Kurukshetra June 2023


  • Water is an essential input for agricultural production and food security.
  • Worldwide, the agriculture sector is the biggest user of water, withdrawing about 70 per cent of all surface and groundwater through irrigation.
  • Globally, rainfed farming produces 60 percent of the world’s food on 80 per cent of the cultivated land. Irrigated farming produces 40 percent of world's food production on 20 per cent of the land (FAO, 2021).
  • In India, the agriculture sector uses 80-90 per cent of total water used in the country and, yet, half of the area under agriculture remains rainfed.
  • Irrigation increases the yields of most crops by 100 to 400 per cent.
  • The net-irrigated agriculture in India covers 75456 thousand hectares, while the gross irrigated area is 112229 thousand hectares (DE&S, 2023).
  • The main source of water is the annual precipitation including snowfall in India.
  • India is the home to about 18 percent of the world’s population and has only 4 percent of its water resources.
  • The per-capita availability of water of less than 1000 cubic meters and that poses India as one of the most water-stressed countries in the world (NITI, 2018).
  • With the increased size of population by 2050, agriculture will need to produce almost 50 percent more food, livestock fodder and biofuel than in 2012 to satisfy global demand and keep on track to achieve ‘zero hunger’ (FAO, 2021).
  • Various initiatives are taken by the Government of India for water conservation in producing maximum yield with minimum water.
  • Sahi Fasal campaign, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, National Water Mission, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY)- Har Khet Ko Pani (HKKP), Per Drop More Crop, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Repair, Renovation and Restoration (RRR) of Water Bodies Scheme etc. are initiated to encourage water conservation.

Water Resources in Agriculture: Availability and Projections

  • The availability of both surface and groundwater varies from one region to another. Water availability in India is shown is shown below-






Average Annual Rainfall (1985-2015)

105 mm (3880 BCM)


Annual Rainfall (2020)

1283 mm


Mean Annual Natural Run-Off

1999.2 BCM


Total Utilisable Water

1122 BCM


Net Ground Water Availability (2013)

411 BCM


Estimated Utilisable Surface Water Potential

690 BCM


Total Replenishable Ground Water Resources (2013)

432 BCM


Ultimate Irrigation Potential

139.9 Mha (From Surface Water= 76 Mha and 64 Mha from Groundwater)

  • The major portion of water is drawn for use by the agriculture sector, followed by other sectors like energy, drinking water etc.
  • The main sources of irrigation in the country are canals, tanks, and wells, including tubewells.
  • The gross irrigated area (GIA) during 2011-12 was 91931 thousand ha and net irrigated area (NIA) was 66009 thousand ha. During 2019-20, the GIA is 112229 thousand ha and NIA is 75456 thousand ha (DES, 2023).
  • Groundwater contributes more than 79 per cent of the total ultimate potential through minor irrigation.

Water Conservation Strategies in Agriculture

  • Agriculture is a key sector in which there is an urgent need to promote water-saving strategies.
  • The main source of replenishable groundwater resources is recharge from rainfall which contributes about 61 per cent of the total annual groundwater recharge.
  • Major part of the country receives annual normal rainfall between 75 to 150 cm.
  • A slew of schemes have been initiated by the Government of India to prevent non-judicious use of water resources, viz.



Government Scheme



Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY)

  • The PMKSY launched during the year 2015-16 with the vision of extending the coverage of irrigation ‘Har Khet ko Pani’ and improving water use efficiency, i.e., ‘Per Drop More Crop'.
  • It offers an end-to-end solution for irrigation through source creation, distribution, management, field application, and extension activities.
  • With an outlay of Rs. 93,068 crore for 2021- 26 under the PMKSY, it will benefit about 22 lakh farmers (MolJS, 2023).


Per Drop More Crop

  • It was launched in the year 2015-16 as a component under PMKSY and focuses on enhancing water use efficiency, productivity and reduction in input costs through Micro Irrigation technologies, i.e., drip and sprinkler irrigation systems.
  • The irrigation efficiency under micro irrigation is 80-90 per cent and has been adopted in 21 per cent of total irrigated area in the country.
  • Micro Irrigation Fund of initial corpus Rs. 5000 crore was created with NABARD to facilitate the States in mobilising the resources for expanding coverage of Micro Irrigation by taking up special and innovative projects.
  • In the Union Budget for 2021-22, this corpus was increased to Rs.1000 crores.


