Water Quality in India

With increase in human activities like industrialization, urbanization and expansion in population, environment suffers. India faces a major problem of water pollution. Due to this the quality of water and quantity of water, both are deteriorating. Further we will discuss various facts and challenges related to water quality in India, sustainability and immediate prioritization according to the needs of the country.

Water Pollution and Water Quality in India

At the national level, the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) of Niti Aayog has confirmed that 70 percent of India’s water supply is contaminated. Globally, India is ranked 120th among 122 countries in WaterAid’s water quality index.

Water quality expresses the suitability of water to sustain various uses or processes. Whereas, Water Quality Index is a way to present the data pertaining to the quality of water. 

According to the report of Status of Water Quality in India 2011, the key challenges to better management of the water quality in India are due to-

  1. uneven geographic distribution of surface water resources.
  2. persistent droughts.
  3. overuse of groundwater.
  4. contamination.
  5. drainage & salinisation.
  6. water quality problems due to
    • treated, wastewater,
    • partially treated wastewater and,
    • untreated wastewater.
  7. runoff from the irrigation sector. 
  8. poor management of municipal solid waste and animal dung in rural areas. 

Therefore, most human activities whether domestic, agricultural or industrial have an impact on water, its pollution and the ecosystems. 

Deteriorating water quality
Deteriorating water quality is mainly due to anthropogenic activities.

Statement by WHO

World Health Organization statistics indicate that half of India’s morbidity is water related. If we can manage human consumption and production patterns, we can control 6 Water borne diseases. It is therefore important to have an understanding of human activities. Thus, the activities include water management initiatives, and their impacts on the environment. 

Water Quality in India

Some Improvements

Cities like Mumbai, have improved water quality by taking significant steps over the past few years. For example, 

  • Since 2012-13, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has contributed by stopping the use of steel water pipes for surface distribution. 
  • The supply is now channeling through 14 underground concrete water tunnels. 
  • In several slums, the criss-crossing network of pipes has been replaced with single six-inch pipes. 
Major drawbacks 
  • According to the World Bank, most Indian cities have non-revenue water (NRW) upto 40 percent or more. We cannot consider this accurate, given the absence of meters in most cities. 
  • High levels of non revenue water (NRW) is detrimental to the financial viability of water utilities, as well to the quality of water itself. NRW is typically measured as the volume of water “lost” as a share of net water produced.
  • While Mumbai has taken much of its water supply underground in concrete trunk lines, they are laid beside the old and crumbling sewer network. Therefore, water contamination because of an inflow of raw sewage during non-supply hours cannot be ruled out. 

Deteriorating Water Quality

Poor documentation of Water Quality in India

Given the state of affairs, ranking cities on water quality is nothing more than a naming and shaming exercise.

In the absence of accountability of civic agencies, capacity building and all-encompassing systemic improvements, it would be unrealistic to expect acceptable and uniform water quality in any city. As most cities have antiquated and malfunctioning water meters therefore, they face a perennial drought of systemic and consumption data.

Therefore, at a time when 84 percent of rural households in India still do not have piped water supply, inefficiencies of municipal supply in cities have to be resolved with utmost urgency. 

Need of the hour

Estimates say that by 2020, India will become a water-stressed nation. Approximately, 

  • 600 million Indians are said to have water-related issues, 
  • 75% of India’s households still do not have drinking water, and 
  • 70% of the water supply is contaminated. 

Therefore, we need to use sustainable ways to contribute for this cause-

Rainwater harvesting:

India is using only 35% of the rainwater it receives. With effective rainwater harvesting projects, 65% of the rainwater will not go to waste. Thus, rain water harvesting is a proven and sustainable method to channel the force of the monsoon to recharging this groundwater. 

Practicing efficient ways of irrigation: 

Post the green-revolution, water related-issues still persist. Small and focused systems like drip irrigation and sprinkler irrigation must be initiated properly. Therefore, awareness about these as well as the urgent need to return water to ground sources is a crucial step in restoring the water table.

Read more on Sustainable agricultural practices.


The process of using plants and microbes in contaminated water bodies to improve water quality should be promoted. We can use 130 plant species for this process.

Reducing daily usage of water:

New technologies such as dual flush toilets, water-less urinals and efficient shower systems in houses can be introduced. Thus, this will go a long way in reducing the amount of water wasted in households. 

Cleaning and restoring water bodies:

Even the most urbanized cities face lack of proper sanitation, public health and water management. Plastic and other waste, sewerage and industrial effluents continue to choke our waterways, rivers and find their way to the sea, thereby further polluting our water systems. Therefore, this poses serious health hazards and has a horrific impact on the health and stability of the water table, which is the only source for all our water.

Improve wastewater management:

Managing waste water is one of the prominent ways in which we can immediately clean up our act and return largely clean water back to our groundwater sources, or for use in irrigation and other needs. Whether in the smallest homes, larger housing complexes or commercial and industrial establishments, energy-efficient, cost-effective and sustainable solutions to manage wastewater are the need of the hour. 

We need to Regulate the industrial clusters:

A robust enviro-legal network to check illegal dumping of effluents and monitoring of industries should be in place. Therefore, we will be able to perform periodic assessment of water pollution and hold them accountable.

We need to educate ourselves more on such issues and be part of important life changing discussions.

Let’s take the initiative to be better citizens of the world. 

For more articles on Environment please visit Environment : Aware Earth



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