India is witnessing rising concerns regarding water paucity due to ever-increasing demand of the growing population and environmental issues such as climate change, water pollution etc. And while water management should encompass surface water (ponds, lakes, springs etc.), aquifers, wetlands, glaciers etc., currently it only includes primary river waters and irrigation (which too falls under the control of states).
Clearly tackling water management at the desired scale requires coordinated action at the central, regional and state level. Taking cognizance of the acute water crisis currently facing the country, NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog has constituted CWMI i.e. a Composite Water Management Index that will enable effective water management at State as well as Central level of India. What is significant is that this is the first time such an initiative has been undertaken for widespread collection and comparison of water data across the country. It is believed that the index will establish not only clear baselines but also the targets for States’ performance in water management.
The Index Study released recently compares data for all the states over two consecutive years i.e. FY 2015-16 and 2016-17. However, the study has not been without its set of challenges in data collection and information gaps.
Indicators used. India is severely water stressed and confronts the problems of both scarcity as well as poor quality of water. In view of that, the CWMI uses nine (9) indicators to broadly cover the themes related to conservation, augmentation and quality improvement of (drinking) water. These indicators include restoration of water bodies, groundwater augmentation, major and medium irrigation, watershed development, participatory irrigation practices, sustainable on-farm water use practices, urban water supply and sanitation, rural drinking water and policy and governance.
As is evident, most indicators pertain to water conservation and augmentation; these, (supply side management of) irrigation and policy and governance have been accorded maximum weightage. Water quality however seems to be represented primarily as a sub-indicator under ‘rural drinking water’.
Results. Overall, most states achieved less than 50% in the Water Index scores. Disturbingly, the states that fared worst on water management house the maximum population in the country. The highest performers were Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, on the positive side, 15 of the 24 states have improved their score between FY 16 and 17.
Most states scored below 50% in source augmentation, highlighting a growing national groundwater crisis. Water quality also remains a major issue, with several populous states reporting no reduction in quality issues.
Conclusion. While the index promises to be an integrated and comprehensive dataset for water situation in the country, the first of its kind in India, it may require some degree of tweaking based on multiple rounds of feedback. Some experts feels that the Index should also include indices related to water quality, access to data and local governance. It is further proposed that NITI Aayog should also include data and analysis about water-use efficiency, drinking water supply rates, quality of supply, health indicators and environmental impact.
Second and more important, the use of this Index to improve water management in the States is the key objective of this report. Establishing that kind of construct i.e. wherein institutions from Central, State and local governments collaborate to execute proposed water related projects [identified through the CWMI] should be the ultimate goal of this program. Case in point is the example [from USA] wherein Washington DC’s water utility along with many private banks raised a $25 million impact bond to reduce storm water runoff and engaged a private firm to build a green infrastructure. Such impact bonds have served as a result-based incentive for water management; this and other such examples globally should be replicated in India to address the water related problems sooner than later.
Jaldhaara’s technical partner, WaterHealth India is offering a free ‘water test reports’ for various kinds of water use i.e. utility, potable, ground water currently used by any subscriber of this newsletter. Interested enterprises can contact WHIN at firstname.lastname@example.org for free water test reports [with diagnostic analysis] and to also discuss suitable ways to remediate any water related issues within the premises. Simple beginnings through such measures will go a long way in improving drinking water quality and thereby health.
“HCL Foundation, the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of HCL, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Jaldhaara to set up one (1) community water purification plant called WaterHealth Center (WHC) and three (3) Water Vending Machines (WVMs) in Nagpur city. The WHC and WVMs would be set up in and around underserved urban poor communities and high footfall public places such as hospitals and bus stations in the city. This collaboration is a step towards eradicating the problem of limited access to safe drinking water in the country. The partnership is an important milestone for Jaldhaara Foundation because it marks the organization’s first foray into Maharashtra.”