India’s urban water crisis calls for an integrated approach

We need solutions that address different aspects of the aquatic ecosystem and involve the collective participation of citizens and other stakeholders.

According to a UN report, about 1.2 billion people, almost a fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is scarce and physically 1.6 billion people, almost a quarter of The world’s population, face the scarcity of economic water. They lack basic access to water. The criticality of the water situation in the world has led to speculation about wars for water that become a real possibility in the future. In India, the problem is exacerbated by population growth and urbanization. The Asian Development Bank predicts that by 2030, India will have a water deficit of 50%.

The challenges of water in urban India
In urban India, the situation is critical. By 2015, about 377 million Indians lived in urban areas and, by 2030, the urban population is expected to reach 590 million. Already, according to the National Sample Survey, only 47% of urban households have individual water connections and about 40% to 50% of the water that would have been lost in distribution systems for various reasons. In addition, according to the 2011 census, only 32.7% of urban households in India are connected to a sewer pipe.
Any comprehensive solution to the problem of water in urban India must take into account the specific problems related to the management and distribution of water:

Pressure on water sources: Increasing water demand means increasing pressure on water sources, especially in cities. In a city like Mumbai, for example, 3,750 million liters per day (MLD) of water, including water for commercial and industrial use, are available, while 4,500 MLD is needed. The main water sources for cities like Mumbai are lakes created by dams in rivers near the city.

The distribution of available water is 386,971 connections to 13 million inhabitants of the city. When the distribution is difficult, the solution is the use of groundwater. A study conducted by the Center for Science and Environment, 48% of urban water supply in India comes from groundwater. The exploitation of groundwater for commercial and domestic use in cities lower groundwater level.

Problems with distribution and loss of water: Distribution challenges, such as loss of water due to theft, piloting, leaking pipes and faulty meter readings, lead to uneven distribution and not regulated water. In New Delhi, for example, the loss of water supply was 40% according to a study. In Mumbai, where most residents receive only 2 to 5 hours of water per day, non-recurring water loss accounts for about 27% of the world’s water supply.

This limits the budget of the municipal body and influences the improvement of the distribution infrastructure. Factors such as the difficulty of the terrain and legal problems with buildings also affect the water supply of many parts. According to one study, only 5% of tap water reaches the slums in 42 cities in India, including Delhi. A 2011 study also found that 95% of households in the slums of the Bombay kaula district of Bunder during certain times of the year use less than the WHO recommended a minimum of 50 liters per inhabitant per day.