Water scarcity arises from two interrelated factors: escalating freshwater consumption, and the depletion of viable freshwater reserves. Over the past century, global water usage surged at a pace that exceeded twice the population growth rate. Consequently, numerous regions are approaching their sustainable water supply thresholds, particularly in arid areas, where the delivery of water services is increasingly challenging.
The current state of water management in India is complex and challenging. The water-stressed country has a high population density and significant water demand for various sectors such as agriculture, industry, and domestic use.
Let’s examine a few of the challenges in water management in India:
Water Scarcity: India faces particularly significant water scarcity issues in regions with low rainfall and limited water resources. Several states experience frequent droughts, water shortages, and depletion of groundwater levels.
Groundwater Depletion: Overexploitation of groundwater has led to declining water tables in many parts of the country. Excessive pumping for irrigation, industrial use, and domestic consumption has resulted in significant groundwater depletion, affecting rural and urban areas.
Irrigation Challenges: Agriculture accounts for India’s largest share of water consumption. Traditional irrigation methods often lead to water wastage. Enhancing irrigation efficiency and promoting sustainable farming techniques are crucial for optimal water management.
Water Pollution: Water pollution is a significant concern in India, with industrial and domestic effluents contaminating rivers, lakes, and groundwater sources. Polluted water poses health risks, affects ecosystems, and exacerbates water scarcity.
What is the solution to this?
Water Management Resources
Water management resources play a crucial role in addressing the challenges associated with water scarcity and conservation. Implementation of water management resources optimizes water use, conserves water, and ensures sustainable water availability. By adopting these resources, individuals, communities, and organizations will contribute to water security, environmental sustainability, and the well-being of present and future generations.
Ten essential water management resources for sustainable living
1. Drip irrigation is a form of micro-irrigation that offers significant water and nutrient conservation benefits by delivering water directly to plant roots. This technique involves slow and precise water dripping, either above or below the soil surface. By targeting the root zone, drip irrigation minimizes water loss from evaporation. The system operates through a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters that distribute water effectively. Compared to alternative irrigation methods such as surface irrigation or sprinkler systems, the efficiency of a drip irrigation system depends on its design, installation, maintenance, and operation. When properly implemented, a well-designed and maintained drip irrigation system provides superior efficiency, resulting in optimal water usage for agricultural or horticultural purposes.
2. Rainwater harvesting (RWH) is the process of collecting and storing rainwater instead of allowing it to run off. It involves the collection of rainwater from a surface or ground and channeling it to storage facilities such as tanks, cisterns, deep pits, aquifers, or reservoirs with percolation. The collected rainwater serves various purposes, such as watering gardens; providing water for livestock, irrigation, domestic use with appropriate treatment; and even domestic heating. It can also be stored for extended periods or used for recharging groundwater reserves.
3. Groundwater recharge involves augmenting natural groundwater resources using human-made structures like infiltration basins and dams. It plays a vital role in sustainable groundwater management by facilitating the movement of excess salts that accumulate in the root zone to deeper soil layers or into the groundwater system.
4. Artificial Groundwater Recharge refers to increasing the water entering an aquifer using human-controlled methods. This is accomplished through various techniques, such as redirecting water across the land surface via canals, infiltration basins, or ponds, and implementing irrigation furrows or sprinkler systems. In India, artificial groundwater recharge has gained significance due to the depletion of underground resources caused by excessive groundwater extraction by farmers.
5. Water Aquifers, in simple terms, are layers of the earth that can hold and move water due to their porous and permeable nature. As we continue to use water resources, it is essential to replenish aquifers in proportion to the amount we extract. Failure to do so leads to deepening the dry area above the water table.
6. High-Pressure Recharge Wells are employed to introduce freshwater into saline aquifers. These systems consist of open cylindrical tanks made of cement that are positioned above ground level. Rainwater collected from rooftops is directed into the recharge wells through PVC pipes. As the tanks are elevated, the captured rainwater exerts pressure, displacing the saline water and establishing pockets of freshwater within the saline aquifer.
7. Johads are compact earthen check dams designed to capture and preserve rainwater, enhancing percolation and groundwater replenishment. Their implementation has yielded remarkable outcomes, including an overall increase of approximately six meters in groundwater levels and a significant 33 percent expansion of forest cover in rural regions of India. Notably, five rivers that were previously prone to drying up soon after the monsoon season have experienced a transformation, with examples like the River Arvari now flowing perennially, displaying renewed vitality.
