Water Scarcity in India and the World

Picture yourself as a young central-Indian of humble background. You go through a four mile walk and in the burning sun, going far from home to search for something you’re not sure to find, and at the end of your journey awaits a steep climb: down a forty-foot well. Your name is Kajal Lodha and your three sisters, some no younger than ten years of age, do this each and every single day. And for what? Dirty, milky-white, worm-infested water. Water nonetheless.

Water scarcity, defined as the lack of fresh, drinkable water, affects every continent in the world and was listed this year by the World Economic Forum to be one of the largest potential global risks over the next following decade. Just under one third of the global population (2 billion people) must endure conditions of severe water scarcity for at least one month of the year. Half a billion people in the world face severe water scarcity all year round. Some of the world’s most largest cities are going to experience water scarcity some time this year. India alone accounts for about 0.6 billion people currently in a water crisis, and more than 20 cities-Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad to name a few-are predicted to entirely consume their aquifers in the next two years, leaving about one hundred billion people in urban areas unable to access fresh water easily. In the words of Arati Kumar-Rao, an Indian nature photographer, “Conservation? Nobody [in India] talks about it.”

Though only a minute 0.014% of the world’s water is fresh and easily accessible, that should technically be sufficient for everyone. Two main factors, however, have caused water crises to spring up around the world: one, unequal distribution due to factors such as climate change (creating areas that are too humid and too dry due to human intervention) and two, the demand generated by population growth and industrial expansion. These factors coupled together mean that by 2030, the human demand for freshwater could outstrip the supply by as much as 40%.

The NITI Aayog, National Institution for Transforming India, is looking for solutions to this tremendous problem. In their online resource section they outline plans for conserving freshwater and making it more accessible. Such a plan is the “24x7 Metered Water: Improving Water Supply in Rural Areas of Punjab”, that seeks to bore holes and place pumps that draw up groundwater but not deplete it; rather, the water consumption is regulated by an operator that operates the pump and ensures that all get enough water without depleting the reservoir. In general, we have the knowledge and technology to plan out the solutions--we just need the financial resources to implement them where they’re needed.