of safe drinking water and basic sanitation, and global progress made towards the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) in the context of drinking water and sanitation targets. The findings
reveal some striking disparities with respect to:Read More

 the gap between progress in providing access to drinking water versus sanitation
 the divide between urban and rural populations in terms of the services
 the differences in the way different regions are performing
 disparities between different socio-economic strata in the society

 gendered differences in the burden experienced in accessing and collection of drinking


Content Type: Data, Maps, Research

Category: Dry Latrines, Latrines, Safe Drinking Water, Shallow Pits, Toilets, Drinking Water,
Gender, Open Defecation, Piped Water Supply, Rural, Rural Sanitation, Rural Water Supply,
Sanitation, Urban, Urban Sanitation, Urban Water Supply, Water Quality

Author: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organisation (WHO)

Source: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organisation (WHO)

Location / Time: 2010, China, India

Renukaji Dilli Ke Nalon Mein - A documentary about the movement against the proposed
Renukaji Dam Project

Renukaji in Delhi's Taps

The Renuka Dam Project proposed over the river Giri Ganga (a tributary of the Yamuna) located
some 300km away from Delhi, is a joint project of the governments of Himachal Pradesh (HP)
and Delhi, to be constructed by the Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (HPPCL) in
Sirmaur district of HP. While HP hopes to generate 40MW of power from this project, Delhi
hopes to meet 1250 MLD of its total 3500 MLD requirement from this project.Read More


New Delh, DL, India

Latitude: 28.635308, Longitude: 77.224960

Content Type: Case Studies, Media

Media Type: Video

Category: Displacement, Hydro-electric Projects, Agriculture, Dams, Drinking Water, Forests, Piped
Water Supply, Rivers, Small and marginal farmers, Urban consumption, Urban Water, Urban Water

Associated People / Organizations: Ma Renukaji Sangarsh Samiti

Author: Centre for Communication and Development Studies (Infochange), Kurush Canteenwala,

 Source: Kurush Canteenwala

 Location / Time: 2017, Giri Ganga, Himachal Pradesh, New Delhi, Renukaji
Piped water supply to Greater Bangalore: Putting the cart before the horse – An EPW
special article

The paper critically evaluates the Greater Bangalore Water and Sanitation Project (GWSAP),
implemented by the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB). This project aims
to extend piped water supply from the Cauvery to over two million residents in peri-
urban Bangalore. This ambitious project has been viewed against the backdrop of the broader
trends and debates around market-based reforms in the water sector in Karnataka.

The Republic of India shares its boundaries with the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, and Indian
Ocean. The shoreline of the country is quite extensive and stretches to over 7,000 km.

The country is home to a widespread network of harbors and inland watercourses. The inland
watercourses of the country comprise canals, rivers, creeks, and backwaters.

The overall navigable span of the inland watercourses in India is 14,500 km. The legal authority
in control of the watercourses in the country is the Inland Waterways Authority of India or

The national watercourses in India can be divided into three and they are as follows:

1. The Brahmaputra river system - extending from Sadiya to Dhubri

2. The Ganga Bhagirathi Hooghly river - extending from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh to
Haldia in West Bengal
3. The West Coast Canal from Kottapuram to Kollam together with Udyogmandal canal and
Champakara canal.

The water bodies are top tourist draws as well. Visitors from different corners of the world come
to see these water resources. As a result, the travel and tourism sector of India is getting a boost.
In addition, a large number of hotels and accommodations have come up around these visitor
attractions to fulfill the requirements of the travelers. The country houses 13 major ports and
approximately 180 small and medium harbors. The harbors manage over 95% of the commerce
in the country and they also function as the principal entranceways for doing business. The
important ports in India are as follows:

Haldia, Kolkata, Visakhapatanam, Paradip, Chennai, Ennore, Cochin, Tuticorin, Mormugao,

New Mangalore, Mumbai, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, and Kandla.

Rivers in India

The country houses 12 rivers that are categorized as important rivers. The overall drainage basin
watered by these rivers is more than 976,000 sq miles or 2,528,000 km2.

All the important rivers in the country have their sources in any of the following areas:

1. Vindhya and Satpura mountain range, forming a part of the heart of the country
2. The Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges
3. Sahyadri or Western Ghats mountain range, forming a part of western India

The biggest drainage basin in the country is created by the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghana river
network and it covers a total area of approximately 620,000 sq miles or 1,600,000 km2. The
drainage basin of the Ganges river singularly covers a total area of around 420,000 sq miles or
1,100,000 km2.

