Hyderabad: Urban areas under the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA), covering seven districts, consume 20 times more water compared to rural areas, according to a year-long study by the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad (IIT-H).
As much as 96% of the water used in the region was “virtual", while only 4% was consumed directly by the people, found the report, published in peer-reviewed international journal Sustainable Cities and Society.
“Virtual" water, or freshwater used to produce a commodity, was most used by the food industry (70%), followed by the power sector (25%), said an IIT-H press note.
The assessment of virtual water content in products was done across four broad categories—food consumption, fossil fuel, power and direct water (municipal drinking water). The study found that surprisingly the fossil fuel sector used only 1% of the total water consumed in the HMDA region. “Such hidden consumption patterns put enormous pressure on the already taxed water resources, which necessitates a proactive plan for conservation activities," the release said.
The research team was headed by Prof. Dornadula Chandrasekharam, visiting professor, department of civil engineering, IIT-H, and comprised Dagani Koteswar Rao, a research scholar. The team undertook state-of-the-art research to understand the water consumption pattern in urban areas. “This was a consumer-centric study and is ongoing. The partial results, which we shared, was a result of work done over a period of over one year. We are now focusing on industrial and commercial patterns," Chandrasekharam said in an interview.
He added that “water footprint" extends far beyond the every-day consumption of direct water by the masses. “Every single item that we use in our daily life has used water at some part of its life-cycle. Water that is hidden in non-obvious human commodity is called “virtual water" and “water footprint" measures the amount of water that has gone into goods and services that we use," said Chandrasekharam.
The study found that agriculture accounts for 70% of the consumption of “physical" water, or water that is available naturally.
The research will be crucial to optimise water usage in Hyderabad and its surrounding rural and urban areas, especially at a time when metros, such as Chennai, are facing acute drinking water shortage.
Hyderabad has so far been able to sustain itself in terms of water supply without any major issues thanks to major reservoirs in the state. In June, the Telangana government inaugurated the ₹80,190 crore Kaleswaram lift irrigation project, through which a total of 225 thousand million cubic feet of water will be drawn from the Godavari river basin.