Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Water Management in India

GS Paper 3

Syllabus:  Environmental Conservation/ Agriculture


Context: Based on an article published in Business Standards.

Direction: ‘Water’ is always a very important topic in the UPSC exam. Have a note prepared for various dimensions of water- its management, the gender divide in water, groundwater, surface water, river-interlinking, measures to conserve water etc. 1-2 points can be noted from this article.


  • India has just 4% of the world’s water resource, supporting 17.1% of its population.
  • It is a key determinant of health security and economic growth in India.
  • Over 50% of agriculture was still rain-fed

Evolution of water management in India:

  • Till the 1980s:  Water management was confined to the issue of irrigation projects. Therefore, the focus was on building large dams and canals. However, the drought of the late 1980s, proved that these big projects were insufficient.
  • Post-1980s Period: Focus was on decentralization:g., rainwater harvesting (building ponds, digging tanks, and setting up check-dams on streams); slogans like “Rain is decentralized, so is the demand for water. So, capture the rain when and where it falls”.
  • The mid-2000s: Focus remain on rainwater harvesting and ‘ground water’ was given importance. Therefore, MGNREGA was linked with the augmentation of groundwater, and rainwater harvesting efforts.
  • Post-2010s: A series of urban droughts brought in focus the issues related to distribution bottleneck and lack of reuse and treatment of sewage water. So, the focus came on Piped drinking water (Jal Jeevan Mission) and treatment of used water (Swachh Bharath Mission).

What should be done?

  • Reengineering of on-site local treatment systems: It means waste to be collected from each household, transported, and treated in that area.
  • Focus on Reuse: The urban-industrial wastewater and sewage must be treated, recycled, and reused. If it is treated for reuse, then it will prevent water loss and pollution of our rivers. E.g., in Singapore, almost all the water is treated and reused.
  • Minimize wastages: E.g., investing in water-efficient irrigation (‘per drop more crop’), household appliances, and changes in our diets.
  • Focus on traditional water storing structures:g., Baolis (Rajasthan, Gujarat), tanks, Ponds (Talabs), Check dams (called Bandha in the Mewar region), etc.
    • Paar system (western Rajasthan): It is a common place where the rainwater flows from the agar (catchment) and in the process percolates into the sandy soil.
    • Pat System (Bundelkhand region): This system was devised according to the peculiarities of the terrain to divert water from swift-flowing hill streams into irrigation channels called pats.
  • Sponge cities: The treated sewage and wastewater must be diverted to sponges (wetlands, ponds, rain gardens) to recharge the groundwater in the cities and make us water-secure. E.g., done in Beijing (China)

Jal Jeevan Mission success story

Each of the 5,644 residents of Pimpalghar-Ranjnoli village, situated in the industrial belt of Thane (Maharashtra) has to access to 55 litres of water every day. The villagers used funds under the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) to ensure that all 842 families in the village get tap water connections. The village has effectively ensured that residents pay the user charges for tap water.

Maharashtra is one of the leading states in the country in implementing the JJM (71 per cent of households in Maharashtra have access to a tap connection; the national average is just under 52 per cent)


Insta Links

Water management needs a hydro-social approach

Mains Link

Q. Examine the new challenges and strategies on water and its management on account of climate change. (15M)

Prelims Link

Consider the following statements: (UPSC 2015)

  1. The Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme was launched during 1996-97 to provide loan assistance to poor farmers.
  2. The Command Area Development Programme was launched in 1974-75 for the development of water-use efficiency,

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

Answer: B

The Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) was launched in 1996 as a central assistance programme, with the aim to accelerate creation of irrigation potential.

The Command Area Development (CAD) programme was initiated in 1974-75 with a view to bridging the gap between the potential created and its utilisation and optimising agricultural productivity through better management of land and water use in the command areas served by selected major and medium irrigation projects.