The source of the Ganges river is the Gangotri Glacier, which lies in the state of Uttarakhand .
Subsequently, the river runs in the southeast direction, before pouring into the Bay of Bengal.
The headwaters of the Gomti and Yamuna rivers lie in the western part of the Himalayan
mountain range. These two rivers meet the Ganga in the flat terrain.

The Brahmaputra River has its headwaters in the territory of Tibet. In the province of Tibet,
people call it "Tsangpo" or Yarlung Tsangpo River. The river then penetrates the Indian
Territory via the state of Arunachal Pradesh in the Northeast. Subsequently, the river moves to
the west into Assam. In Bangladesh, the river meets the holy Ganga and the name of the river
changes to the Jamuna River.
A major branch of the river Ganga (Yamuna) is the Chambal River. The river has its headwaters
in the Satpura and Vindhya mountain ranges. It runs to the east. From the same source, other
rivers that have originated include the Tapti and Narmada and both of these rivers pour into the
Arabian Sea in the west. The river system that runs from the east to west forms 10% of the
overall outpouring of water in India.

All the rivers of the Deccan plateau have their headwaters in the Western Ghats mountain range.
These rivers include the Godavari River, the Mahanadi River (passing across the delta formed by
itself), Kaveri River, and Krishna River. All these rivers ultimately pour into the Bay of Bengal.
Approximately 20% of the overall outpouring of the country is represented by these rivers.

The intense precipitation in the rainy season in the southwest results in the swelling of the banks
of the Brahmaputra and other rivers in India. This frequently leads to inundating of the bordering
regions. Despite the fact that these rivers work as a fundamentally reliable source of fertilization
and natural supply for the paddy cultivators, these inundations have resulted in loss of lives of a
large number of people and force the population of the area to move to other places.

Capes in India

The major capes in India are as follows - Indira Point, the southernmost tip in India which is
situated on the Great Nicobar Island, the Kanyakumari, the southern point of territory of India.,
Point Calimere, and Adam's (Rama's) Bridge.

Gulfs in India

The important gulfs in India are the Gulf of Kutch, the Gulf of Cambay, and the Gulf of Mannar.
The country houses straits like the Ten Degree Canal, which dissevers the Andamans from the
Nicobar Islands, the Palk Strait, which splits India from Sri Lanka, and the Eight Degree Canal,
dissevering the Lakshadweep and Amindivi Islands from the Minicoy Island in the south.

The Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal are situated towards the south and east of the country
and the Arabian Sea is located in the west. The Andaman Sea and the Lakshadweep Sea are
smaller water bodies. The country houses four coral reefs and they lie in the Gulf of Mannar, the
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Gulf of Kutch, and the Lakshadweep Islands.

Lakes in India

The major lakes in India are as follows - Vembanad Lake (Kerala), Sambhar Lake, (the biggest
saltwater lagoon of the nation in Rajasthan ), Loktak Lake (Manipur), Kolleru Lake (Andhra
Pradesh), Chilka Lake (Orissa), Dal Lake (Kashmir), and Sasthamkotta Lake (Kerala).

Water bodies that border India

Given below are the names of the water bodies that surround India from different sides:

1. Lakshadweep Sea in the southwest

2. Arabian Sea in the west
3. Bay of Bengal in the east
4. Indian Ocean in the south

The state of India’s water systems hangs in balance. It can either revive back to sustained system
or plunge downhill. In a nutshell, the biggest threats faced by the aquatic ecosystem in India
include over abstraction and river flow regulation, increasing pollution, encroachment and land
use, degradation of watersheds, invasion by alien species, limited efforts at conservation and
rising sectoral conflicts.

The urgency to conserve the water resources is enormous as the pressures are three fold. Firstly,
water is becoming scarce both in terms of quality and quantity leading to a supply side shortage.
Secondly, on the demand side, the requirement is increasing by leaps and bounds as India’s
population, food demands, industrial requirements increase with development and economic
activities lurching ahead. Thirdly, the loss or dwindling of these aquatic ecosystems will
ultimately result in dry river and lakebeds, and parched aquifers.

To allay such scenarios, various efforts have been undertaken through the aegis of various
government departments both at the centre and the states to conserve, revive, control and manage
these aquatic systems. Apart from the government, NGOs and communities themselves are
making active efforts to conserve water resources.