8. Gray water Recycling refers to the relatively clean wastewater from bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines. This water may contain small amounts of dirt, food particles, grease, hair, and some household cleaning products, but it has never been in contact with feces. Although gray water may still be considered unclean, it is a safe and potentially advantageous resource for irrigating yards.
9. Water Meter is a device utilized to measure and monitor water usage. Its purpose extends beyond mere consumption tracking, as it also enables cost savings by reducing electricity expenses associated with water pumping and the energy consumption of sewage treatment plants. A water meter facilitates efficient resource management and promotes conservation by accurately measuring water usage.
10. Pressure-Reducing Valve serves the purpose of regulating hydraulic system pressure. These valves maintain a predetermined water pressure level for efficient usage. By ensuring a controlled pressure, downstream components within the water system experience reduced wear and tear, leading to increased longevity. Moreover, this mechanism effectively curbs water consumption, making it an efficient solution for water conservation in industrial, residential, commercial, and institutional buildings.
Implementing efficient water management practices could boost water efficiency and mitigate the impacts of water scarcity. Rural development NGOs in India have the power to generate awareness about the importance of responsible water use, encourage community participation, and support policy reforms for equitable water allocation and sustainable water governance.
Is any NGO working toward generating awareness about water management resources, their implementations, and their benefits?
S M Sehgal Foundation
S M Sehgal Foundation is a sustainable rural development NGO in India dedicated to driving positive social, economic, and environmental transformations in rural areas. As a grassroots implementing NGO, its core mission is to address critical concerns related to water security, food security, local participation, information asymmetry, and the empowerment of women and children.
Let’s take a deeper look at its contributions to rural India.
The rural communities in India have greatly benefited from traditional water-harvesting systems. Narnaul, located in Mahendragarh, Haryana, is renowned for its agriculture and farming practices. The villagers rely heavily on agricultural yields for their livelihoods. However, the villagers had to endure long waits for water tankers, leading to the rapid depletion of groundwater, severely impacting their lives. It also led to water scarcity for humans and cattle, reducing milk production. To address this issue, S M Sehgal Foundation collaborated with HDFC Bank to construct johads, which are redundant ponds, in Sarelli and Panchnota villages. This joint project, called Parivartan Prayojana, brought about a positive transformation by elevating the water table in the region. The completion of the johads ensured a year-long water supply. The excess water in the pond aids in recharging the water table, resulting in increased groundwater levels. By expanding the diameter and depth of the pond, a larger volume of water can be collected, enabling it to last longer despite evaporation. As a result, wells in neighboring villages also witnessed improved water levels, benefiting more people. This ripple effect has fostered a sense of confidence and awareness among the locals regarding water management and its various uses.
In The Nuh District
Seventy-eight percent of the area faces the challenge of saline groundwater due to the absence of perennial surface water sources. Even the available fresh groundwater tends to be saline, with the salinity increasing as one goes deeper. This situation adversely affects the social, economic, and environmental well-being of the local inhabitants. Accessing water for daily needs is a struggle, with people either having to purchase water or travel long distances on foot to collect water. The scarcity of potable water leads to compromised hygiene and sanitation practices, resulting in the prevalence of life-threatening diseases, particularly among females. To compound matters, informal water markets thrive, and despite the high cost, water quality is not guaranteed.
To address the issue of groundwater salinity, S M Sehgal Foundation developed and implemented an innovative rainwater harvesting model. This model creates freshwater pockets within the saline aquifer. The cornerstone of this approach is the construction of recharge wells that store and replenish rainwater beneath the groundwater table. This eco-friendly and sustainable technology requires no chemical additives or energy inputs.
Implementing this model has alleviated the burden on schoolchildren, who previously had to carry water bottles daily to school. They now have unrestricted access to safe and clean drinking water, ensuring proper hydration during school hours. Students and local residents have embraced the fact that the water is safe and tastes as refreshing as packaged mineral water available in the market. This development has positively impacted sanitation and hygiene practices, regular cooking of midday meals, and a notable reduction in girls’ dropout rates.
The collaborative efforts of S M Sehgal Foundation and the Millennium Alliance resulted in installing high-pressure recharge wells in these schools. The project also included raising awareness among the villagers about the initiative and the proper utilization of the wells. To address the issue of salinity, the modified design for recharge wells was employed, incorporating roof rainwater harvesting techniques. This approach has played a crucial role in mitigating the salinity problem and ensuring a sustainable water supply.
S M Sehgal Foundation actively operates in twelve states, covering 1959 villages and impacting the lives of more than four million individuals. Over more than two decades, the foundation has focused on both the supply and the demand sides of water management, utilizing its extensive expertise to enhance water resources and enable farmers to attain better returns and lead dignified lives.