Sahi Fasal Campaign

  • It is a component of the National Water Mission initiated by the Ministry of Jal Shakti on 14 November 2019.
  • It envisions raising awareness amongst the farming community on water efficient farming through selection of agricultural crops that utilises water more efficiently and micro irrigation technology.


Bhartiya Prakratik Krishi Paddhati

  • It promotes Natural farming.
  • The scheme aims at minimising the cost of cultivation, recreation of soil ecosystem, resource conservation, enhancing farmers’ income, and ensuring environmental sustainability.


  • Economic Survey (2021-22) highlighted that increased paddy cultivation in 44 million hectares has resulted in overexploitation of groundwater resources, particularly in the northwest and some parts of South India.
  • Few States such as Punjab and Haryana utilize more than 90 percent of groundwater annually.

Way Forward

Water is a State subject and requires cooperation and efficient management of water resources across States. India being an agrarian economy, ensuring food security and natural resources conservation is needed to guide land and water allocation to ensure sustainable agriculture and socio-economic development.






  • India is home to 18 percent of the world’s population but has only 2.4 per cent of its land resources.
  • The country receives about 1,200 mm of rainfall each year, out of which only 6 per cent is stored, indicating that the issue is not lack of rainfall in India but how much the country can conserve and save to meet water needs.

Need to Conserve Water Resources

  • Increased demand for freshwater uses for multifarious causes, dependency on rainfed irrigation, varied rainfall patterns, population growth, rapid industrialisation, and urbanisation have led to massive exploitation of water, and reduction in the groundwater levels.
  • Two-thirds of India’s irrigation needs are met from groundwater sources.
  • 80 per cent of India’s rural and 50 per cent of its urban drinking water needs are met through groundwater exploitation.

Community Participation in Water Conservation

  • Water is a State Subject as per the Constitution of India. Hence, steps to effectively augment, conserve, and manage water resources have remained the primary responsibility of the respective States.
  • To limit the adverse impacts of large-scale water projects, public policy-makers and development practitioners have advocated a gradual shift from state assisted large-scale water resource management projects to community-based and participatory water resource management programmes.
  • A number of states have done commendable work implementing various water conservation initiatives. Some of which outcomes are described-


S. No.


Name of Initiative

Programme Activity


Andhra Pradesh


  • Rejuvenating and revitalising natural resources. De-silting of tanks and feeder channels, etc., are taken up, additional water storage is created.
  • Aimed at collective participation and spread of awareness to make the State 'drought proof' through better Water Conservation.



Jal Jeevan Hariyali

  • Identification, restoration, and renovation of all public water storage structures — ponds / canal / pines, etc.
  • Construction of check dams and other water harvesting structures in Jeevan small rivers / drains and water storage areas of hilly areas.
  • The objective is to encourage farmers to participate in water conservation initiatives of the government and to get sensitized on the use of alternative crops, drip irrigation, organic farming, and other new technologies with less dependence on irrigation.



Suajalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan

  • Deepening water bodies in the state before monsoon arrives to increase storage of rainwater to be used during times of scarcity.
  • It is a Public Private Partnership programme and government contribution is 60 percent of the work expenditure.



Jal Hi Jeevan Hai

  • Encouraging farmers to adopt crop diversification and sow crops which require less water like Maize, Arhar, etc., instead of water guzzling crops such as paddy so as to conserve water.



Pani Panchayat

  • Ensuring voluntary activity of a group of farmers engaged in the collective management (harvesting and distribution) of surface water and groundwater (wells and percolation tanks).
  • Objective is to ensure optimum utilisation of water as well as improving agricultural production.



Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan

  • Deepening and widening of water streams, construction of cement and earthen stop dams, works on nullahs and digging of farm ponds.
  • Objective is to make Maharashtra drought-free by making 5,000 villages free of water scarcity each year.



Mukya Mantri Jal Swavalamban Abhiyan

  • Extending conservation efforts to manage rainfall, runoff, groundwater & in-situ soil moisture.
  • Through the convergence of schemes of various departments, works are executed through people’s participation by motivating villagers & beneficiaries.



Mission Kakatiya

  • Reclamation of water tanks by restoring minor irrigation sources.
  • Aims at spreading minor irrigation in the state with community participation for sustainable water security.

