The distribution and utilisation of water bodies in India

Context: A report released by Ministry of Jal Shakti has thrown light on the number of water bodies in India and what they are used for. The document is the first such census of water bodies in India. The census has identified 24,24,540 water bodies in India.

Definition of a Water body 

  • All natural or man-made units bounded on all sides with some or no masonry work used for storing water for irrigation or other purposes (e.g. industrial, pisciculture, domestic/drinking, recreation, religious, ground water recharge etc.) will be treated as water bodies in this Census. These are usually of various types known by different names like tank, reservoirs, ponds and bundhies etc. 
  • A structure where water from ice-melt, streams, springs, rain or drainage of water from residential or other areas is accumulated or water is stored by diversion from a stream, nala or river will also be treated as water body.

Information available on water bodies through following initiatives / Institutions

  • India – Water resource information system (India-WRIS) –  Central Water Commission (CWC), Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • Repair, Renovation and Restoration (RRR) of water bodies – Component of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (Har Khet Ko Pani) 
  • “Jal Shakti Abhiyan –  “Catch the Rain” The “Jal Shakti Abhiyan 
  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) CPCB 
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) 

Salient Features

  • First census of water bodies was conducted with reference year 2017-18 across the country in 33 States/UTs except Daman & Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep.


  • During 1st census of water bodies, 24,24,540 water bodies have been enumerated in the country, out of which 
  • 59.5% (14,42,993) are ponds
  • 15.7% (3,81,805) are tanks
  • 12.1% (2,92,280) are reservoirs 
  • remaining 12.7% (3,07,462) are water conservation schemes/check dams/percolation tanks, lakes and other water bodies
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Location / Concentrations

  • Top five States in number of water bodies are as follows
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  • Top five states in number of Ponds, Tanks and Lakes are as follows
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  • Top five states in number of Reservoir, Water Conservation schemes are as follows
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  • Out of the enumerated 24,24,540 water bodies, 97.1% (23,55,055) are in rural areas while 2.9% (69,485) are in urban areas. 
  • Among all water bodies, 9.6% are located in Tribal areas, 8.8% in Flood prone areas,7.2 % under Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP), 2.0 % in Naxal affected areas , 0.7% under Desert Development Programme (DDP)and remaining 71.7% water bodies are located in other areas.
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Operational Status 

  • Among these water bodies, 83.7% (20,30,040) are ‘in use’ whereas the remaining 16.3% (3,94,500) are not in use/non-functional on account of drying up, construction, siltation, destroyed beyond repair, salinity, industrial effluents etc. 


  • Out of all ‘in use’ water bodies, major water bodies are reported to be used in Pisciculture followed by Irrigation and Ground water recharge.
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  • 55.2% (13,38,735) water bodies are owned by private entities whereas 44.8% (10,85,805) are under public ownership.
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Man made & Natural water bodies

  • 78% are man-made water bodies whereas 22% are natural water bodies. Majority of man-made water bodies are earthen in nature and have original cost of construction upto Rs. 1,00,000. 
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• Among all 24,24,540 water bodies, 1.6% (38,496) water bodies are reported to be encroached. Majority of encroached water bodies are ponds followed by tanks. 

• Water User Associations (WUA) has helped to a large extent in preventing encroachments .

Need for Water Bodies Census

  • The need for conducting a separate census of water bodies was pointed out by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources on the subject “Repair, Renovation and Restoration of Water Bodies – Encroachment on water bodies and steps required to remove the encroachment and restore the water bodies”. 
  • The Committee recommended that in order to enable an objective assessment of water bodies and their condition, there should be separate census of water bodies and thereby creating a Central database on water bodies. As recommended by the Standing Committee, the first Census of Water bodies was launched by Department of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation in 2018-19 in convergence with the 6th Minor Irrigation (MI) census.

 The use of water bodies data is also envisaged in the following fields:

  • The water bodies census data will serve as an authentic dataset for estimation of recharge of ground water.
  •  Information obtained from MI Census and water body census will be highly useful in

implementation of the Atal Bhujal Yojana. 

  • Block/ Gram Panchayat level data related to MI structures & water bodies will help the scheme personnel to convince the community of the actual groundwater conditions at the local level.
  •  The information can be used for spatial analysis of distribution of abstraction structures Coordinates (Longitude and Latitude) and assessment of ground water draft.
  • There are several instances of water from bore wells being sold and bought at farm level, but specific reports are not available. The census may provide an opportunity to get ground information on this aspect and provide insights into farm level water trading. The information will be relevant to State Governments involved in farm level irrigation and water management.
  • Results of First Census of Water bodies will be immensely useful for planning and executing Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY).

The Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (DoWR, RD & GR), Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS), Government of India (GoI) has been conducting census of minor irrigation structures, quinquennially under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme “Irrigation Census” with 100% central assistance to States/UTs. The scope of Irrigation Census Scheme has been enhanced by launching the Census of Water Bodies in convergence with sixth Minor Irrigation Census which covers all types of water bodies in both rural and urban areas and aims to collect all the important parameters of the Water Body like type of use, status (whether defunct or in-use), storage etc.

Practice MCQ

Q. With reference to first water census in India; consider the following statements:

1. As per the census, share of lakes is the largest among all the identified water bodies in India.

2. Share of natural water bodies is much larger than that of man-made water bodies.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2











Ans. (d)

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