Draft National Water Policy

Committee set up by government of India to formulate national water Policy has submitted its draft to the ministry of Jal Shakti.

According to recent predictions, approximately half of the country’s water demand will remain unmet by 2030 if current trends continue. Water tables are dropping, and water quality is decreasing, necessitating a major shift in water management strategy.

Draft National Water Policy

The water cycle no longer operates within an invariant range of prediction, as seen by changing precipitation patterns and intensity, as well as river discharge rates. This necessitates a greater focus on water management’s agility, resilience, and flexibility to respond appropriately to the future’s increased uncertainty and unpredictability.

Issues in water policy 2012

  • Water Governance
    • The strategy proposes fundamental changes to the way water is managed, which is plagued by three types of challenges: 
      • That is, the distinction between irrigation and drinking water, surface and groundwater, and water and wastewater.
    • Because of over-extraction of groundwater, rivers are drying up, reducing the base-flows required for rivers to have water following the monsoon.
    • Dealing with drinking water and irrigation in silos has resulted in aquifers offering reliable sources of drinking water drying up because the same aquifers are also utilised for irrigation, which consumes far more water.
    • Water quality suffers when water and wastewater are separated during planning.
  • Demand Management: 
    • The policy recognises that increasing water supply indefinitely has limits and argues for a shift to demand management.
    • Irrigation: 
      • Rice, wheat, and sugarcane use most of India’s water, which is consumed by irrigation. 
      • The basic water needs of millions of people cannot be addressed unless this pattern of water demand is drastically altered.
  • Groundwater:
    • Sustainable and equitable groundwater management is a top concern for the NWP.
    • The key is community-based groundwater management. Stakeholders selected as custodians of their aquifers would be able to adopt guidelines for effective groundwater management if they were given information about aquifer boundaries, water storage capacities, and flows in a user-friendly way.
  • River:
    • Historically, rivers have been viewed as primarily an economic resource. Despite the economic value of rivers, the NWP prioritises river protection and rehabilitation.
    • NWP lays forth a plan for drafting a River Rights Act, which would protect rivers’ rights to flow, meander, and reach the sea.
  • Water Quality 
    • It is the most critical neglected issue in India today.
    • It is proposed that a water quality department be included in every water ministry, both at the federal and state levels.

New Water Policy in draft (NWP)

Proposed NWP made two major recommendations:

  • Shift the focus away from never-ending water supply increases and toward demand management strategies.
    • In keeping with area agroecology, this entails changing our cropping pattern to incorporate fewer water-intensive crops.
    • We must reduce our industrial water footprint, which is among the highest in the world, by switching to recycled water and reducing freshwater use.
    • All non-potable applications, such as flushing, firefighting, vehicle washing, landscaping, gardening, and so on, must be shifted to treated wastewater by cities.
  • A shift in concentration on the supply side is also since the country is running out of land for new major dams, and water tables and groundwater quality are declining in many locations.
    • Trillions of litres of water are held in large dams but never reach the farmers who are supposed to benefit from them.
    • The policy specifies how this can be accomplished using pressured closed conveyance pipelines, SCADA systems, and pressurised micro-irrigation.
    • The case for “nature-based solutions” for water storage and supply is becoming increasingly compelling around the world.
    • As a result, the NWP lays a strong emphasis on water supply through watershed rejuvenation, which must be rewarded with ecosystem services compensation, particularly for vulnerable communities in upstream mountainous areas.

Recommendations in draft water policy

  • Crop Diversification:
    • Single most critical step in alleviating India’s water crisis, according to demand side options.
    • Diversifying public procurement activities to include Nutri-cereals, pulses, and oilseeds is suggested in the policy. 
      • The Integrated Child Development Services, the mid-day meal scheme, and the public distribution system are the primary outlets for these procured crops. 
      • Given the higher nutritional composition of these crops, establishing this link would also assist address the crisis of starvation and diabetes.
    • Farmers should be encouraged to diversify their cropping patterns, resulting in significant water savings.
  • Reduce-Recycle-Reuse 
    • This has been recommended as the basic motto of integrated urban water supply and wastewater management, with sewage treatment and eco-restoration of urban river sections achieved as far as practicable through decentralised wastewater management. Use of cleaned and treated wastewater for all non-potable purposes, such as flushing, firefighting, and vehicle washing.
  • Supply Side recommendations:
    • The policy recommends utilizing water stored in large dams that are still not reaching farmers and explains how irrigated areas could be greatly expanded at a low cost by deploying pressurised closed conveyance pipelines, combined with Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and pressurised micro-irrigation.
    • The NWP lays a strong emphasis on water supply via “nature-based solutions” such as catchment area rejuvenation, which will be rewarded with ecosystem services compensation.
  • Rain gardens and bio-swales restored rivers with wet meadows, bio-remediation wetlands, urban parks, permeable pavements, green roofs, and other specially curated “blue-green infrastructure” are proposed for urban areas.
  • Water Quality: 
    • The policy encourages the use of cutting-edge sewage treatment technology that are low-cost, low-energy, and environmentally friendly.
    • The widespread use of reverse osmosis has resulted in significant water waste and harmed water quality.
    • If the total dissolved solids count in water is less than 500 mg/L, the guideline states that RO units should be avoided.
    • It proposes forming an emerging water pollutants task team to better understand and address the problems they are anticipated to pose.
  • Re-vegetation of catchments, management of groundwater extraction, river-bed pumping, and sand and boulder mining are all steps in the process of restoring river flows.
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