Water stress

With about 4 per cent of the water resources of the world, India should have been a water-adequate nation. However, in 2011 India turned into a water-stressed nation, according to experts. Let us have a look at what caused this stress and what steps need to be taken to bring India back to water-adequacy

Last Updated: Thursday 11 June 2015

Water stress


of waste water discharged in rivers after treatment—38,254 million litres—do not meet environment norms. The sewage water should be treated so that it is fit for bathing. World Bank estimates that the current industrial water use in India is about 13 per cent of the total freshwater withdrawal in the country and the water demand for industrial uses and energy production will grow at a rate of 4.2 per cent annually

Source: World Bank
of available water resources in the country do not meet the World Health Organization water quality standards because of pollution caused by rapid industrialisation, urbanisation, poor farming and irrigation practices

Source: Bhartiya Agro Industries Foundation
of India’s water pollution happens due to waste from cities that house only 36 per cent of India’s population, says a report of the Central Pollution Control Board. Owing to poor infrastructure, cities are able to treat only 31 per cent of the waste, while the remaining is dumped untreated. The report also points out that only 38 per cent of the population in the cities have access to sanitation and 78 per cent to clean drinking water.

Source: Central Pollution Control Board
rainwater runoff goes into the sea, which is a major wastage considering that over 70 per cent of country’s farming is rain-fed. The runoff also causes soil erosion, river flooding and siltation of water bodies

Source: Bhartiya Agro Industries Foundation
of India’s gross domestic product (Rs 328,500 crore) worth of economic opportunities were lost in 2006 because of poor sanitation. Poor sanitation results in water contamination that leads to widespread diseases and wastage of public resources

Source: World Bank

is the amount of groundwater extracted in India annually, which is the highest in the world. Groundwater today provides for more than 60 per cent of net irrigated area. As a result, over 60 per cent of districts in the country are facing problems relating to poor quality and shortage of groundwater, says the mid-term appraisal of the 11th Five Year Plan

Source: Planning Commission
Demand for water in India is expected to rise drastically to about 833 billion cubic metres (BCM) in 2025 and 899 BCM in 2050. At present, water demand stands at 712 BCM.
Water is getting scarce because of growing population
India is using only 35 per cent of the rainwater it receives. If rainwater harvesting projects are effectively implemented, 65 per cent of the rainwater which is wasted can be used
New technologies such as dual flush toilets, waterless urinals and efficient shower systems in houses can go a long way in reducing the amount of water wasted in households
The process of using plants and microbes in contaminated water bodies to improve water quality should be promoted. There are 130 plant species that can be used for the process
A robust enviro-legal network to check illegal dumping of effluents and monitoring of industries should be in place for periodic assessment of water pollution

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  • Excellent article on water

    Excellent article on water stress in India.

    Water is the Elixir of life - Leonardo da vinci.

    With a diverse population that is three times the size of the United States but one-third the physical size, India has the second largest population in the world. According to the World Bank, India has taken significant steps to reduce poverty but the number of people who live in poverty is still highly disproportionate to the number of people who are middle-income, with a combined rate of over 52% of both rural and urban poor.
    Although India has made improvements over the past decades to both the availability and quality of municipal drinking water systems, its large population has stressed planned water resources and rural areas are left out. In addition, rapid growth in India's urban areas has stretched government solutions, which have been compromised by over-privatization.
    Regardless of improvements to drinking water, many other water sources are contaminated with both bio and chemical pollutants, and over 21% of the country's diseases are water-related. Furthermore, only 33% of the country has access to traditional sanitation.
    One concern is that India may lack overall long-term availability of replenishable water resources. While India's aquifers are currently associated with replenishing sources, the country is also a major grain producer with a great need for water to support the commodity. As with all countries with large agricultural output, excess water consumption for food production depletes the overall water table.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Hi, I'm interested in knowing


    I'm interested in knowing the plant species that can be used in the bioremediation process. Can you please let me know where I can get that list?

    C. Balachandran

    The article says:

    There are 130 plant species that can be used for the process

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Please refer to this booklet

    Please refer to this booklet published by Union Ministry of Environment and Forests:


    Page 73, Annexure 3, has a list of about 130 species which have been used for bioremediation.

    Best regards

    Posted by: Aruna | 4 years ago | Reply
  • The article is well written

    The article is well written and easy to understand. As is well known that the State of Andhra Pradesh after bifurcation is set to start anew, it would be of immense value if the best environmental practices are planned and implemented.

    Mrs. M. Vijaya Rao
    Gannavaram AP

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Really good initiative of

    Really good initiative of putting important data together. The things I would like to add to this would be:

    High value, around 40%, of non-revenue water - which is huge loss,both precious treated water and money, and requires immediate action

    In urban areas, 30% of households do not have access to water within their premises and 18.6% do not have access to even the most rudimentary forms of sanitation facilities.

    The urban poor end up paying more than the rich per unit of water thus misdirected subsidies are not going to help the poor

    Most of the traditional water bodies have ceased to exist, mostly in the urban areas, and rest are in very poor state - planning shouldn't be ignorant about these water bodies

    Encroachment of river banks is a common issue leading to huge losses if there is a flood event - again a planning issue

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • When it comes to water wastage in domestic, work environments and commercial utilities, how many of the educated lot evince concern in not wasting water? My guess, based on my 32 years of government service and 6 years in private sector is only alarming 5 to 10 percent. If my assessment is not wrong, over 20% water woes could be reduced in rural and urban living if water wastage in these spheres is checked. It is the same story about petrol & diesel and power in these 3 areas. Only, God can save us.

    Posted by: Rao V K Rao | 4 years ago | Reply