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Conserve Water-Water Crises World Wide

There are millions of people all over the world who don’t have access to water, or, if they have access, that water is unable to be used. About 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water and 3% of it is actually freshwater that is fit for human consumption. Around two-thirds of that is tucked in frozen glaciers and unavailable for our use. According to WWF, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year.

KJ Staff

There are millions of people all over the world who don’t have access to water, or, if they have access, that water is unable to be used. About 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water and 3% of it is actually freshwater that is fit for human consumption. Around two-thirds of that is tucked in frozen glaciers and unavailable for our use. According to WWF, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year.

Clean drinking water is scarce and there are millions of people across this globe who spend their entire day searching for it. Yet, people who have access to safe, clean drinking water take it for granted and don’t use it wisely.

To emphasize the severity of water shortages both locally and on a global scale, it is necessary to inform the public of this startling statistic. Every continent around the world is affected, not just those regions that are traditionally dry. At least two billion people are affected for at least one month of the year. And more than 1 billion people have no access to clean drinking or potable water. Here is an extension of what water shortages entail and what it means to be without it.

The Childhood games with the group of children was  `...bol meri machali..kitna paani..` (Tel my fish that how much level of water) states the importance of the water and the poem that machali jal ki rani hai, jeevan uska paani hai (Fish is the queen of water and the life is the water. From childhood to this age, the importance of water was always there.  Recently  The Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Shri Nitin Gadkari has called upon research organizations to innovate in the area of water conservation and sustainable management of water resources.

 He further  has stressed upon the need to study advanced technologies and procedures like cloud bursting and water accounting being used in other parts of the world, and adopt those that are feasible for our country.

 Shri Gadkari was addressing the 37th Annual General Meeting of the National Institute of Hydrology Society in. The Minister said that a lot of people and organizations are doing very good work in this field, and we need to network them on a single platform. Many departments are doing the same kind of work to achieve the same objective, but there is a lack of proper coordination and information sharing among them. In this regard Shri Gadkari suggested that a website should be created for sharing available resources, information and best practices available in different parts of the country.  

Shri U.P. Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation drew attention to the decreasing flow of water in many springs in the Himalayan Region and the need to start a programme for rejuvenating these springs.

Director, National Institute of Hydrology (NIH) Shri Sharad Kumar Jain made a presentation on different activities of NIH. The institute was setup in 1978 to carry out research and development in the area of hydrology and water resources. It has excelled in research and consultancy projects, developing world class laboratories, organizing training and mass awareness programmes.

NIH is contributing in three major national projects – National Hydrology Project where its role is to provide training and R&D;  National Mission for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem and Neeranchal National Watershed Project of the Government of India and World Bank.  It is also working on various other projects like Interlinking of rivers, Snow/Glacier studies etc.

Shri Thakur Mahender Singh, Irrigation and Public Health Minister of Himachal Pradesh  and senior officials of the Ministry also attended the meeting.  

A BBC report listed 11 world cities that were “most likely to run out of drinking water”, and put Bengaluru at number 2, behind only São Paulo, Brazil. The report mentioned the acute shortage of water in Cape Town in South Africa, where people are now being rationed 50 litres daily, and which many fear could become the first major city to run dry in the modern era. Other cities on the list of the most vulnerable were Beijing, Cairo, Jakarta, Moscow, Istanbul, Mexico City, London, Tokyo and Miami.

The report noted that more than half of Bengaluru’s drinking water is wasted due to “antiquated plumbing”, 85% of the city’s lakes “had water that could only be used for irrigation and industrial cooling”, and “not a single lake had suitable water for drinking or bathing”.

The Supreme Court has recently allocated a larger share of Cauvery water for Bengaluru’s nearly 10 million people, but there is little doubt that the city’s water resources must be managed more efficiently.

Bengaluru originally had multiple sources of water supply in the form of over 200 lakes, abundant groundwater, and supplies from reservoirs and tanks in the Arkavathi river basin — the Hesaraghatta Lake in the north and the Thippagondanahalli Reservoir in the west. These sources are all but dead now due to the depletion of catchment areas in the wake of uncontrolled infrastructure expansion. This makes Bengaluru critically dependent on the Cauvery — some 100 km away, and now the principal source of the city’s drinking water — and the monsoon. Residents get 65 litres per capita per day (lpcd) on average, less than half the ideal amount of 150 lpcd. Of the 270 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) of water that was earlier allocated to Karnataka from the Cauvery, 17.64 tmc ft was used every year for the city’s drinking water needs. This share has now increased by 4.75 tmc ft.

At 150 lpcd, Bengaluru’s current requirement of water, given its population, is estimated to be 24 tmc ft per annum. This is expected to rise to 30 tmc ft by 2025. Without considering the 4.75 tmc ft increase in allocation, water supply to the city is short by at least 6 tmc ft per annum. Against a requirement of 1,400 million litres per day (mld), it gets only 1,250 mld.

