With a population of 1.25 billion, India accounts for 16% of the world’s population. Yet, India has access to only 4% of the world’s water resources. Rain and snowfall account for 4,000 trillion litres of fresh water annually; however, most of this returns to the seas. A small portion makes its way to underground aquifers. Out of the 1,869 trillion litres of such reserves, about 1,122 trillion litres can be accessed and exploited due to topographic constraints.

Extreme mismanagement of water resources has put an enormous strain on India’s economy. Water bodies are contaminated by untreated sewerage, agricultural runoff and effluents from unregulated industries. Technology can be a game changer in this scenario. Waste water treatment, processing of water and the treatment of drinking water can help India mitigate its water issues and increase the supply and quality of potable water.


By 2020 the demand for water is expected to increase by 20%. Industrial demand is estimated to go up from 23.3 trillion litres in 2010 to 47 trillion litres by 2020, domestic demand from 41 trillion litres to 55 trillion litres, and irrigation from 517 trillion litres to 592 trillion litres. The per capita availability of water will go down by 36% in 2025 and by 60% in 2050 , as per the Ministry of Water Resources.

Much of the available water is unusable. A Central Pollution Board survey countrywide found that 66% of water samples had unacceptable organic values, and 44% had coliform, which typically occurs due to faeces. Chemical contamination due to over-exploitation of groundwater is widely prevalent.

Percentage of affected habitats in Indian states due to chemical contamination

Source: NISTADS/Ministry of Water Resource

The World Bank, estimates that the surface and ground water levels will deplete by almost 70% by 2050, as compared to the levels in 1997.

Most Indian cities rely on annual monsoons to replenish their storage. With climate change and unreliable monsoons, severe shortages are the norm in these cities in the summer months.

The Government of India, through agencies such as the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, have deployed water treatment facilities in various locations. Various city municipalities and corporations are making efforts to treat their sewerage and effluents as well. Tamil Nadu commissioned India’s first desalination plant at Minjur to supply 100 million litres of water daily to Chennai. A second plant at Nemmeli started operations in 2013.


Global Best Practices

The central government must emphasize on the reuse of treated wastewater and reduction in groundwater usage. It must expand funding for water source development, sewerage networks & treatment plants, increase technical assistance and grants to urban local bodies (ULBs), and set up treatment facilities.

Technology companies can play a key role in enabling the massive effort to resolve India’s water crisis. Smart cities can help accomplish or enable many of the water management goals set forth for Indian cities. This acquires more importance with the central government’s plan to build 100 smart cities.

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