Water Conservation Initiatives of Union Government

  • India has about 141 million hectares of net sown area, out of which about 45 per cent (65 million hectares) is presently covered under irrigation of any source.
  • The vision of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) has been, inter alia, to ensure sustainable access to some means of protective irrigation to all agricultural farms in the country through efficient management of water resources and by propagating the tagline- ‘Per Drop More Crop’.



PMKSY Components

Programme Activity


Har Khet Ko Pani

  • Create new water sources through Minor Irrigation (surface and groundwater);
  • Repair, restoration and renovation of water bodies; Construct rain water harvesting structures; Command area development, strengthening and creation of distribution network from Create and rejuvenate traditional water storage systems [like Jal Mandir (Gujarat); Khatri, Kuhl (H.P.); Zabo (Nagaland); Eri, Ooranis (T.N.); Dongs (Assam); Katas, Bandhas (Odisha and M.P.) etc.] at feasible locations.


Watershed Development

  • Create water harvesting structures viz. check dams, nala-bund, farm ponds, tanks, etc.;
  • Ridge area treatment, drainage line treatment, soil and moisture conservation, nursery raising, afforestation, horticulture, pasture development, livelihood activities for the asset-less persons;
  • Effective rainfall management like field bunding, contour bunding/trenching, staggered trenching, land levelling, mulching, etc.


Per Drop More Crop

  • Programme management, preparation of State/District Irrigation Plan, approval of annual action plan, Monitoring, etc.;
  • Promote efficient water conveyance and precision water application devices like drips, sprinklers, pivots, rain-guns in the farm; Crop Construct micro irrigation structures;
  • Secondary storage structures at the tail end of the canal system to store water when available in abundance (rainy season) or from perennial sources like streams for use during dry periods through effective on-farm water management.



  • Create water harvesting structures on individual lands of vulnerable sections, creation of new irrigation sources, upgradation/desilting of traditional water bodies, water conservation works, etc.
  • De-siltation of canal & distribution system, deepening and desiltation of existing water bodies, strengthening of bunds/embankments, etc.


  • Jal Shakti Abhiyan, a mission mode approach, is implemented to improve water availability including ground water conditions, in the water stressed blocks of 256 districts in India.
  • Atal Bhujal Yojana aims at sustainable management of ground water with community participation in identified over-exploited and water stressed areas of the States of Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • The construction of water harvesting and conservation works is emphasised under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
  • Some of the watershed development activities permitted for execution under MGNREGA, along with the community engagement profiles, are depicted as under-


Type of Watershed Development Works

Engagement of Community

Contour trenching for water conservation in plantations and grassland development.

Intensive participatory planning exercise is adopted to prepare watershed development plans with active involvement of villagers.

Loose boulder bunding by erecting dry stone walls across the hill slopes at pre-determined spacing for developing land for cultivation.

Identification of workable watershed boundaries [with around 500-1000 hectares of area] by referring to watershed atlas available with the States concerned.

Spring-shed development in north eastern States to revive springs and protect them against drying up during dry season.

Carrying out Baseline/benchmark Surveys viz. climate, soil types, fertility, rainfall pattern, runoff volume, land-use pattern, vegetation to make the plan outcome-oriented.

Village ponds excavation and renovation of existing ponds to increase water storage space.

Active participation of the community makes the programme community-driven and community managed/owned.

Bench terracing to use the hill slopes for crop production on sustainable basis.

Adoption of Participatory Rural Appraisal which combines various tools like social mapping, resource mapping, seasonal mapping, transact walk, focus group discussions enables communities to express and analyse their own situation, clearly delineating location-specific water needs and priorities.

Gabion structures of stone and wire dams across drainage lines to address soil erosion issues

Why Community Planning and Participation in Water Conservation?

  • The community’s involvement in planning and execution ensures success in the endeavour by enhancing the economic viability of the implementation of development interventions, their operation and maintenance, the better upkeep of assets due to inherent community belongingness, and also increasing the lifespan of the system so created.
  • The community should ensure the following to ensure the success of water conservation interventions in rural areas-
    • Social mobilisation, initiation of need analysis, preparation of the Water Security Plan, Irrigation Plan and Village Action Plan;
    • Discuss and deliberate on the sustainability of water schemes
    • Prepare a water reserve audit, water safety plan to ensure recharge
    • Ensure convergence with line departments of the district to participate, plan, and execute water conservation projects
    • Coordinate with District or Block level authorities
    • Arranging social audit of water scheme
    • Arrange training and capacity building programmes
    • Monitor water availability, water sources, and quality of water and get arranged awareness camps.


