Human nature is such that we end up only valuing things when they are close to extinction. Water is in short supply with each passing day and our rivers/reservoirs/ponds/wells are all running dry. Our future holds only chronic water shortages and scarcity in drinking water. Welcome to the real world!

Of great importance is the fact that only 3 per cent of the world’s water is fresh and roughly one-third of it is inaccessible. The rest is very unevenly distributed and the available supplies are increasingly contaminated with wastes and pollution from industry, agriculture and households. The demand for water has spiralled out of control due to increasing population, growing industrialisation, expanding agriculture and rising standards of living.

Though efforts have been made to collect water by building dams and reservoirs and creating ground water structures such as wells and through recycling and desalination of water – unfortunately it is not enough. There is a growing realisation that there are limits to ‘finding more water’ and in the long run, we also need to know the amount of water we can reasonably expect to tap and also learn to use it more efficiently.

Our population and the consequent demand for water has increased manifold. The increasing demands on fresh water resources by our rapidly increasing population and shrinking quality of existing water resources because of pollution and the additional requirements of serving our escalated industrial and agricultural growth have led to a situation where the consumption of water is rapidly increasing and the supply of fresh water remains more or less constant.

The consequences of scarcity will be more drastic in arid and semi-arid regions. Water shortage will also be felt in rapidly growing coastal regions and in big cities. Several cities are already, or will be, unable to cope with the demand of providing safe water and sanitation facilities to their inhabitants.

The recent NITI Aayog report is an eye-opener and highlights the gravity of India’s water situation. We need to wake up and take the lessons that we have learnt and apply them now towards the sustainable use of this planet’s most vital resource. The country is facing its worst water crisis in history and if no action is taken to address this, the demand for water would far outstrip its supply by 2030. In fact, even by 2020, it is expected that many Indian cities will run out of groundwater.

Issues like pollution and exploitative farming practices needs to be addressed on a national scale. Despite water being an existential need for humans, it’s also one of the most under prioritized but over abused commodity. Water is central to our lives but has not been the central point of focus in our planning while we rapidly evolve into an urban society.

Through time, our cities and towns have subsequently grown without any planning keeping in mind the availability of water. Water scarcity is mostly man made due to excess population growth and mismanagement of water resources. India is among the top growers of agricultural produce in the world and therefore the consumption of water for irrigation is amongst the highest.

Traditional techniques of irrigation causes maximum water loss due to evaporation, drainage, percolation, water conveyance, and excess use of groundwater. As more areas come under traditional irrigation techniques, the stress for water available for other purposes will continue. The solution lies in extensive use of micro-irrigation techniques such as drip and sprinkler irrigation. Rapid construction is ignoring traditional water bodies that have also acted as ground water recharging mechanism. We need to urgently revive traditional aquifers while implementing new ones.

Government intervention is urgently required to tackle sewage and wastewater drainage into traditional water bodies. We need strict monitoring and implementation of laws wherever chemicals and effluents are released into rivers, streams and ponds. It is surprising that the governments at state levels have not taken up on-time de-silting operations in large water bodies that can enhance water storage capacity during the monsoons’

There is a lack of efficient water management and distribution of water between urban consumers, the agriculture sector and industry. The government needs to enhance its investment in technology and include all stakeholders at the planning level to ensure optimization of existing resources.

The problem has been compounded due to urban development that has choked ground water resources. In addition, the entry of sewage and industrial waste into water bodies is severely shrinking the availability of potable water. Marine life is mostly lost in these areas already. This is the genesis of a very serious emerging crisis. If we do not understand the source of the problem we will never be able to find sustainable solutions.

India suffers from water shortage for cultivation and drinking despite the fact that many big rivers, some of them perennial rivers, flow through most parts of India. Much of the water goes to the sea unused. Our knowledge of utilising these natural resources to the maximum advantage is still inadequate.

The time to take some initiative has arrived – turn that tap off and let ideas to save water overflow!