India Water Management Challenges in Focus

  India Water Management Can Benefit from Water Technology Advances

water-in-indiaAbout 15 years ago I had the privilege of travelling to India for the first of what became a series of business trips. I found the country and its people fascinating as they entered the 21st century with great hope for the future. It was just around that time that cellular phones were becoming the norm all over the world and it intrigued me that so many Indians, from all walks of life, were communicating via mobile devices. It struck me that the development of cellular communications was allowing India to skip over the virtually insurmountable infrastructure challenge of making wired communication universally accessible to its citizens.

Similarly, as India now tackles its growing water infrastructure crisis, it can immediately benefit from water technologies that have been created and implemented in the developed world over the last decades. To that end, Indian water authorities are proactively engaging with relevant governmental and private organizations from around the globe on an ongoing basis. Thus, for example, less than two weeks ago (November 20, 2015), India hosted the biennial Water Loss Conference for the first time. The event brought together 100 international speakers, 1,000 delegates, and over 100 companies showcasing their technology solutions. The pressing issues under discussion included water-loss reduction strategies, management of distribution networks, energy efficiency (water loss and energy impacts), smart metering and, in general, the role of technology in improving water management efficiency.[1]

The Scope of the Indian Water Challenge

india-water-1So what is the scope of the water management challenge in a country that is #2 in the world in terms of water consumption? According to the World Health Organization, in 2012 97 million Indians did not have access to water through “improved” (i.e., safe) sources. This is clearly an extreme aspect of the challenge that must be rectified. But the real doomsday scenario is that the Indian government itself has acknowledged that, if dramatic measures are not taken, by the year 2050 there will not be enough drinking water to meet the minimal needs of the population. Many experts believe that this forecast is optimistic and the shortfall will occur much sooner than that. An August 2015 post by Nihar Gokhale[2] quantifies the situation as follows:

  • The water available for use each year in India = 1,123 BCM (billion cubic meters), of which 60% is surface water (rivers, lakes) and the rest groundwater.
  • The Ganga River accounts for 36% of the surface water available, and 25% of all water available. However, the Indian government itself admits that the Ganga and over 275 other rivers are polluted and cannot be used “as is”.
  • The government expects water demand in 2025 to be 843 BCM and to rise to 1,180 BCM (i.e., more than the water available) by 2050.
Addressing the Groundwater Crisis

The government is already taking initiatives to address the groundwater crisis that has arisen in certain areas of the country. Once again Nihar Gokhale brings us the indisputable facts in a post that appeared last week[3]:

  • In 2015 the water level dropped in half the 13,000 monitored wells in India
  • In Rajasthan, people are digging 300 feet deep for water (the equivalent of a 35 story building)
  • In Tamil Nadu, nearly 95% of open wells are dry now

In response the Central Groundwater Authority under the Water Resources Ministry has introduced new rules to regulate the drawing of groundwater, which came into effect on November 16. Two key measures are that 14 “water intensive” industries can no longer draw water in over-exploited areas, and several industries can use groundwater only if they recharge it. However, the biggest challenge in regulating groundwater on a national scale is the difficulty in monitoring: India draws twice as much groundwater as the US, but would have to enforce the new rules on 100 times as many users.

Looking Ahead: Proposed Solutions on the Local, Regional and National Levels

Some of the solutions being suggested to prevent the Indian doomsday water scenario are local in nature, such as harvesting rainwater on urban rooftops. The proponents of this idea calculate that if all rooftops in Mumbai began harvesting rainwater, 600 million liters could be collected, representing 20% of the city’s daily water supply while a similar program in Delhi could provide up to 70% of the city’s water demand. [2]

water-usageMost of the discussions, however, are focused on taking a more holistic approach to averting the crisis. Increasing competition for water among industry, agriculture, energy, domestic use and the environment has highlighted the importance of managing water on a river basin and multi- sectoral basis. This was one of the key conclusions of a two-day meeting that took place earlier this month of the Indo-European Water Forum, which was organized jointly by the National Water Mission, the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, and the Environment Directorate-General of the European Commission. The Forum discussed key issues in water resources management in India in the light of the experiences gained through implementation of the European Water Policy. [4]

At the national level, the Indian government has already initiated several ambitious programs such as 100 Smart Cities, the National Mission to Clean Ganga and the Total Sanitation Program. The government is currently exploring Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) as a possible framework for the sweeping reforms that must be undertaken in order to reduce non-revenue water, manage groundwater exploitation, regard waste as a resource, and generally look at the water cycle in a holistic way. IUWM would be a paradigm shift in urban water management, encouraging across-the-board cooperation among all stakeholders.[5]

Arad is Proud to be Part of the Solution

Arad has already installed its 3GDialog AMR (drive by) solution in several Indian cities, with all the advantages that it brings in terms of more comprehensive and accurate water billing. Currently Arad has begun an AMI smart water management pilot in Delhi in anticipation of deploying a full-scale system there. Many other Indian municipalities have expressed an interest in the solution and Arad is looking forward to being a significant partner in propelling India into the smart water management era.


[1] India hosts world’s largest water-loss conference for the first time, OneIndia, Shalini Sharma, November 23, 2015

[2] Doomsday in 10 years: India may run out of water by 2025, Catch News, Nihar Gokhale, August 23, 2015

[3] India’s water bank is bankrupt. Govt makes a good move to save it, Catch News, Nihar Gokhale, November 22, 2015

[4] India’s Water Management Needs to be Dealt with Utmost Attention and Seriousness, Business Standard, November 23, 2015

[5] Urban Water Management in India, WaterWorld, François Brikké


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