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Page added on September 30, 2016

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Fresh water, a rare commodity

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Water has become India’s scarcest resource, which isn’t just hurting its economy, but its people too. With 18% of the world’s population and 4% of its water resources, India is clearly a water-stressed nation.

Constitutionally, water is a state subject. But after two consecutive deficient monsoons, the need for a natural framework policy on water is an idea whose time has come. A central policy is needed to bring coherence and force to largely uncoordinated and ad hoc water policies. Several states have enacted laws on water and related issues. Yet, states tend to have varied legal positions and perceptions—for instance, on riparian water use and ownership.

According to a study conducted by EA Water, a leading consulting firm in the water sector, India’s demand for water is expected to exceed all current sources of supply and the country is set to become a water-scarce country by 2025. With increasing household income and increasing contributions from the service and industrial sectors, water demand in the domestic and industrial sectors is increasing substantially.

It is also noted that nearly 70% of the country’s irrigation and 80% of domestic water use comes from groundwater, which is rapidly getting depleted. It also says the water sector is expected to see investment of $13 billion from overseas players in the next few years. Companies from Canada, Israel, Germany, Italy, the US, China and Belgium see big investment opportunities in the Indian water sector.

Maharashtra is emerging as a hub for the water sector. Over 12 international companies have already set up design and engineering centres in Mumbai and Pune. At present, there are more than 1,200 companies dealing in water and waste-water treatment in the state, mainly catering to the small and medium sector. Therefore, one is inclined to say that the country provides huge opportunities across the spectrum in infrastructure development for water supply and waste-water management. With the government’s planned investments in the water sector through the Ganga River Cleaning Project, the Smart Cities initiatives and the Swachh Bharat campaign, the industry hopes to create over 1 million jobs.

Keeping this in mind, the union government is working on legislation to restrict the unregulated use of freshwater across the country. Water resources minister Uma Bharti has come out openly to say that “In future, people would need to rely more on treated water, and use fresh water only for limited purposes”. She has elaborated by saying that, “Fresh water, whether it is surface water, groundwater or reserved rain water, cannot be used for every purpose. We have to bring clarity on the uses it can be put to and the purpose it cannot be used to. Otherwise, we are staring at a huge water problem in the country.”

As the water resources ministry is working on legislation to regulate the use of fresh water, the government intends to persuade farmers to buy treated water for irrigation. In case of the Ganga, it is decided that even treated water must not be allowed to flow into the river. So where will this treated water go? Perhaps the government intends to create a market for treated water. The most gullible are the farmers who would be forced to buy it for irrigation or farming. But some treated water might not be suitable for irrigation, like effluents from certain industries. Attempts should be made by those industries to recycle their water. They cannot release it. Oil refineries along the river Ganga and Yamuna, like the ones at Mathura, should be asked to recycle their water. Should the government force farmers to buy water and further their penury and make agriculture unremunerative?

The major problem facing the country today which needs immediate remedy is the lack of clarity in the first use of water. None of the states have laws or executive notifications specifying the basis for water allocation among different segments of river basins in their jurisdiction. There is a need for natural consensus on water, complete with attendant principles that can apply across states and regime.

The first use should be for agriculture, then drinking and lastly for industrial use. Those who talk of inter-linking of rivers in India should not get carried away by a slogan that it will boost per capita water availability for 220 million thirsty Indians and eventually even out the surge between floods and droughts, but should be aware about the risks at hand, which include the possibility of displacement of nearly 1.5 million people due to submergence of 2,766,000 hectares, not to speak of escalating cost projections which have jumped to something like Rs11 trillion. Isn’t it a utopian idea with inherent flaws? So, there is an urgent need to evolve a water conservation policy to address the acute scarcity of water/water emergency in the country.

It is important that all levels of government understand the gravity of the situation. Things can change, but that requires an integrated approach. Technology, tighter regulation and economic incentives need to be combined to mitigate the water problem so that we can obviate any shortage. As the monsoon recedes in this month of September, we should contemplate conserving water, recycling water and recharging water as it is becoming a scarce commodity.


22 Comments on "Fresh water, a rare commodity"

  1. Sissyfuss on Fri, 30th Sep 2016 4:29 pm 

    Limits-to-growth bitchslaps coming to a country near you soon. Industry reusing its effluent? How many cycles before it start to rot the most sturdy of equipment?

  2. onlooker on Fri, 30th Sep 2016 4:48 pm 

    As critical to human well being as Oil if not more

  3. Anonymous on Fri, 30th Sep 2016 5:21 pm 

    India, the open-pit sewer of the world. When the collapse comes, it is my prediction that India will be most likely to start the collapse ball rolling. The only thing that continues to surprise me, is how India hasn’t imploded already.

