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World Water Day: India is 3rd largest groundwater exporter, but 21 cities are running out of water by next year!



Advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources, World Water Day is celebrated every year on March 22. It was instituted in the year 1993 to build public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world.

Today, billions of people are still living without safe water – their households, schools, workplaces, farms and factories struggling to survive and thrive.

What is safe water?

‘Safe water’ is shorthand for a ‘safely managed drinking water service’: water that is accessible on the premises, available when needed, and free from contamination.


Theme of 2019 World Water Day

The theme for World Water Day 2019 is ‘Leaving no one behind’. This is an adaptation of the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: as sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit.


Theme of 2019 World Water Day(Image: worldwaterday.org)

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030. By definition, this means leaving no one behind.


Water crisis in India

As many as one billion people in India live in areas of physical water scarcity, of which 600 million are in areas of high to extreme water stress, according to a new report.

India is currently ranked 120 among 122 countries in the water quality index.

Globally, close to four billion people live in water-scarce areas, where, for at least part of the year, demand exceeds supply, said the report by non-profit organisation ‘WaterAid.’

This number is expected to go up to five billion by 2050, said the report titled ‘Beneath the Surface: The State of the World’s Water 2019,’ which will be released today, to mark World Water Day.

The WaterAid report warned that food and clothing imported by wealthy Western countries are making it harder for many poor and marginalised communities to get a daily clean water supply as high-income countries buy products with considerable ‘water footprints’ – the amount of water used in production — from water-scarce countries.


Countries to face high water stress

Physical water scarcity is getting worse, exacerbated by growing demand on water resources and by climate and population changes.



By 2040, it is predicted that 33 countries are likely to face extremely high water stress – including 15 in the Middle East, most of Northern Africa, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan and Spain. Many – including India, China, Southern Africa, USA and Australia – will face high water stress.


India – Third largest exporter of groundwater

Global groundwater depletion – where the amount of water taken from aquifers exceeds the amount that is restored naturally – increased by 22 percent between 2000 and 2010, said the report, adding that India’s rate of groundwater depletion increased by 23 percent during the same period.

The report also highlighted that India uses the largest amount of groundwater — 24 percent of the global total, more than that of China and the US combined – and is the third largest exporter of groundwater — 12 percent of the global total.


Water scarcity can’t be fixed without fixing agriculture in India

According to the report, wheat and rice were the two most important and highest water-guzzling crops that India produced.

“Rice is the least water-efficient grain and wheat has been the main driver in increasing irrigation stress. Replacing rice and wheat with other crops like maize, millets, sorghum mapped to suitable geographies could reduce irrigation water demand by one-third,” said the report.

Though replacement of rice and wheat crops is challenging, in an ideal scenario, the choice of crop needs to be matched with ecology and the amount of water available in the area it is being produced in.

Noting that one kg of wheat required an average 1,654 litres of water, the report said one kg of rice requires an average 2,800 litres of water.

“In 2014-15, India exported 37.2 lakh tonnes of basmati. To export this rice, the country used around 10 trillion litres of water, meaning India virtually exported 10 trillion litres of water,” said the report.

WaterAid India’s Chief Executive VK Madhavan said this World Water Day, it is calling for production of these goods to be made more sustainable and for consumers to be more thoughtful in their purchasing habits.


Here’s why we need to conserve water



  • 2.1 billion people live without safe water at home
  • One in four primary schools have no drinking water service, with pupils using unprotected sources or going thirsty
  • More than 700 children under five years of age die every day from diarrhoea linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation
  • Globally, 80 percent of the people who have to use unsafe and unprotected water sources live in rural areas
  • Women and girls are responsible for water collection in eight out of ten households with water off-premises
  • For the 68.5 million people who have been forced to flee their homes, accessing safe water services is highly problematic
  • Around 159 million people collect their drinking water from surface water, such as ponds and streams
  • Around four billion people – nearly two-thirds of the world’s population – experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year
  • Over 800 women die every day from complications in pregnancy and childbirth
  • 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030


6 common ways we waste water without realisation


1. The bathroom singing water waster

Showering for even five minutes can consume up to 37 litres of water. While you can use low-flow showers, or just fill up a bucket to serve the same purpose and cut down on your water consumption, you choose to be a bathroom singer who bathes under it in luxury.


2. The Sunday morning cleaning spree

A Sunday morning calls for cleaning the lawn, backyard, porch, basement or staircase– doesn’t it? So you draw out the hose pipe and start flooding the area in the high hopes that your mom would be proud.

No, she wouldn’t. Instead, make her proud by sweeping the same areas instead of wasting up to 570 litres of water.


3. The sleepy brushing session

Brushing your teeth is probably the most common occurrence in your life (at least we hope so). Be considerate to not waste that 15 litres of precious water by letting the water run the whole time you’re brushing and secretly checking your sleepy face out. It isn’t that difficult to close the tap when you don’t need to rinse your mouth.


4. 18 litres for every toilet visit

We read this somewhere and it’s stuck like a mantra in our heads: ‘If it’s yellow, keep it mellow, if it is brown, flush it down!’ Flushing your toilet every time you use it means flushing up to 18 litres of water per flush– which means about a 300 odd litres a week. Let us make this simpler: if it’s just urine, half-flush your toilet or use a small amount of bucket water to replace the flush.

Also, your flush is a cranky little thing that leaks up to 3500 litres of water into the toilet every month. Don’t ignore a leaky toilet. Fix it.


5. Keeping the kitchen tap open for ‘cleaner’ veggies

Washing your daily dose of fruits and vegetables in running water will not get them any cleaner than washing them in a pan filled with water. If you’re obsessed with hygiene, and only feel better when you wash them under running water, then at least collect that water and use it to water your plants.

Cooking also uses a lot of water, especially when you boil or steam vegetables. Reuse that water when making a curry or soup. You’ll even get valuable nutrients while saving water. Thank us later.


6. Playing Holi the filmy style

Holi. Water fights. Splashing in the swimming pool — no, it’s not cool. The fact that you even have these provisions makes you a luxuriously rich human being, with half the world running out of the scarce life source.

Hold on to it as much as you can, teach toddlers not to splash around with water meaninglessly, tell them that isn’t the idea of fun, educate them — and yourselves– about the shortage, and understand that you have a lot of other things to play with than water.

What is being done to save water?

The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) Wednesday said it is extending support to #GlassHalfFull initiative led by the non-governmental organisation ‘Why Waste’ to stop wastage of water at restaurants.

The initiative requests restaurants to fill the glass of water half full only unless otherwise requested by the customer, NRAI said in a statement.

Through this partnership, both Why Waste and NRAI aim to reduce wastage of water served at restaurants, it added.

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