By Lalit Sharma – Group Leader, Adaptive Rural Technologies
The current water situation in India has been well studied and documented. In order to better manage water in India, there is a need for both supply and demand side interventions. The supply side of water management focuses on the provision of water through “investments in water projects, combined with engineering and technical expertise, to capture, store and deliver water and to make systems operate effectively.” The demand side focuses on “policies, measures or other initiatives which serve to control or restrict the demand for, the use of or waste of water supplies or other water services.”
Currently, water management development teams are only focused on addressing supply side concerns. Little has been done to develop water demand management. Failure to develop water demand management has resulted in increasing demand for water. Often, as water supply has increased, people have begun to demand even more water. There is much need to focus on developing water demand management so that equilibrium of supply and demand can be met.
Water management development teams have primarily focused on the supply side of water as it involves working with physical structures, and it is much easier and faster to impact change. The demand side of water management involves working with people in order to change their behavior, which is a much slower and more challenging process. Although developing the demand side of water management will require persistence and patience, it is much more likely to have a long lasting impact on the current water situation in India. If people’s increasing demands for water can be curbed, then it becomes more possible to reach supply and demand equilibrium.
Recently some parts of the public sector, nonprofit organizations, communities and select individuals have come to recognize this need for developing water demand management. Some have started making it part of their development work agenda. Little work has actually been undertaken, but it is a huge first step to see this need acknowledged. In order to affect real change in water demand, more and more people need to come together so that we can collectively tackle it.
There have been a few cases that have shown that when the public sector provides administrative support to the nonprofit sector, development goals have become achievable. Unfortunately, the government’s level of interest in supporting water demand management is still unclear. Several questions need to be answered: How can the government facilitate water demand change? What other options do we have to ensure that water is used mindfully? In the Indian government, the Ministry of Water Resources has little power. This raises the question of how to make water demand management a top priority for the government. Lastly, development of water demand management overlaps with the agricultural development sector. How can low water-consumption crops, which currently have lower economic value and provide lower yield, be developed so that they can replace high water-consuming crops?
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