India is the biggest user of groundwater. It extracts more groundwater than China and the US – the next two biggest extractors of groundwater combined. According to an estimate, about eighty nine per cent of groundwater extracted in India is used for irrigation, making it the highest category using ground water. Household use comes second with nine per cent share of the extracted groundwater followed by industry that uses only two per cent of it. This kind of use is causing continuous reduction in groundwater level in India.
Arithmetically, India is still water surplus and receives enough annual rainfall to meet the need of over one billion-plus people. According to the Central Water Commission, India needs a maximum of 3,000 billion cubic metres of water a year while it receives 4,000 billion cubic metres of rain. But the problem is that India captures only eight per cent of its annual rainfall, which is woefully inadequate. A recent report prepared under the ministry of water resources cited rising population, rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and increasing water wastage as few significant reasons for sharp decline in groundwater volume in the country.
Farmers, the biggest user of the ground water, should be encouraged to adopt water-conserving irrigation methods. Properly installed drip irrigation system save up to 60-80 per cent more water than conventional systems and results in enhancement of quality and quantity of produce. Time has come when people need to realise that water is not an infinite resource and they need to adopt a responsible, sensitive approach towards this invaluable resource. If we will not save water today, it will not be available to our future generations.
As far as households are concerned, they are also not using water sensibly. According to an estimate, 80 per cent of the water, reaching households in India, is drained out as waste flow through sewage to pollute other water bodies including rivers and land.
Effective communication is required to make people understand that even if they are not living in a drought-stricken region, they can still contribute to the water conservation campaign. Cutting back on water use not only leads to lower utility bills but also helps conserving a precious resource. Minimizing shower usage and choosing water-wise plant alternatives can also help optimize water usage to a large extent. There are many big and small ways to reduce water usage at home.
Industry, agriculture and even households, all should work together to tackle current problem using every kind of media platform like video (Youtube, Vimeo etc.), microblog (Twitter), cross-format (Facebook, Myspace, Google Plus etc.), photo (Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat etc.), messengers (Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, Viber etc.), blogs etc. along with traditional media and on-ground activities. All need to be galvanised into positive action.
Change of public mind-set could play a much bigger role than the State-led infrastructural push. Strategic communication has a key role to play here. When information circulates, it not only improves awareness but also nudges people towards finding solutions. Besides, public awareness could inspire the industry, the relevant civic bodies and the opinion makers to address this rapidly-unfolding crisis and take necessary corrective actions.