Water resource management is the activity of planning, developing, distributing and managing the optimum use of water resources. It is a sub-set of water cycle management. Ideally, water resource management planning has regard to all the competing demands for water and seeks to allocate water on an equitable basis to satisfy all uses and demands. As with other resource management, this is rarely possible in practice.
The water cycle, through evaporation and precipitation, maintains hydrological systems which form rivers and lakes and support in a variety of aquatic ecosystems. Wetlands are intermediate forms between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and contain species of plants and animals that are highly moisture dependent.
Statistics on Water
Water covers 70% of the earth’s surface but only 3% of this is fresh water. Of this, 2% is in polar ice caps and only 1% is usable water in rivers, lakes and subsoil aquifers. Only a fraction of this can be actually used. At a global level 70% of water is used for agriculture about 25% for industry and only 5% for domestic use. However this varies in different countries and industrialized countries use a greater percentage for industry. India uses 90% for agriculture, 7% for industry and 3% for domestic use. The total annual freshwater withdrawals today are estimated at 3800 cubic kilometers, twice as much as just 50 years ago (World Commission on Dams, 2000). Studies indicate that a person needs a minimum of 20 to 40 liters of water per day for drinking and sanitation. More than one billion people worldwide have no access to clean water.
India is expected to face critical levels of water stress by 2025. At the global level 31 countries are already short of water and by 2025 there will be 48 countries facing serious water shortages. The UN has estimated that by the year 2050, 4 billion people will be seriously affected by water shortages. This will lead to multiple conflicts between countries over the sharing of water. Around 20 major cities in India face chronic or interrupted water shortages. There are 100 countries that share the waters of 13 large rivers and lakes. International accords that will look at a fair distribution of water in such areas will become critical to world peace. India and Bangladesh already have a negotiated agreement on the water use of the Ganges.
Sustainable Water Management: ‘Save water’ campaigns are essential to make people everywhere aware of the dangers of water scarcity. A number of measures need to be taken for the better management of the world’s water resources. These include measures such as:
Sardar Sarovar Project
The World Bank’s withdrawal from the Sardar Sarovar Project in India in 1993 was a result of the demands of local people threatened with the loss of their livelihoods and homes in the submergence area. This dam in Gujarat on the Narmada has displaced thousands of tribal folk, whose lives and livelihoods were linked to the river, the forests and their agricultural lands. While they and the fishermen at the estuary have lost their homeland, rich farmers downstream will get water for agriculture.
Kulhs in Himachal Pradesh
Parts of Himachal Pradesh had evolved a local system of canal irrigation called kulhs over four hundred years ago. The water flowing in the streams was diverted into man-made channels which took this water to numerous villages down the hillside. The management of the water flowing in these kulhs was by common agreement among all the villages. Interestingly, during the planting season, water was first used by the village farthest away from the source of the kulh, then by villages progressively higher up. These kulhs were managed by two or three people who were paid by the villagers. In addition to irrigation, water from these kulhs also percolated into the soil and fed springs at various points. After the kulhs were taken over by the Irrigation Department, most of them became defunct and there is no amicable sharing of water as before.
Water harvesting is an age-old concept in India. They are called as