Water management is referred to the planning, developing, distributing and optimum use of water resources under defined water polices and regulations. 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. The upstream countries could starve the downstream nation’s leading to political unstable areas across the world. Examples are Ethopia, which is upstream on the Nile and Egypt, which is downstream and highly dependent on the Nile. 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:
• Building several small reservoirs instead of few mega projects.
• Develop small catchment dams and protect wetlands.
• Soil management, micro catchment development and afforestation permits recharging of underground aquifers thus reducing the need for large dams.
• Treating and recycling municipal waste water for agricultural use.
• Preventing leakages from dams and canals.
• Preventing loss in Municipal pipes.
• Effective rain water harvesting in urban environments.
• Water conservation measures in agriculture such as using drip irrigation.
• Pricing water at its real value makes people use it more responsibly and efficiently and reduces water wasting.
• In deforested areas where land has been degraded, soil management by bunding along the hill slopes and making ‘nala’ plugs, can help retain moisture and make it possible to re-vegetate degraded areas.
Problems of Dams
• Fragmentation and physical transformation of rivers.
• Serious impacts on riverine ecosystems.
• Social consequences of large dams due to displacement of people.
• Water logging and Stalinization of surrounding lands.
• Dislodging animal populations, damaging their habitat and cutting off their migration routes.
• Fishing and travel by boat disrupted.
• The emission of green house gases from reservoirs due to rotting vegetation and carbon inflows from the catchment is a recently identified impact.
Government regulation on Water Resources
The Ministry of Water Resources is responsible for laying down policy guidelines and programmes for the development and regulation of country's water resources. The Ministry has been allocated the following functions:-
• Overall planning, policy formulation, coordination and guidance in the water resources sector.
• Technical guidance, scrutiny, clearance and monitoring of the irrigation, flood control and multi-purpose projects (major/medium).
• General infrastructural, technical and research support for sect oral development.
• Providing special Central financial assistance for specific projects and assistance in obtaining external finance from World Bank and other agencies.
• Overall policy formulation, planning and guidance in respect of minor irrigation and command area development, administration and monitoring of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes and promotion of participatory irrigation management.
• Overall planning for the development of ground water resources, establishment of utilizable resources and formulation of policies of exploitation, overseeing of and support to State level activities in ground water development.
• Formulation of national water development perspective and the determination of the water balance of different basins/sub-basins for consideration of possibilities of inter-basin transfers.
• Coordination, mediation and facilitation in regard to the resolution of differences or disputes relating to inter-state rivers and in some instances, the overseeing of the implementation of inter-state projects.
• Operation of the central network for flood forecasting and warning on inter-state rivers, the provision of central assistance for some State Schemes in special cases and preparation of flood control master plans for the Ganga and the Brahmaputra.
• Talks and negotiations with neighbouring countries, in regard to river waters, water resources development projects and the operation of the Indus Water Treaty.