Water is key to every life form on earth. Without water, whether it is a tiny cyanobacteria or a giant Blue whale, nothing alive can survive. In the last few decades, humans have extracted an enormous amount of water and depleted the water table drastically. Maintaining balance is key to surviving this water shortage catastrophe. A mechanism must be developed that will ensure sustainable use of water resources.
A participatory awareness-generation exercise conducted by the community for the community can be used to access the total input and output of water in a particular area, i.e. village. The main motive of the exercise is to make the community aware about the water crisis. The entire exercise is designed to be easily understood by the community.
S M Sehgal Foundation conducted a three-day participatory awareness generation exercise from June 14–16, 2022, in the Rohira village, Punhana block of Nuh district of Haryana to make the community aware of the condition of water availability and usage in their village. The process was community-driven with the support of primary and secondary data from various sources, i.e. Census, Gram Panchayat, Patwari, etc.
Rohira has a population of 1,536 with 290 households. It is about 190 meters above sea level with average rainfall of 617mm. The total geographical area of the village is 147 hectares with the majority of the land used for agriculture. The major crops produced in the village are pearl millet, paddy, sorghum, wheat, and mustard.
Process and timeline followed in the exercise
Before the exercise, all the secondary data required for the exercise was collected
Step 1. On day 1, the exercise began with the focused group discussion (FGD) with the community on the rationale for water budgeting, followed by drawing a social map, selecting volunteers, data collection (FGD level), team formation, etc. Outcomes: Data collection (FGD level), volunteers selection, team formation for data collection.
Step 2. Second half of day 1, after the FGD, the actual data collection process began. Teams were divided into four flexible groups: group 1 to collect data on households and livestock, group 2 to collect the data on agriculture and businesses, group 3 to collect the data on runoff coefficient, and group 4 to collect data on water storage and rainfall. Outcome: Household and livestock water use data was collected, agriculture and business data was collected, rainfall and water storage data was collected, and runoff coefficient data was collected.
Step 3. Once all primary data was collected, all the data was compiled and processed with the help of various tools of the water budget manual prepared by S M Sehgal Foundation (on day 3) Outcome: Compilation of all the data and preparation of final results.
Water consumption in the village was divided into four major categories: household, agriculture, business activities, and livestock. Although the water level in Rohira village is high, it is mostly saline. Households purchase water tankers according to their needs from outside. Households consume 80 million liters of water overall in a year. The household survey revealed that bathing and washing clothes were the major water consumption uses; a family consumes 765 liters of water a day on average.
Agricultural activities consume approximately 1,312 million liters of water. In agriculture, wheat is the major water consumer, with 529 million liters used (almost 40% of the total water consumed in agriculture). The other major water consumers in agriculture were paddy crop and sorghum crop, which consume around 388 million liters and 216 million liters of water respectively.
Apart from agriculture and household, business activities and livestock consumed 12 million and 15 million liters of water respectively.
Step 4. Once all the data was collected and compiled, the exercise culminated after sharing data with the VDC/villagers/community Outcome: Sharing of the outcome with the community.
The results of the awareness generation were quite alarming. It was thought that the village has approximately 163 million liters of water available for use, including stored water and recharge from rainfall. However, the actual total water usage in the village was much higher at approximately 1,418 million liters, with almost 92.5% of water used in agriculture. The results showed that the village’s water output was more than eight times of its input, which is unsustainable.
The community was part of the awareness generation exercise so that the ownership and acceptance of the results could be ensured. Results were shared with the community in a community meeting at the end of the exercise. As there are very few sweet water pockets in the Nuh district, the exercise was more relevant and critical in this district. Villagers were surprised and alarmed by the finding. Measures to improve the situation were suggested during the discussion. Suggestions made by the SMSF team and the community members for improvements in this situation included promotion of less water-intensive crops, encouraging farmers to adopt drip and sprinkler systems of irrigation, etc.
Farmers are adopting water-efficient irrigation practices like laser levelling and shifting to less water-intensive crops like millet, among others.
 Needs assessment survey for population and household data
 Source: http://www.rainwaterharvesting.org/Urban/Rainfall.htm
Author: Shashank Devra
(Shashank is program lead, Local Participation and Sustainability)