The water crisis in India: Why is it bad? What can we do about it?

Water, water, nowhere. The water crisis is as real as it can get. With less than 1,700 cubic meters of annual water availability per person, India is water-stressed. Here's what we can do:
water shortage in India: Switch Conversations

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We’re a water-stressed nation that’s expected to face severe water-shortage across regions. By 2050, water availability will drop by 30% at the very least. Climate change, erratic weather, unplanned development, unchecked water usage and wastage are all contributing factors to this crisis. Before we get into solving this problem, it’s important to look at why and how we reached a state of crisis in the first place:

Dry Monsoons

  • June 2019 was the 5th driest for India in the past 100 years. Third time in the last 10 years.
  • Leaving us hot and dry, it led to an excessive shortage of water for drinking, domestic and irrigation uses. Millions are getting affected in Chennai, Vidarbha, Marathwada, and Delhi-NCR.

Lack of Planning & Development

  • As a nation with 1.3 billion people, we need 3,000 billion cubic meters of water. Fortunately, we receive 4,000 billion cubic meters of rain every year on average (Central Water Commission). Unfortunately, we fail to utilise 3/4th of that rain water.
  • We’re progressing, and newer neighborhoods are developing on the outskirts of developed cities. However, lack of municipal water connections leads to major dependency on groundwater. This has led to massive decline in the ground water level. We have to dig deeper and deeper to find water and the day is not far when we will run out.
  • Out of 1,554 water bodies in Chennai, less than 1/3rd were surveyed. In those, 36,814 encroachments were identified, of which 10,764 encroachments were evicted — resulting in a pitiful 170 water bodies being restored to their original capacity. Some of the encroachment are by local bodies themselves, often for disposal of solid waste or for accommodating slum dwellers evicted from some other part of the city. – 2017 CAG Report.

Clinging to Groundwater

  • Groundwater is of quality that doesn’t need much purification and is drinkable. However, we rely on groundwater for irrigation too. Irrigation processes in our country are grossly inefficient, leading to 60% of drinkable water being lost. 
  • India is the biggest extractor of groundwater. Easy is not always right. Most industries here find groundwater extraction to be the easiest option to meet their water requirements. 
  • Power, textiles, paper pulp, and automobiles sectors are among the biggest users of water, primarily extracted from the ground.
  • On average, a single plastic-packaged bottler extracts anywhere between 5,000 to 20,000 liters of groundwater every hour. Multiply that by 6,000 (the amount of licensed bottlers), that is how much water is being used to create plastic-packaged water bottles. This number does not include unbranded and unregistered bottlers.
  • Soft-drink makers also use excessive groundwater. Remember, when you open a soft-drink, you’re opening stress/crisis/suffering, not happiness.

Home Wasteful Home

  • About 80% of the water reaching our homes is drained out. The potential is to reuse the 100% of the water that reaches our homes. Stellar example for this is the country Israel, that treats 100% of its used water and recycles 94% of it back to households. 
  • Water purifiers, specifically, reverse osmosis based purifiers use 4 liters of water to give 1 liter of drinking water. 80% of the water is gone down the drain.

And it's Getting Too Serious!

  • 21 Indian cities, including Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru are touted to run out of groundwater by 2020, which is only 6 months away. 
  • 40% of India’s population will have no access to drinking water by 2030.
  • 163 million people suffer from scarcity of clean drinking water.
  • 2,00,000 people lose their lives due to inadequate access to safe water.
  • 21% of the country’s diseases are water-related.

What can we do about it?

With great knowledge, comes great power. Here’s what YOU can do:

Please DO try these 11 practical solutions at home, you don't need stunt doubles:

1. Leaks are a Bleak Affair

A leaking tap or faucet amounts to 20,000 liters of water being wasted in a year. Go around your home, check if any tap is leaking and fix the hell out of it.

2. Brushing without Water Gushing

On average, water comes out of a faucet at 2.5 gallons per minute. Don’t let all that water go down the drain while you brush! Turn off the faucet until you need to rinse. Tip: Keep a glass and only use glass half-full of water to brush your teeth.

3. Scrub, Rinse but Never Waste, Bub!

Do you need the water to run while you’re scrubbing your hands? Save a few gallons of water and turn the faucet off after you wet your hands until you need to rinse.

4. Bucket > Shower

Switch to bucket baths instead of showers. Use only as much water as needed.

5. The Steam Team

Steam your vegetables instead of boiling. It not only saves water but preserves nutrients too.

6. Don’t Throw the Water from RO

Store the water discarded by your RO in a container to use it later for cleaning your home, watering plants.

7. Bucket before Hose

Use a bucket to wash your car instead of hosing it down, it saves considerable amounts of water.

8. Hush hush about the flush

Switch to low-flush fixtures for your toilets.

9. A Buttload of Cleaning

Don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine until it’s full. Those half-loads add up to gallons and gallons of wasted water. Wash full clothes loads! Wait a week to do your laundry and avoid washing every alternate day.

10. A mindful shopping cart

Buy from brands who take sustainability seriously. There are a few brands out there that are making everything from sustainable clothing to household items. You can see all the products we have to offer here.

11. Rain Water Harvesting DIY

You won’t believe how much water you’ll save with just figuring this step out. Here are a few tips.

We’re water-stressed, but we should stress over the immediacy of our actions. The above few steps are only a drop in the bucket. While the government is bringing strict policies, are you willing to make the switch? Do share your own ideas for saving water and you might just save the world.

Happy Switching!

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