According to the BWSSB’s projection, Bengaluru, with a population of 11 million in 2021, will require 27 tmc ft of water at the rate of 2,100 mld to ensure 150 lpcd of water for residents; by 2031, when the population is 14 million, these numbers will rise to 37 tmc ft and 2,900 mld. The availability of water in many of the city’s poorer areas is currently estimated to be as low as 40-45 lpcd. At its present installed capacity, the Cauvery Water Supply Scheme cannot meet the needs of 110 villages, which cover 225 sq km of the 800 sq km of the Bengaluru region. A new scheme currently under implementation will supply 6.45 tmc ft in the first phase and 3.55 tmc ft in the second phase, which will provide drinking water from the Cauvery to all areas in the city, the BWSSB says.

The proliferation of borewells, especially in the core city areas, has led to a massive depletion of groundwater. Only about 70 of the 272 lakes in and around the city from four decades ago survive. The government has reclaimed dozens of lakes for bus stands, stadiums, and housing complexes, and real estate firms have been the major beneficiaries of land allotment on lakeshores. Garbage and sewage have poisoned lakes, and the concretisation of catchment areas has choked inlet channels.

“Bangalore is… a ‘groundwater quality hotspot’ due to exploitation of groundwater beyond rechargeable limits. This has resulted in increasing number of semi-critical, critical, overexploited and overdeveloped regions emerging in many watersheds… The groundwater quality (has) deteriorated with high presence of iron, fluoride, nitrate and conductivity with drastic decline in water table,” a study by a researcher at the Centre for Economic Studies and Policy at the Bengaluru-based Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), noted back in 2013. (‘Sustainable Urban Habitats and Urban Water Supply: Accounting for Unaccounted for Water in Bangalore City’: Krishna Raj, Current Urban Studies, Volume 1, No. 4, 2013) As much as 207,000 million litres of groundwater was being extracted per annum in Bengaluru, against an annual recharge of only 81,100 million litres per year, the study said.

In its response to the BBC report, the BWSSB said it would be able to provide adequate water to the city for the next decade by effectively using current supplies, tapping into rainwater sources, and recycling wastewater. “Solutions… are in terms of both supply management and the demand management,… and citizens of Bengaluru need not have to worry about this BBC report,” it said. The government had tied up with the Japan International Cooperation Agency for a Rs 5,500 crore loan, of which Rs 4,500 crore would be used to bring 10 tmc ft of additional water from the Cauvery to Bengaluru city, the BWSSB said. “The project will be started in… 2019 and commissioned by 2023”, increasing the availability of Cauvery water from “1,400 mld to 2,175 mld”.

Bengaluru has some cushion because the Cauvery is perennial, and the city gets a decent amount of rainfall every year, which can be utilised to meet drinking water needs and recharge the groundwater table. Meteorological data of the last 100 years show the city receives an average annual rainfall of 929 mm over 57 rainy days, which, experts say, is a good source of rainwater harvesting across the city’s 800 sq km expanse and 2 million properties.

“Cauvery water supply at the tap end in Bangalore is 2,50,057 million litres (685 MLD after losses). Rooftop rainwater harvesting can provide 2,04,380 million litres, groundwater available through rainwater harvesting will be 1,85,800 million litres and the facilities of waste water treatment plants can provide 1,89,800 million litres, totaling to 3,07,048 ML or 841 MLD,” A R Shivakumar, principal scientific officer at the Karnataka State Council of Science and Technology, wrote in a paper published last month. (‘Sustainable Water Supply Strategy for Bangalore — A Model for Emerging Cities in India’: A R Shivakumar, International Journal of Science, Technology and Society, Vol 6, Issue 1, January 2018)

“The ‘New Water’ available at consumer end from the three sources (rain water harvesting, groundwater and waste water treatment plants) will be 509 MLD, which is almost equivalent to the current water supply at the tap end” from the Cauvery river, Shivakumar has written.

In the end though, as BWSSB said in its response to the BBC report: “Great responsibility lies with the citizens of Bengaluru to use water judiciously and to save water. Rampant exploitation of groundwater should be avoided and rainwater harvesting should be undertaken in a way to replenish the groundwater.”

The latest is the Cape Town, and the region it is located in, is suffering its worst-ever drought, which has now gone on for three years. The region is also experiencing a long-term decline in average rainfall. According to Piotr Wolski, Senior Research Officer (Hydro-climatology) in the Climate System Analysis Group at the University of Cape Town, the city’s water supply system can handle two-year droughts, and can even withstand one-in-50- or one-in-100-year events, but this drought is a one-in-300-years event.

Reservoirs in Cape Town and surrounding areas are now less than a quarter full. The largest dam supplying water to the city, the Theewaterskloof Dam, is filled to only 11.3% of its capacity. The city is fast approaching what the local authorities are calling ‘Day Zero’, when water supply to nearly 75% of the population would have to be cut. After that, water would be rationed at some designated distribution points only. The city has already reduced water supply from about 1,200 million litres per day in 2015 to about 566 million litres per day. Residents of the city do not have access to more than 50 litres of water per person per day.

Probably yes, although it is difficult to ascertain the impact of climate change over a small geographical region. The area is prone to fluctuations in rainfall, and climate change does accentuate the variability. According to professor Mark New, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Climate Change at the African Climate and Development Initiative, University of Cape Town, preliminary analysis suggests that three-year cumulative rainfall deficits (as in the current situation) have become five times more likely due to global warming.

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