Chandana Kiran

Chandana Kiran is incubating at the Intellecap Innovation Labs; a new initiative from the Aavishkaar-Intellecap Group focused on leveraging exponential technologies to solve challenges faced by low-income communities in emerging markets. She has worked extensively with various hi-tech fortune 500 companies and is interested to solve problems in the development sector utilizing world class technologies.

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Competing for Finite Resources - Water Matters!

Several technology innovations like atmospheric water generators, desalination etc. holds promise to mitigate the water scarcity in future.

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Global water crises – from drought in the world’s most productive farmlands to the millions of people without access to safe drinking water – are the biggest threat facing the planet over the next decade. With increasing demand, due to the growing population and unsustainable lifestyle, many countries are facing severe water crises. In the absence of suitable corrective measures, many developing countries including India will have to face crisis of water scarcity.  

The Indian Context

India is not water poor country, availability of rain water, surface and ground water are not an imperative problem, but inequity due to population growth, rapid urbanization and inefficient resource management, water is becoming a scarce commodity. This crisis is an emergency and calls for attention by all the stakeholders to make sustainable and intelligent use of the available water resources.

Source: Central Water Commission

With ~25% (estimated) Increase in population the demand rises by ~360 billion m3 and the supply drops by ~1065 billion m3 and this being only for domestic consumption. By 2050, the amount of ground and surface water available for supply is estimate to have dropped by more than 40%. While there is increased emphasis on equitable access, affordability, quality water availability, recycle / reuse and several conservation initiatives, efficient utilization of existing water across dimensions of usage becomes an impetus to meet the future water demand.

Efficiency is the key

A concerted effort is required to bring in a paradigm shift in approach to achieve higher standards of efficiency in water use across sectors involving all stakeholders central and state government, municipalities, industries etc. While rebuilding and modernizing a massive water systems offer an opportunity to chart a sustainable, prosperous course for the nation. These are not the only solution to resolve water scarcity and stress. Investments in form of capital, advanced technology, process and good governance in water can futureproof a nation like India against water crisis.  While there are different approaches (mainly top down) of standards, regulations guiding industrial consumption of water for increased efficiency bearing reuse and recycle of water, there are several other sectors which are still not under the purview for good water management practices. Applying good governance and particularly the principles of equity, transparency and accountability in water management across industrial, agriculture and domestic use can ease the intensity of the problem. With a mere 1% improved utilization of groundwater, 150 litres per day per capita for 500000 individuals can be created.

Innovations must lead the way

Developing advanced technology innovations are an impetus to ensure that water is available, affordable, and accessible in the face of population growth, climate change, and the challenges of aging infrastructure. While some sectors have adopted to innovative practices /technologies sectors like agriculture lag in widespread adoption of newer technologies and continues to depend on conventional water resources. While innovations like drip irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, smart climate based moisture management have paved its way, many technologies like digital farming, precision farming etc. which have proven efficiency, financial gains and widely adopted in developed world have not yet been adopted in emerging markets like India. Proven approaches to grow paddy with ~60% less water with same quality and better yield, which conventionally are grown on river basin with abundance of water, are examples of innovative approaches that have not been adopted at scale. Like agriculture, the domestic consumption of water continues to only increase, in appropriate technologies like Reverse Osmosis for potable water purification system continues widespread adoption while this technologies wastes ~40% of the input or for every 1 litre of purified water 3 to 4 litres is wasted, ultrafiltration and ultra violet technologies which wastes no or limited water are yet to be adopted widely. Smart water metering coupled with water tariff system which pinches pockets will dictate the future towards efficient and intelligent water use, unfortunately are still concepts on drawing boards.

Several technology innovations like atmospheric water generators, desalination etc. holds promise to mitigate the water scarcity in future. There needs to be an interim approach to balance the demand and supply inequity through better / smart water management practices across sectors and intelligently utilize this high value finite resource.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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