Thus, India’s decentralised planning process encourages the active involvement of the community in planning, implementing, and supervising public service delivery at the local level to ensure that the growth process is inclusive.






  • One of the most significant challenges humanity faces today is the global water crisis and in response to this United Nations has established a target under its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is t0 ensure that everyone has access to clean water and sanitation.
  • The World Water Development Report 2019 indicates that approximately 4 billion people, which is almost two-thirds of the world's population, suffer from severe water scarcity for at least one month every year.
  • Despite having abundant rainfall, India faces frequent droughts, floods, and water scarcity due to inadequate water management practices and rapid urbanisation.
  • The agriculture sector, which accounts for 80 per cent of water resources in India, is responsible for almost 90 percent of groundwater withdrawals. The lack of awareness and capacity for sustainable water management is a significant factor in the country's water crisis.

A Collective Responsibility

  • An important strategy in this fight is to secure support and active involvement of the people that society looks up to.
  • The water consumption and management ecosystem involves layers of stakeholders playing their roles in various ways at various places.
  • We have traditions that have a deep connection with water, and we have habits and lifestyles which impact the way water is used and managed. Any change can happen if we look at the issue in its entirety and involve all important stakeholders.
  • Although the efforts of the Central Government are having a positive impact, it is equally important to educate people about the severity of the water crisis and encourage them to respond positively.

National Water Mission's Efforts

  • The ‘Catch the Rain’ campaign is under the National Water Mission (NWM). NWM is one of the 8 missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
  • The main objective of the NWM is 'Conservation of water, minimising wastage, and ensuring its more equitable distribution both across and within States through integrated water resources development and management'.
  • Its Annual NWM Water Awards recognise excellence in water conservation, efficient water use, and sustainable water management practices.
  • The ‘Catch The Rain’ campaign uses a slogan "Catch the rain, where it falls, when it falls" which is nothing but an expression of the desire to collect, save, and manage every drop of water in whichever form it comes to us.
  • The campaign involves the active role of the local community in the implementation of several measures to enhance the storage capacity of water bodies.
  • These measures include the construction of check dams, water harvesting pits, rooftop RWHS, and desilt tanks etc.

Strategies to Educate People

  • It is important to educate people about the severity of the water crisis and encourage them to respond positively.
  • We must use all available media and platforms to raise awareness about the importance of conserving water and help people understand its value.
  • In the past, many mass awareness programmes were launched for the purpose, which included various media campaigns, public exhibits, puppet shows, traditional media, street theatres, and jal yatras on the need for water conservation.
  • While continuing such good practices, the Union and State Governments can also explore the measures such as:
  • Social Media: Specialised campaigns can be run on various social media platforms and websites and mobile applications can be developed to disseminate information, run contests, deliver incentives and rewards, recognise the local heroes and answer queries of the people.
  • Conventional Media:  Spreading the message about the significance of water conservation can be achieved through conducting awareness campaigns via various mediums like TV, radio, and newspapers. Their vast footprint across the country can be of great importance.
  • Educational Institutions: Including water conservation education in school curriculums can help instill a sense of responsibility in children from a young age towards water conservation.
  • Engaging Communities: Community programmes, such as seminars, workshops, and interactive sessions can be organised to educate people about water conservation practices and motivate them to adopt these practices.
  • Incentives and Rewards: To encourage people to conserve water, incentives like tax rebates or discounts can be offered to households that adopt water-saving practices.
  • Involving Private Sector- Collaborating with private organisations to develop and implement water conservation initiatives can increase awareness and reach a wider audience.
  • Engaging with Eminent Personalities: Celebrity involvement can be sought to attract public attention and promote water conservation initiatives.








  • India has about 18 percent of the world's population but only 4 percent of the world's water resources (NITI Aayog Report, 2017).
  • Rapid urbanisation and industrialisation are also taking a heavy toll on the overall water demand scenario. As a result, the gap between water demand and availability has been progressively increasing.

Water Use Efficiency-

  • Water use efficiency is the ratio between effective water use and actual water withdrawal.
  • In India, a major chunk of water usage is for agricultural purposes, and a small percentage is for drinking and domestic purposes.
  • Enhancing water use efficiency in every sector of water use including irrigation, is, thus, crucial and imperative for sustaining life faced with the challenges posed by climate change in the water sector in the present times.

