water resources crisis & stress in india

underground and surface water resources, use & crisis upsc

State of Water availability in india

State of Water Resources in India:

Water plays an important role in development of communities, it has remained a constant determinant throughout history & in rise and fall of civilizations.

  • India accounts for about 2.5% of world's surface area and about 4% of world's freshwater resources, ranking it among the top ten water rich countries.
  • Despite this, because of high population pressure, according to the 4th Assessment of the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change, India has been designated a Water Stressed Region.
  • The per capita availability of water, in India as a whole, is reducing progressively due to increase in population.
  • The average annual per capita water availability in the years 2001 and 2011 was assessed as 1816 cubic meters and 1545 cubic meters respectively which may further reduce to 1486 cubic meters and 1367 cubic meters in the years 2021 and 2031 respectively.
  • India is at 133rd place in the world in terms of per capita water availability.
  • India is rich in surface water resources. Average annual precipitation is nearly 4,000 billion cubic meter, and the average flow in river system is estimated to be 1,869 billion cubic meters due to the concentration of rains in three monsoon months. The utilizable annual surface water of the country is 690 km.
  • As per April 2015 report, the water resource potential or annual water availability of the country, in terms of natural runoff in rivers, is about 1,869 Billion Cubic Meters (BCM).
  • The usable water resources of the country have been estimated at 1,123 BCM/year. This is due to constraints of topography and uneven distribution of resources.
  • Out of 1,123 BCM/year, the share of groundwater water is 433 BCM/year.
  • The overall contribution of rainfall in the annual groundwater resource is 68% and share of other resources, such as canal seepage, recharge from tanks, ponds and water conservation measures, is 32%.
  • According to the Swedish expert Falcon Mark, water shortage occurs when per person water availability is less than 1,000 to 1,600 cubic meters per year.

Water use in india

State of Water Resources in India:

Water use:

Agriculture use,

  • India has the larget irrigated area in the world. With a net irrigated area of 1 MHA (2013-14) by canals, tube wells and wells and other sources; and a gross irrigated area of 95.77 MHA.
  • Still only about 49% of the gross cropped area is under some degree of assured irrigation and rest of 51% is dependent upon the seasonal rainfall.


Industrial use:

  • Industrial requirement for water will be doubled from 2 trillion litres to 74 trillion litres and domestic demand will grow by 40%.
  • At present, about 22% of India's total electricity is obtained from hydel power. Apart from this, the of the cities and urban life style has increased the demand for water and energy.
  • According to Ministry of Water Resources, about 67 Billion Cubic Metres (BCM) water is used in industrial areas, which is about 6% of total availability of water.
  • According to World Bank, the demand of water for industrial use and power generation is increasing at the rate of 42% per annum.
  • By the year 2025, it would become 228 billion cubic meters as compared to 40 billion cubic meter in 1999.
  • Thus, water used in industries is about 13% of total available fresh water at present.


Groundwater use; 

  • Groundwater is extensively used in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh on a large scale whereas Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh are the states where groundwater is less utilized .

Surface resources in India

  • The water found on the Earth surface is called Surface Water. It includes rivers, lakes, pond, canals etc.
  • However, rivers comprise the most important source of surface water.
  • Total average annual surface runoff is 1633 km to 1881 km.
  • River basin is a basic hydrological unit for the planning of water resources. In India, there are 12 major river basins with catchment area of more than 20,000 km.
  • The total catchment area of these rivers is 3 lakh km.
  • About two-third of India's total surface water flow into three major riverse. Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra.
  • All three rivers have high annual water flow.
  • The Ganga has the highest capacity for water storage.
  • The Brahmaputra has the highest annual flow capacity but its storage capacity is the lowest.
  • The 40% of utilizable surface water resources are present in Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna system.

Top of page