Water Scarcity and its potential to affect businesses in India

September 16, 2012 1:11 pm

Iceberg_waterWater is one of the most important resources bestowed on us by God. It is widely used by individuals and industries alike and serves a range of purposes. Water occurs in both the union and state list but for larger purposes, the jurisdiction over water is controlled by the state even to the extent of rivers. Centre can intervene in matters of public interest and tribunals have to be set up since the subject of water is an emotionally charged issue for various states. This is perhaps evident in the river disputes that India has seen where neighboring states have often found themselves at loggerheads. This narrow view of water as a state resource needs to change as India’s present position can be described as water stressed but it can soon change to water scarce too. Water needs to be treated as important as oil or coal, it needs to be considered as a national resource or a globally significant resource.

As per the research paper on Water resources of India, Current Science, Vol. 89, No. 5, 10 September 2005, by Rakesh Kumar, R. D. Singh and K. D. Sharma, the total water availability in top fifteen river basins in India is as given below in the table;

Top fifteen  river basins in India: Average water flow and utilizable water 

Sr. No

River basins

Average annual water flow (in Km3/year)

Utilizable flow (in Km3/year)

% of total average annual water flow in India

% of total utilizable  water flow in India

1

Ganga–Brahmaputra–Meghna Basin

1202

274

61.6

40

2

West flowing rivers south of Tapi

201

36

10.3

5.2

3

Godavari

111

76

5.7

11

4

Indus

73

46

3.8

6.7

5

Krishna

70

58

3.6

8.4

6

Mahanadi

67

50

3.4

7.2

7

Narmada

46

35

2.3

5.0

8

Brahmni–Baitarani

28

18

1.5

2.7

9

East-flowing rivers between Mahanadi and Godavari

17

Un-assessed

0.9

Un-assessed

10

West-flowing rivers of Kachchh and Saurashtra including Luni

15

15

0.8

2.2

11

Tapi

15

15

0.8

2.1

12

Subarnarekha

12

6.8

0.6

1.0

13

Mahi

11

3.1

0.6

0.4

14

East-flowing rivers between Pennar and Cauvery

10

17

0.5

2.4

15

Rivers draining into Bangladesh

8.6

NA

0.4

NA

Total

1887

649.42

96.62

94.12

Total average annual water flow in all river basins (in Km3/year) 

1953

Total utilizable water flow in all river basins  (in Km3/year)

690

There is an urgent need to price water resources which should duly reflect their importance. The udnerpricing of such a precious resource cannot be justified. The National Water Policy, 2012 recommends “..the principle of differential pricing may have to be retained. Over and above these uses, water should increasingly be subjected to allocation and pricing on economic principles.” (Draft National Water Policy, 2012, Ministry of Water Resources, GOI.)   Read here on  National Water Mission

The gross dependence on the monsoon which is highly unpredictable and the (not yet fully understood) mechanism of Elnino further exacerbates the problem. India’s reservoirs are three four times less than that of China which is on a dam building spree. Adequate reservoirs and rainwater harvesting mechanisms must be taken up through a comprehensive program in India to balance the situation in case of droughts or to make for shortfall of rainfall in any particular year.

Water is going to determine how businesses plan their functions in the comings years as there is an absence of clear policies, regulatory framework and pricing mechanisms at present. With the depleting natural sources of water, businesses in remote locations such as power plants are bound to get affected by the cost involved in transportation of water. The unavailability of adequate water to run resources and the lack of expertise and experience to tap water from difficult sources are the present handicaps that will pinch more in the time to come if water conservation measures are not followed.

One way to tide over water scarcity is to regenerate and reuse to become water neutral where water use will be equal to the water regenerated. The usage of water by business houses can sometimes make or break their image in the eyes of the common public. As and when, water scarcity plagues a region, public anger will first vent upon corporations which are perceived to use large scale amounts of water. Whether or not it is actually true, it is always better to project the image of a water neutral organization in the eyes of the public and be on the safe side.Water footprint can be calculated by corporations to determine their water usage in its operations and then subtracting ti from the water regenerated through various mechanisms. This will be the first step to achieve water neutrality.

Conserving and recycling water is not just a PR exercise but a real game changer because once a drought hits an already water scarce region, companies with a good water regenerated policy can have advantage and continue to run operations if they are fully self sufficient.

References:

http://mowr.gov.in/writereaddata/linkimages/DraftNWP2012_English9353289094.pdf

http://wrmin.nic.in/index3.asp?subsublinkid=820&langid=1&sslid=331

Image credit: Kim Hansen, Wikipedia (see the license to use the image )

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