  4. makati1 on Fri, 30th Sep 2016 5:53 pm 

    Onlooker, oil is NOT a necessity. Water is. Humans lived all but their last century, or so, without oil. You can live about 3 days without water.

    More of homo sapiens insanity. Abuse of one of life’s necessities all across the world, making useless junk for profit or wasting it. And where there still is abundant water, like in the US, it is polluted and unsafe for the most part.

  5. makati1 on Fri, 30th Sep 2016 7:08 pm 

    Leaving the US? This is an interesting article to read about the US Police State.

    “The government has already begun its campaign to make it more difficult to leave the country, and it has also begun to crack down on the finances of the eight million Americans living abroad. ”

    The door is closing…

  6. Go Speed Racer on Fri, 30th Sep 2016 11:59 pm 

    So just build some desalination plants.
    Just saw the Deepwater Horizon movie.
    At least it’s about oil.

    Why are we talkin about water, on a peak oil website.

  7. Dredd on Sat, 1st Oct 2016 5:11 am 

    Now, according to the Director of National Security, the danger to the water cycle is a national security threat (When The Obvious Becomes “Debatable”).

  8. Kenz300 on Sat, 1st Oct 2016 9:28 am 

    Too many people create too much pollution and demand too many resources.

    China made great progress in moving its people out of poverty one reason was slowing population growth.
    If you can not provide for yourself you can not provide for a child.

    CLIMATE CHANGE, declining fish stocks, droughts, floods, air water and land pollution, poverty, water and food shortages all stem from the worlds worst environmental problem OVER POPULATION.

    Yet the world adds 80 million more mouths to feed, clothe, house and provide energy and water for every year. This is unsustainable and is a big part of the Climate Change problem

    Birth Control Permanent Methods: Learn About Effectiveness

  9. shortonoil on Sat, 1st Oct 2016 9:35 am 

    “Onlooker, oil is NOT a necessity. Water is. “

    It appears that we will have the opportunity to try feeding 7.3 billion people without the advantage of oil before we lose the advantage of water.

    Long before!

    There is no option between choosing to starve to death for most of the world, or dying of thirst. Of course, if one does make it through the oil crash phase, there will always be the next one waiting. Worrying about it now, however, does seem a little premature, and counter productive. Since “most of the world” (most likely means you) it would be worrying about something most likely to happen after you are dead.

    That seems like it might be an awful waste of energy!

  10. Anonymous on Sat, 1st Oct 2016 11:21 pm 

    Kenzparrot….who are you talking to exactly? I mean, youve only said the same stupid thing about 1000 times now…possibly more. Has anyone in the third world heeded your advice. Any countries slowed their birth rate thanks to your ever helpful(and endlessly repeated) mantras? Or while we’re on the topic, has anyone here picked up say, a hydrogen car thanks to you?

    Just Wondering.

  11. GregT on Sun, 2nd Oct 2016 1:32 am 

    Kenzparrot. LOL!

  12. onlooker on Sun, 2nd Oct 2016 1:44 am 

    I think with the current condition of much of the land of the world and with the need to continue at least to produce synthetic pesticides and herbicides and with the need to have transport of food to areas far and wide, a drastic fall off in Oil and/or Natural gas would be catastrophic for the world population. So while water is intrinsically more needed by humans than oil, we kid ourselves if we think we do not need Oil

  13. makati1 on Sun, 2nd Oct 2016 2:13 am 

    onlooker, that is YOUR addiction, not mine. I’m willing to go back to living without oil if it means my grand kids may have a decent life on a livable planet. We do not need pesticides or cars. And, if we stop transporting billions of tons of useless “stuff” around the world, necessities could be moved by oil-less means. Necessities, not PCs or Ipads or plastic lawn junk or…. Just think, one big box store could hold ALL of the stuff we really need and the rest of the mall could close or be shelters for the homeless.

  14. GregT on Sun, 2nd Oct 2016 2:17 am 

    “So while water is intrinsically more needed by humans than oil, we kid ourselves if we think we do not need Oil”

    A very large percentage of the world’s population relies either directly, or indirectly, on fossil fuels to supply, purify, and/or distribute water, onlooker. Those of us in developed countries are among the most vulnerable.

  15. Apneaman on Sun, 2nd Oct 2016 2:33 am 

    India-Pakistan, water. War?