Water Use Efficiency in Agriculture Sector

  • Agriculture is also the source of livelihood for about 58 per cent of India's population.
  • Water Use Efficiency (WUE) in irrigation is the percentage of total applied water that is stored in the soil and available for consumptive use by the crops.
  • With the growing scarcity of water resources, it is essential to adopt irrigation practices and methods that bring about enhanced water use efficiency to utilise the water so saved for additional irrigation and other beneficial uses.

Methods for improving water use efficiency in agriculture


Micro Irrigation

  • The Water use efficiency of micro irrigation including drip irrigation is as high as 80- 95 per cent in comparison to only 30-50 per cent in conventional flood irrigation with several benefits in terms of water saving (30-60 per cent), yield enhancement (40-75 per cent), weed reduction (20-50 per cent).


Fertigation studies

  • Different fruit and vegetable crops showed that there is 25 percent savings in fertilisers with this technology. The ICAR has standardised drip irrigation and fertigation schedules for 24 crops and crop systems.



  • Mulching, either through polythene sheets or organic materials spread on top of the soil helps in increasing water use efficiency by controlling evaporation losses from the plant root zone. On average, there is about 10 per cent water saving from the use of mulch materials in agriculture.


Drought-Tolerant Crops

  • Growing crops that are appropriate to the region's climate is another way that farmers are getting more crops per drop.

Less Water Intensive Crops

Other Methods for improving water use efficiency in Agriculture

  • Reduce conveyance losses by lining channels or, preferably, by using closed conduits.
  • Reduce direct evaporation during irrigation by avoiding midday sprinkling.
  • Reduce transpiration by weeds, keeping the inter row strips dry and applying weed control measures where needed.
  • Enhancement of crop growth Select the most suitable and marketable crops for the region.
  • Use optimal timing for planting and harvesting.
  • Use optimal tillage (avoid excessive cultivation).
  • Use appropriate insect, parasite, and disease control.
  • Apply manures and green manures where possible and fertilise effectively (preferably by injecting the necessary nutrients into the irrigation water).

Initiatives to Increase WUE in the agriculture sector

Government has taken various steps in this direction such as-

  1. The Ministry of Jal Shakti- Scientific management of water is increasingly recognised as vital to India's economic growth and ecosystem sustainability. The Government is proactive about water conservation and its efficient management and has created the Ministry of Jal Shakti in May 2019 to consolidate interrelated functions pertaining to water management.


  1. Launch of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY)- It is a centrally sponsored scheme (core scheme) launched in 2015. The centre- state share will be 75:25 per cent. In the case of the north-eastern region and hilly states, it will be 90:10. Its objectives are-
  • Convergence of investments in irrigation at the field level,
  • To expand the cultivable area under assured irrigation (Har Khet Ko Pani),
  • To improve on-farm water use efficiency and reduce wastage of water,
  • To enhance the adoption of precision-irrigation and other water-saving technologies (Per Drop More Crop).
  1. Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP)- It aims to provide Central Loan Assistance (CLA) to major and medium irrigation projects that were in an advanced stage of completion to achieve the targeted potential, ultimately resulting in saving water and improving efficiency.

During 2015-16, the AIBP amalgamated under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY).

  1. Command Area Development and Water Management (CADWM)- It was launched in 1974-75. CADWM to bridge the gap between Irrigation Potential Created (IPC) and Irrigation Potential Utilised (IPU). With the launch of the PMKSY during 2015-16, CADWM got included under the Har Khet Ko Pani component of the PMKSY.
  2. Har Khet Ko Pani- It was launched in July 2015 which mainly aims at ‘Har Khet Ko Pani’ (ensuring water to every farm through assured irrigation) and ‘Per Drop More Crop’ (ensuring more productivity through micro irrigation). The PMKSY provides a convergence of 4 components under 3 Central Government Ministries. The 'Per Drop More Crop' component is under the Ministry of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare.
  3. National Water Mission- The National Water Mission under the National Action Plan on Climate Change was unveiled by the Prime Minister of India on 30 June 2008.

It aims at improving the Water Use Efficiency (WUE) by at least 20 per cent.

