Across India, 600 million people face acute water shortages, with around 200,000 dying every year because they lack access to clean water, and it is estimated that at least 30 percent of the population in India is affected in one way or the other by contaminants in water supplies. The situation in Bangalore where access to ground water is now 305 metres below ground level compared to 122 meters five years ago and in the capital, Delhi, which now uses 120 per cent of the ground water recharged every year.
So what can be done to avoid a Day Zero crisis in a country whose water demand by 2030 is projected to be twice the available supply? One possible solution, as suggested by the Science in Public Interest (SPI) Foundation is to access water from the floodplains of India’s numerous rivers. That is because the sands of the floodplains run 100 metres deep, on average, with more than one-third of the volume consisting of water, meaning that the amount of water sitting in the sand is 20 times the virgin flow of these rivers in one year. The Delhi government has implemented a pilot project on the Yamuna’s floodplains, which is supplying clean water to more than a million people. The red line is that the withdrawal rate cannot exceed the rate of natural recharge of the floodplains, but Professor Soni from the SPI Foundation is confident that the supply will last. “One way to keep the floodplain is to convert a 1 – 2 km strip on both sides of the river into forests, orchards or organic vegetables. Then the water could be stored there.” If this pilot project proves successful, it has huge positive implications.