    Kashmir conflict: Tension on the India Pakistan border

    US objects to Pakistan’s nuke threats to India

    “We will destroy India if it dares to impose war on us,” Asif had told a Pakistani news channel in his latest interview. “Pakistan army is fully prepared to answer any misadventure of India.”

    “We have not made atomic device to display in a showcase. If a such a situation arises we will use it (nuclear weapons) and eliminate India,” Asif had said.”

    Global cost of India-Pakistan nuclear war: 21 million dead, ozone layer destroyed and more

  16. makati1 on Sun, 2nd Oct 2016 3:26 am 

    I might add, that the Ps consumes about one 10 oz cup of oil per day, per capita.
    The US about 1.2 gallons per day, per capita or about 14 times the Ps oil consumption. China uses about 1 quart per capita, per day. (2015 stats.)

    How much would it be missed if it stopped? By most here, very little, I think.

  17. onlooker on Sun, 2nd Oct 2016 4:34 am 

    Assuming your right Mak, that the current population of PHIL can be maintained without oil in boost food production, that still leaves the problem of water shortage. A very very severe problem for all of Asia. Simply too many mouths to feed and not enough land. I guess some of us persistent posters run out of things to talk about and nitpick over some details. Either way we all end of admitting most people if not all in the world are facing a grim future.

  18. JuanP on Sun, 2nd Oct 2016 5:56 am 

    GSR “Why are we talkin about water, on a peak oil website.”
    I will assume that was a question and refer you to Mak’s comment above. Humans can only live a few days without water. In cold climates not being able to regulate body temperature might kill you first but in tropical and subtropical areas drinking water is the number one survival priority. And, without water we can’t grow food either.

  19. makati1 on Sun, 2nd Oct 2016 6:49 am 

    onlooker, not here. The Ps gets 5-10 feet of rain annually, depending on which side of the island you live on. Manila averages 5 feet. The Pacific side averages 10 feet plus. Excess water will actually be a problem on the farm as it is on most islands here.

    The roof of our house will supply us with all the water we need and more. All Pacific rain water. The river at the bottom of the hill will just run to the ocean like it currently does. There are plans to build a dam up river for hydro, but that may never happen.

    As for food, most crops are planted, tended and harvested by hand here. I have never seen a tractor or any farm machinery anywhere here in my 8+ years. If you live in the countryside, you have a garden and animals. Chickens, pigs, etc. Most rural Filipinos are independent in most areas. City Filipinos will just move back to the countryside with family when the SHTF. Foreigners too, if they have connections or family here. There is much farmable land still not used or occupied. Many hundreds of square miles of it.

    Our caretaker family lives on less than $400 per month income. Family of 5. Daughter in college. Son graduating high school next year. Disabled 12 year old son. (Blind, almost deaf, mentally impaired.) You CAN live on less, if you try or have to. No TV. No refrigerator. Only got electric in their home a few years ago, after we hired him. No vehicles, of course. But they are very happy and a very close family.

  20. Davy on Sun, 2nd Oct 2016 7:46 am 

    Makati!, you do realize the P’s is ranked in the top three of the most exposed to environmental dangers from climate change and overpopulation? You do realize the P’s is one of the most densely populated countries in the world? The P’s has failing forests and fisheries. Its soil is eroding and its water supplies polluted. You are a ridiculous when you preach how wonderful the P’s are. Manila is near the top for population density and that is where your home is. What an absurdity you are. You are in the worst possible place for collapse and you are singing like a bird. LMFAO

  21. Anonymous on Sun, 2nd Oct 2016 2:18 pm 

    Thats right exceptionalist. Dont forget, the entire Philippines is built on the site of an old burning tire dump and arsenic mine too. AND everyone in the philippines is either a commie\terrorists\AL-CIA-da sympathizer to boot. And you know what they eat over there? Soylent Philippines. (Spoiler alert: made from people)

    Mak is soo screwed!

    uSA uSa!

  22. Apneaman on Sun, 2nd Oct 2016 2:36 pm 

    Overpopulation in Dhaka ‘will see groundwater contaminated with arsenic within next decade’

    Providing for Dhaka’s large population puts a strain on the city’s deep water resources.

    “… many of the world’s megacities, Dhaka is reliant on groundwater from aquifers – permeable rocks which contain water – to provide the precious liquid to its inhabitants.

    Indeed, surface waters contain many pollutants such as toxic metals, organics, nitrate or naturally occurring arsenic, so it has been necessary to pump the groundwater in aquifers to reduce people’s exposure to these substances.

    This has led many of these aquifers to be over-exploited and threatened by contamination from shallow waters above. In the long-run, the city’s ability to make clean and safe water accessible to all may be hampered.”

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