  1. Bureau of Water Use Efficiency (BWUE)- It will be a facilitator for the promotion of improving water use efficiency across various sectors namely irrigation, drinking water supply, power generation, industries, etc., in the country.
  2. Baseline Studies- As a part of this strategy, the National Water Mission (NWM) has awarded Baseline Studies to four institutes with the objective to evaluate the Water Use Efficiency of the completed major and medium irrigation projects.
  3. Sahi Fasal Campaign- It aims to to nudge farmers in the water-stressed areas to grow crops that are not water intensive, but use water very efficiently, are economically remunerative; are healthy and nutritious; suited to the agro-climatic-hydro characteristics of the area; and are environmentally friendly.

Water Use Efficiency in Industrial Sector

Recent studies reveal that industrial water demand will quadruple between 2005 and 2030, putting further strain on the already over-allocated water resources of the country.


Enhanced water use efficiency through persistent and concerted efforts of individuals, groups and associations of people, and the Government implementation agencies and institutional mechanisms will go a Long way in effectively coping with the challenges posed by climate change and an ever-increasing population on available water resources and will result in optimum and efficient utilisation of precious water, thereby adding to enhanced productivity, prosperity, and sustainability.






  • The year 2023 is an important year nationally and internationally for the world’s water-related goals. In 2017, the United Nations (UN) adopted a resolution declaring 2018-28 as the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development.
  • The year 2023 is the mid-year to the decade for action on water and also for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Goal 6 of the SDGs focuses on the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
  • As per the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction estimates in 2019, India had suffered losses of Rs 5.61 lakh crore (USD 79.5 billion) due to extreme climate events in the previous two decades.
  • According to a study by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) in 2020, India experienced an exponential increase in extreme events during the period 1970-2019, with a marked acceleration during 2000-2019.

Water Matters for Rural India

  • Census 2011 data finds that 53 per cent of districts in India are rural. Out of these districts, 37 per cent are vulnerable to the impacts of extreme hydromet disasters. These districts are also home to one-third of India’s population.
  • As per CGWB analysis in 2022, about 30 percent of the assessment units in the country were semi-critical, critical, or over-exploited, i.e. they are annually extracting more than 70 percent of how much groundwater can be extracted.
  • The year 2023 began with India announcing the formation of its ‘Water Vision’ as a part of Prime Minister’s Vision India @2047 plan.

Major International Commitments and Outcomes

Group of Twenty (G20)

  • The G20 was formed in 1999 and India is leading the G20 presidency for the first time this year.
  • A dedicated global water dialogue is being held as a part of the Environment and Climate Sustainability Working Group (ECSWG).
  • The focus is on prioritising water action towards achieving sustainable water resources management in alignment with the SDG6 by 2030.
  • During the second G20 ECSWG meeting held in March 2023, the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MolJS) emphasised on the importance of climate-sensitive development for ensuring water security, while highlighting India’s two flagship missions - Jal Jeevan Mission and Swachh Bharat Mission.


United Nations Water Conference (UNWC)

The UN 2023 Water Conference was co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands in March 2023 at UN Headquarters in New York.

Conference of Parties (COP)

It is an annual meeting organised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) where countries come together to discuss and address global climate change issues.

  • About 700 commitments aimed at driving transformation towards a water-secure world were made by governments, the United Nations system, other intergovernmental organisations, international and regional financial institutions, and NGOs.
  • India under the action agenda has announced that it allocated USD 50 billion to provide safe and adequate drinking water to all rural Indian households by 2024, which is well before 2030.
  • COP26 came as a breakthrough and saw the establishment of the Water Pavilion, which provided a platform for stakeholders to share knowledge and experiences on water management in the face of climate change.
  • At COP27, India also emphasised the need for a ‘bottom-up approach’ to address water management challenges and highlighted the importance of community participation in decision making.



Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)

  • The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) was launched in 2019 with the aim to provide a functional tap connection within the premises of each rural household in India by 2024.
  • The mission addresses SDG 6, with the aim to achieve target 6.1 which focuses on achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030.
  • As of May 2023, over 87 million rural households have been provided with tap connections within their premises, accounting for 61 per cent of total rural households in the country as compared to 17 per cent in 2019 when the mission was launched.


Swachh Bharat Mission - Gramin (SBM - G)

  • The first phase of the flagship SBM - Gramin was successfully implemented, with all villages of India declaring themselves open-defecation free (ODF) in 2019.
  • The mission has entered its second five-year phase (2020 - 25), moving from ODF to ODF-Plus with the objective of sustaining the ODF status and ensuring the {safe management of solid and liquid waste in all villages of India.
  • The country is steadily moving towards ODF Plus, with almost 3,00,000 villages (out of 6,00,000) in the country declaring themselves ODF-Plus as of May 2023.


Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABY)

  • ABY has been implemented since April 2020 in 229 water-stressed blocks of seven Indian States for a period of 5 years.
  • The aim of the scheme is to improve the management of groundwater resources in such areas, which accounts for about 37 percent of such blocks in the country.


National Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme (NAQUIM)

Under NAQUIM, groundwater aquifers have been mapped and management plans have been made for 80 percent of the country.



Way Forward

India is already on its mission to achieve SDG6 targets through various national missions and water related interventions it is undertaking, which are in alignment with the major international commitments. The way forward for India should be to synergise and leverage on its existing programmes and commitments.





  • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that over the last century, the global water withdrawal grew 1.7 times faster than population, which aggravates concern over the sustainability of water use.
  • The world contains an estimated 1,400 million cubic km of water. But, only 0.003 percent of this vast amount, which comes to about 45 000 cubic km, are ‘freshwater resources’ that could be used for drinking, hygiene, agriculture, and industry.
  • The average annual rainfall over land is 1,10,000 square km, but some 70,000 square km evaporate before reaching the sea. The remaining 40,000 square km are potentially available for human use, but this is distributed very unevenly, and two-thirds of it runs off in floods.
  • Global freshwater consumption is currently around 4,000 square km, only 10 percent of the annual renewable supply. Thus, rainwater harvesting is the only alternative to reducing this gap.
  • Globally, rainfed agriculture occupies 80 per cent of the land and contributes about 60 per cent to food production.
  • The remaining 20 per cent of land under irrigated agriculture supports about 40 percent of the food supply and contributes to food self-sufficiency in a number of developing countries.
  • In India, the proportion of cultivated land under rain-fed agriculture is 127 million ha, which is approximately 70 per cent of the total cultivated land. Agriculture is the largest consumer of water and accounts for 70 per cent of global freshwater withdrawals.

Need for Rainwater Harvesting

  • The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has classified 16.2 per cent of the total assessment units like blocks, mandals or talukas as ‘over-exploited’; additional 14 per cent as either at ‘critical’ or ‘semi-critical’ stage.
  • India’s annual rainfall is around 1183 mm, of which 75 per cent is received in a short span of four months during the monsoon. Even if 5 percent of annual rainfall were harvested properly, that would produce a substantial quantum of water to the tune of 900 million litres. Therefore, rainwater harvesting becomes very important.
  • Most of the overexploited blocks are in the northwest region of the country.
  • Major source of groundwater recharge is monsoon rainfall, which contributes about 55 per cent of the total annual groundwater recharge.
  • Rainfall during the monsoon season contributes more than 70 per cent of the annual ground water recharge in states like Goa, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Rajasthan, and Daman & Diu.
  • Groundwater level data for 2021 and 2022 reveals that the general depth to water level in the country ranges from 5 to 10 mbgl (metres below ground level), with very shallow water levels of less than 2 mbgl observed in a few states, such as Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Kerala Jharkhand, and Tamil Nadu, in small patches.
  • The annual groundwater recharge, also known as dynamic groundwater resources, for the entire country has been assessed at 437.60 billion cubic meters and natural discharges work out to be 36.85 bcm.

Potential of Rainwater Harvesting

  • The summer monsoon accounts for 70 to 80 per cent of the annual rainfall over major parts of south Asia.
  • It is estimated that about 24 million hectares of rainwater can be potentially harvested through small water harvesting structures in different rainfall zones of India.
  • Rainwater harvesting is an ideal solution to arrest the declining trend of water levels. The surface runoff, which goes to storm drains, is utilised. It helps reduce the flooding of roads and roundabouts. The structures required for harvesting the rainwater are simple, economical, and eco-friendly.



Paar system

Paar is a common water harvesting practice in the western Rajasthan region.

  • It is a common place where the rainwater flows from the agar (catchment) and in the process percolates into the sandy soil.
  • To access the Rajani pani (percolated water) kuis or beris are dug in the agar (storage area).



Talabs are reservoirs.

  • They may be natural, such as the ponds (pokhariyan) at Tikamgarh in the Bundelkhand region.
  • They can be human-made, such as the lakes in Udaipur.
  • A reservoir area of fewer than five bighas is called a talai; a medium-sized lake is called a bandhi or talab; bigger lakes are called sagar or samand.
  • The pokhariyan serves irrigation and drinking purposes. When the water in these reservoirs dries up just a few days after the monsoon, the pond beds are cultivated with rice.


