Water accessibility - statistics & facts

Water is one of the most precious resources on Earth and is critical for the survival of all living things. Although the planet has enormous water both on the surface and in the ground, accessible freshwater is minuscule. For India in particular, water is a crucial resource in its agriculture industry, where most crops are rainfed. As water resources are state-owned, almost every hydropower and irrigation project has had its share of differences in management. For instance, river Cauvery, in the south has its notorious conflict between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for adequate water sharing and has required judicial intervention. These conflicts aggravate mostly during years when monsoons fail. The country’s water demand for agriculture was expected to increase by around 89 billion cubic meters of water in 2030, compared to 2005. Unsurprisingly, a general rise in demand was projected due to the increase in population. This was highest for municipal and domestic sectors.

More than a billion people globally do not have access to a source of clean drinking water. Although India is home to an abundance of water resources and receives adequate rainfall, about 97 percent of the population experienced severe water scarcity for at least one month annually due to improper water management. With the ever-increasing population, universal access to water has not yet been achieved due to a lack of public piped water service, which is further disrupted by irregular and insufficient quantities, mainly owing to leakages during distribution. Along with water shortage, droughts and other natural disasters have increased. Recently, flooding has caused widespread devastation across the country, causing loss of lives. The floods of 2019 was reason for one of the highest economic damages globally, rendering many Indians displaced and homeless. Encroachment of water bodies for drastic and unplanned urban development was one of the leading causes of restricting rainwater drainage, which resulted in flooding and landslides.

Furthermore, water scarcity generates sanitation and health challenges. With an already taxed sanitation infrastructure, outbreaks of water-borne diseases were prominent in India. Some of these include cholera, acute diarrhoeal diseases, typhoid, and viral hepatitis, amongst which diarrheal was the deadliest. Among foreign tourists, consumption of unsafe food and water often leads to traveler's diarrhea. This is aptly named "Delhi Belly". An improved access to safe drinking water is an obvious measure for prevention of water-borne diseases, and in this case, not just for Indians in India. Despite the improvement in provision of drinking water over the years, India lags behind many developing countries in wastewater treatment. Nevertheless, providing access to water, better sanitation, and hygiene seems to be on the rise with the implementation of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

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Water accessibility in India

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