Increasing water scarcity and pollution of fresh-water resources commands the need for transformation from linear to circular economy, involving strategies to enhance water-use efficiency and increase reuse of treated wastewater.
With India grappling intense water scarcity, the dumping of wastewater into freshwater sources such as rivers is only aggravating the crisis. This coupled with growing urban population and rising industrialization is only adding to the existing woes. In this scenario, it is critical to work towards waste-water treatment and reuse it to address the water shortage.
The water resources in India are collapsing under this burden, and to alleviate this, there is a need to ensure water supply as well as sewage treatment with reuse. Without sufficient fresh water, sustaining human life can become very difficult, which is why focusing on these problems is the need of the hour.
A myriad of challenges confront the water sector. Water is critical in ensuring food security for the country. Agriculture is the largest consumer of water resources (around 78%) in India. 49% of 140 million hectares of net sown area is presently under irrigation. There is a need to increase the coverage of irrigation to keep up with the goals of self-sufficiency in food production in the future. Long delays in implementation of irrigation projects, ensuring water availability to farms from irrigation projects implemented, funding, high losses in canal-based irrigation remain some of the important challenges facing the agriculture sector.
In industrial sector, major issues include rising demand from industries that will inevitably lead to competition from other sectors, inefficient pricing of water, and unregulated exploitation of groundwater resources.
In the domestic/ drinking water sector, key challenges to address include high water losses (non-revenue water) due to leakages especially in urban areas, universal access, sustainability of water sources. 80% of the water supplied to urban consumers returns as wastewater. Untreated wastewater is a major cause of pollution of ground and surface water. As per reports, only around 60% of the industrial wastewater is treated. Use of wastewater after necessary treatment has the potential to reduce the pressure on freshwater.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has laid down a path for transformation. Water and sanitation is a major contributor to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). In addition to ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (SDG 6), water management is closely linked to the SDGs for ending poverty (SDG 1), ensuring food security (SDG 2) and good health (SDG 3).
IGDR aims to serve as a centre for knowledge and in developing policy alternatives that can address the challenges facing the water and wastewater sector in India. IGDR strives to bring together experts from multi-disciplinary fields of science, management, public policy, as well as provide a platform to the public and private sectors, and civil society to exchange ideas, improve our understanding of challenges, discuss and debate, and develop effective solutions.