Saza kuva

An open well with multiple owners (saza means partner), saza kuva is the most important source of irrigation in the Aravalli hills in Mewar, eastern Rajasthan.

  • The soil dug out to make the well pit is used to construct a huge circular foundation or an elevated platform sloping away from the well.
  • The first is built to accommodate the rehat, a traditional water lifting device; the sloping platform is for the chada, in which buffaloes are used to lift water.



Johads are small earthen check dams that capture and conserve rainwater, improving percolation and groundwater recharge.

  • Starting in 1984, the last sixteen years have seen the revival of some 3000 johads spread across more than 650 villages in the Alwar district, Rajasthan.
  • This has resulted in a general rise of the groundwater level by almost 6 meters and a 33 percent increase in the forest cover in the area.



Bhitada village, Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh developed the unique pat system.

  • This system was devised according to the particularities of the terrain to divert water from swift-flowing hill streams into irrigation channels called pats.



Jhalaras are typically rectangular-shaped step-wells that have tiered steps on three or four sides.

  • These step-wells collect the subterranean seepage of an upstream reservoir or a lake.
  • Jhalaras were built to ensure an easy and regular supply of water for religious rites, royal ceremonies, and community use.
  • The city of Jodhpur has eight jhalaras, the oldest being the Mahamandir Jhalara which dates back to 1660 CE.



Bawaris are unique step-wells that were once a part of the ancient networks of water storage in the cities of Rajasthan.

  • The little rain that the region received would be diverted to man-made tanks through canals built on the hilly outskirts of cities.
  • The water would then percolate into the ground, raising the water table and recharging a deep and intricate network of aquifers.
  • To minimize water loss through evaporation, a series of layered steps were built around the reservoirs to narrow and deepen the wells.



It means ‘impounding run-off”. This system combines water conservation with forestry, agriculture, and animal care.

  • Practiced in Nagaland, Zabo is also known as the Ruza system.
  • Rainwater that falls on forested hilltops is collected by channels that deposit the run-off water in pond-like structures created on the terraced hillsides.



Kuhls are surface water channels found in the mountainous regions of Himachal Pradesh.

  • The channels carry glacial waters from rivers and streams into the fields.
  • The Kangra Valley system has an estimated 715 major Kuhls and 2,500 minor Kuhls that irrigate more than 30,000 hectares in the valley.
  • Kuhls are an important cultural tradition and were built either through public donations or by royal rulers.



These are found in Ladakh. They are small tanks that collect melting glacier water.

  • A network of guiding channels brings water from the glacier to the tank. The melting waters of the glacier are article in the mornings and turn into a flowing stream by the afternoon.
  • The water, collected by evening, is used in the fields on the following day.
  • A water official called a Chirpun is responsible for the equitable distribution of water in this dry region that relies on melting glacial water to meet its farming needs.

Government Initiatives

Some key initiatives taken by Government of India to assess and manage the country’s groundwater resources based on resource assessments include:

  1. Formulation of a Master Plan for Artificial Recharge to Groundwater in India, which aims to implement around 11 million rainwater harvesting  and Artificial Recharge structures to augment groundwater resources in India.
  2. Circulation of a Model Bill to all States/UTs to enable them to enact suitable legislation for groundwater regulation, including provisions for rainwater harvesting.
  3. Implementation of the National Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme (NAQUIM) to map major aquifers, characterise them, and develop Aquifer Management Plans to ensure the sustainability of groundwater resources in India.

Future Initiatives

  • There is a need to focus on a community-based water management approach that will help build social capital, promote equity and social inclusion, and ensure the sustainability of water management efforts.
  • In urban areas, the harvesting of rainwater should be made mandatory so that the stored water can be used for other than drinking.
  • The focus should also be on water reuse and recycling technologies, which are innovative ways to manage water resources sustainably.
  • Smart water management systems with the use of real-time data and analytics to optimize water use, can reduce losses and improve water quality.


UPSC Mains Practice Questions

Q.1    Discuss National Water Policy of India and its potential in promoting water use efficiency in the Agriculture sector.

Q.2    India is endowed with ample amounts of freshwater resources, but still, it suffers from water scarcity. Critically examine this statement.

Q.3       What is the status of water resources in India? What are the Problems with Water Resource Management? What is the impact of water mismanagement?