India’s per-capita water availability is decreasing due to an increase in population, Union Minister of State for Jal Shakti Bishweswar Tudu said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha. A Central Water Commission study, conducted in 2019, assessed the average annual water resources of India’s 20 river basins at 1,999.20 billion cubic metres (BCM). The annual average water availability of a region depends on hydro-meteorological and geological factors. However, water availability per person depends on the population.
The water commission regularly conducts hydrological observation on Indian rivers. The study — Reassessment of Water Availability in India using Space Inputs – 2019 — found that the water level of 13 major Indian rivers remained steady over the last two decades. The decadal average flow of terminal sites of the 13 rivers over the last two decades does not indicate any major increase or decrease, Tudu said.
The minister said India had two types of rivers — perennial and non-perennial. Perennial rivers have water available throughout the year, while non-perennial rivers are rain-fed and water flows mostly during the monsoon. The rivers’ flow is a dynamic parameter and depends on sub-parameters such as rainfall, its distribution pattern, duration, intensity in the catchment, health of catchment, vegetation, and withdrawals or utilisation of the water.
Water Level in Rivers
CWC carries out hydrological observation on rivers across the country. The decadal average flow of the last two decades of terminal sites of 13 rivers does not indicate any major increasing or decreasing trends
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According to the National Commission on Integrated Water Resources Development Report – 1999, India’s water requirement for low- and high-demand scenarios for 2050 is 973 BCM and 1,180 BCM, respectively.
The 2019 study, conducted in collaboration with the National Remote Sensing Centre, assessed India’s average annual water resources availability as 1,999.20 BCM. It estimated that due to topographic, hydrological, and other constraints, the country’s utilisable water is 1,126 BCM.
With water being a state subject, Tudu called on the respective state governments to take steps for conservation, augmentation, and efficient management of resources. He also highlighted the Centre’s financial and technical assistance to supplement the states’ efforts.
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He also pointed out that the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change’s Standard Terms of Reference for environmental impact assessment studies for proposed river valley and hydroelectric projects had stipulated the norms for release of environmental flows. The Centre, in October 2018, had also notified minimum environmental flows to be maintained in the Ganga from its origin to Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.
The Centre, in partnership with the states, is implementing the Jal Jeevan Mission to provide potable tap water to every rural household at the service level of 55 litre per capita a day by 2024. To ensure tap water supply in water-scarce and drought-prone areas, the mission provides for bulk water transfer from long distances as well as regional water supply schemes. There are also provisions for source recharging in convergence with other schemes such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and Integrated Watershed Management Programme.
The Centre launched AMRUT 2.0 in 2021 to provide universal water supply coverage in all statutory towns. The scheme focuses on making cities water secure through recycling or reuse of treated sewage, water body rejuvenation, and water conservation. It has also formulated a National Perspective Plan to interlink rivers to transfer water from surplus basins to deficit basins in 1980. The National Water Development Agency has identified 30 links for feasibility reports/detailed project reports. However, Tudu said the projects were dependent on consensus on water sharing between the participating states.