Home > politics > policy > More than half of India facing high water stress from over-usage

New Delhi: More than half of India is facing high water stress as farmers and industries compete for the resource in the world’s second-most populous nation, according to the World Resources Institute.

An analysis of 4,000 wells across India showed water levels fell 54% the past seven years. 16% declined more than 1 meter (3.3 feet) a year, Betsy Otto, global director of WRI’s water programme, said Friday.

The northwestern states of Punjab and Haryana, which grow half of India’s rice and 85% of its wheat, are among the most water-stressed, according to WRI. India’s already lost groundwater equal to more than twice the capacity of Lake Mead, the biggest US reservoir, as overuse combined with a lack of replenishment shrank supplies, a NASA study has shown.

Otto spoke in New Delhi at the introduction of an online water tool built by WRI with help from Indian companies and the World Council for Sustainable Business Development that allows users to understand the quality and quantity of ground and surface water across India, Asia’s third-biggest economy.

It shows that almost 600 million people may have to counter supply disruptions as surface water from rivers and lakes declines. India draws 55 cubic miles of groundwater a year, more than a quarter of the global total, according to World Bank data. Agriculture uses the most, growing about 70% of India’s grains with it, followed by industry.

WRI’s tool compiles data from various Indian government departments including the Central Ground Water Board, the India Meteorological Department and Columbia Water Center to help companies measure water risk at their locations.

A day earlier, India said it’s spent Rs5,900 crore ($956 million) on sewage and waste treatment to begin cleaning its threatened waterway, the Ganges River. And the Indian government, operator of the world’s fourth-biggest railway network, announced plans to build more rainwater harvesting tanks and water-vending machines at stations to boost supplies. Bloomberg

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