India’s per capita availability of water, on the basis of the 2011 population census, has fallen below the global threshold, signalling that the country will have to address conservation needs more seriously amid a growing population and an expanding economy.
India’s per capita availability has been pegged at 1,545 cubic metre a year, including non-personal consumption, such as irrigation, according to an estimate of the water resources ministry — notches below the international threshold of 1,700 cubic meter a year.
According to the UN-adopted Falkenmark Water Stress Indicator, the most widely cited measure of water scarcity, national per capita availability indicates water stress conditions.
India is home to 17% of the world’s population but has only 4% of water. Among non-personal uses, water is most crucial for the agriculture, which supports two-thirds of all Indians and uses 90% of total water supply.
A water crisis means the country may have to develop less water-intensive crops.
“The development indicates that India’s water needs are getting from bad to worse and the next big fight is clearly about water,” said PD Chenoy of the Indian Institute for Water Resources Studies.
The country currently uses 829 billion cubic meters of water every year, which is approximately the size of Lake Erie, the fourth largest of the five Great Lakes in North America. By 2050, demand is expected to double and cross the 1.4-trillion cubic meters mark.
The Centre had initiated a water policy eight years ago to target conservation needs. Ground water recharge, a critical source to enhance supply, however remains sporadic and neglected.
According to an official, India allocated Rs 100 crore during the current five-year plan for water recharge, of which Rs 61 crore has been utilised so far. The Planning Commission has now proposed an accelerated water recharge project in all states during the next five-year plan period to scale up conservation.