To recap, water available per person has been decreasing since 1950 and it will be 70% of what we have by 2025 if no action is taken today. Although water is usually considered a renewable resource, it is actually a finite one with physical limits on its sustainability not because there is a change in the total water in the world but there are human institutional and financial capital limit to accessing water. Let me explain this.
If we need to store water for 12 months, we need a bigger storage tank than if we needed to store it for only say six months. Thus, if the water flowing through the perennial rivers due to melting of glaciers reduces because there are smaller glaciers to melt, then the barrages to store water will have to be taller. All this deepening of tanks or building of higher barrages needs more money. Another issue is the significant leakages of water in transition, along the pipelines. Finally, we need more manpower and a sophisticated system in place, if the water is to be delivered for more time. Clearly, water supply in relative terms is decreasing in many parts of India, including in our city.
Apart from the physical scarcity of water, the imbalance between demand and supply has put a severe strain on water management and institutional systems. We take care of our needs/ demands through any means/supply possible. In the local context, richer housing societies use ground water supply to augment the municipal supply as per their water demand. Or we make personal arrangements through private hand pumps if we have to take care at individual household level among the rich or poor. This is the ‘big picture’.
What is missing in the big picture is each of us willing to take responsibility for the situation, instead of pointing fingers at others. You know the drinking water we need every day is 20 liters per capita per day (lpcd). What we all get is 60 lpcd in Delhi! So, we get more than enough water to drink and cook. That is all the safe water we need.
What we CAN do is to “create” our own water–locally by simply collecting it instead of letting it flow. Rain Water Harvesting, using recycled water in lawns and gardens are all possible ways to recharge the ground water. It cannot be done unless each of us take appropriate action for this. We in the city are blessed with neighbourhood gardens and almost every colony has its own little patch of greens. We can collect our waste water from kitchen and washing in a cavity in the ground and divert it to these gardens. It is not very expensive. The technology exists. The (Delhi) Government has schemes to support it. But the initiative has to come from you, as RWAs, institutions, etc.
What we will have in return is – control over our own water, a greener and cleaner Delhi and ultimately a replenished water table and a sustainable city.