Water - India Facts


India is facing a fresh water crisis. India has just 4% of the world’s fresh water — but 16% of the global population.

  • 76 million are without access to safe drinking water
  • 21% of country’s diseases are water related1
  • Over 329, 000 children under five die due to diarrhoea in India in 20152
  • Across India as a whole, it is estimated that women spend 150 million work days every year fetching and carrying, equivalent to a national loss of income of INR 10 billion/ 160 million USD3.
  • The total potential area to be brought under the micro irrigation (drip and sprinkler) in India is 42.2 million hectare of land, however only 3.9 million hectare of land or 9.2% of the potential is currently under micro irrigation4.

A large part of the water withdrawals are happening for agriculture. Therefore, greater discussions and interventions also need to be made in the agricultural sector. In fact agricultural productivity is a fundamental part of the solution. Lets understand this by taking the example of India. Agricultural water productivity measures towards closing the water gap.

The illustration below shows the India- Water Availability Curve
In the illustration, the width of the block represents the amount of additional water that becomes available from adoption of the measure. The height of the block represents its unit cost.

India’s path to water security has much to gain from improving agriuclture’s water efficiency and productivity.

If 80 percent of the potential lies in agriculture, almost 80 percent of that lies in productivity levers- that is measures that increase the yields of individual fields offsetting the need for additional land and additional irrigation. To meet implied demand for food and feed the country, some 31 million hectares of additional irrigated land would be necessary under water intensity frozen to today’s level.  However, if existing rain-fed and irrigated land could be made more productive, additional land and therefore additional irrigation would be unnecessary, therefore reducing the amount of water required. A number of measures can be adopted to increase yields and therefore make land more productive, including no-till farming, improved drainage, optimised fertilizer use, and the application of crop stress management via improved practices such as integrated pest management and innovative crop protection technologies. Other big agricultural opportunities are further investment in genetic crop development, improved irrigation control, and drip irrigation. Combined they have potential to contribute an additional 25 percent to closing gap (as a productivity measure: drip irrigation increases the efficiency of fertilizer delivery and therefore increases the productivity of land and water).

Sources -
1. The Water Project
2. Hindustan Times
3. UN Water
4. K. Palanisami and S. Raman, 2012. “Potential and Challenges of Upscaling Micro Irrigation in India”