India's water resources
- The past ten years have seen droughts in areas as water rich as parts of Kerala. The reason for this has been the persistent deforestation of the Western Ghats.
- Areas like Cherrapunji, which have the world's highest rainfall, have now developed acute water shortage.
- In many parts of India and other developing countries, women and children spend most of their lifetime carrying water from distant sources. With better conservation and distribution, this colossal waste of man-hours can be easily and effectively reduced.
- Excessive deforestation results in silting of the rivers, thereby reducing their water-holding capacity, which in turn, results in the spilling over and flooding of adjacent areas.
- Thick plant cover reduces the amount of run-off water and helps in re-charging the ground water.
- 1,683 million cubic metres of water flow through Indian rivers every year.
- Seventy per cent of all the water available in India is polluted. About 73 million work days are lost due to water-related diseases.
- Human settlements discharge four times as much waste into water bodies as do industries.
- Water-borne diseases such as typhoid, jaundice, cholera, diarrhoea and dysentery account for 66% of all illnesses in India.
- Three-fourths of the total water consumed is used for cleaning and washing and is converted into sewage water. This can be reduced by the economical use of water and diversion of kitchen and bath water for gardening or agriculture. In this way, the summer months are assured of sufficient water.
- Urban families use 6 times as much water as rural families.
- When too much water is drawn from the ground near the coastal region, there are instances of sea water intrusion and many wells have had to be abandoned.
Facts about water resources
- 75% of the rainfall is received during the monsoon period (June - October). Tamil Nadu receives rain from the Northeast Monsoon.
- 85 - 90% of the rain water flows into the sea.
- By the year 2000, 40% of the area under crops will be unirrigated.
- If we do not stop constructing dams, there will be hardly any free-flowing rivers left in the country.
- 71% of water is lost from unlined canals, due to seepage.
- Extraordinarily high rate of infant mortality is caused by water-borne infections.
- Fresh water is contaminated with nitrates from chemically supported agriculture.
- Many lakes and reservoirs are becoming eutrophied (enrichment of organic nutrients) and their ability to support aquatic life is being lost.
- Untreated water causes 25,000 deaths a day, in developing countries.
- 1500 million km3 - This is the global water quantity present in our earth !
- Sewage, nutrients, toxic metals and industrial and agricultural chemicals are the main water pollutants
- The main cause of cholera is contamination of water by domestic sewage.
- Mining and other industries are the major sources of contamination of water by metals.
- Industries contribute to acidification of water by release of nitrogen and sulphur oxides into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels.
- Deforestation and destruction of wetland areas are the causes or increased sediment in water.
- Pollution has reduced the annual rainfall from 40,000 km3 to 9000 km3.
- In the hydrological cycle of evaporation and purification, ground water renewal takes 1400 years
- 450 km3 of waste water enter the world's rivers. 6000 km3 of water is needed to transport this waste away and dilute it.
- One fifth of urban population and three quarters of the rural population in developing countries, have no access to safe drinking water.
- In India irrigation accounts for 97% of all water used.
- Put a couple of bricks in the lavatory cistern to reduce its capacity.
Conservation of water at home
- Water should not be wasted. Leaking taps must be repaired and all taps should be closed when not in use.
- Hand pumps should be well maintained to perform effectively.
- Overhead storage tanks should be maintained in good condition. PVC tanks which are cheaper and lighter in weight and which will not corrode or rust are preferable to metal tanks.
- Rain water can be collected and stored for domestic purposes.
Conservation of water by the community
- Canals, tanks, etc. must be de-silted regularly during the summer months.
- People should be encouraged to revive the ancient practice of protecting trees around tanks. Major rivers should be sanctified and groves established around villages and on the river banks.
- Afforestation of barren, hilly slopes on a warfooting should be carried out. Trees withstand drought better than crops. They trap dust, replenish streams, provide shade to cattle and man and give fodder for cattle. Their uses to man are innumerable. Denuding the land of trees without compensatory afforestation is a suicidal and short sighted approach to solving immediate needs.
- Creation of small reservoirs and percolation tanks to hold run-off water must be implemented and maintained well.
Conservation of water by farmers
- Agronomic practices like off-season tillage (prior to pre-monsoon showers) conserve soil moisture. Moisture penetration to a depth of 90 cm is achieved if the land is ploughed to a depth of 30 cm. Other practices like early sowing of seeds, moderate use of fertilisers, weeding, pest and disease control and timely harvesting increase the yield inspite of limited moisture in the soil.
- Mulching the soil with organic residue conserves soil moisture.
- Terrace cultivation of hilly slopes prevents water run off.
- Contour ploughing and planting of grasses and trees check run-off water and increase the soil's capacity to retain moisture.
- Green manuring ( incorporation of fresh green leaves into the soil) and crop-rotation (cultivating different crops in rotation depending upon the soil and climate, e.g. cereals followed by legumes) conserve soil moisture.
- The use of sprinkler irrigation for closely spaced crops like millets, pulses, groundnuts, etc. conserves 30 to 40% of the surface water.
- Drip irrigation is most suited for closely spaced row crops like vegetables, cotton, sugarcane. The efficiency of this system is around 25 to 30% in conserving soil moisture. The cheapest and easiest form of drip irrigation is to drill one to three holes in a mud pot and bury it partially in the soil next to the plant. The water in the pot drips slowly, ensuring that the soil is continuously moist and the plant gets a constant supply of water.
- Harvesting rain water and storing it in small ponds ensures water supply during summer.
- All these practices are useful only if utilised properly.
Tips to save water!!
- Close taps tightly.
- Fix leaking taps, faucets, pipes, etc. immediately and check them regularly for leaks.
- Put a couple of bricks in the lavatory cistern to reduce its capacity. Or, install one of the new flush toilets that use less water.
- Check for leaks in your toilet tank by putting a little food colouring in the cistern. If the colour begins to appear in the bowl without flushing, you have a leak that should be fixed at once.
- When brushing your teeth, shaving or washing your hands, never leave your tap running. Fill a glass or bowl with water for rinsing the mouth,
shaving or brushing.
- Don't use the shower. A bucket of water will suffice for a bath.
- Wash vegetables, fruit and meat in a bowl of water, washing the cleanest
ones first. Use this water for your plants.
- Use water from cooked vegetables for cooking dhal or rice. Not only will you save water, you will benefit as well, as it is full of nutritious vitamins and minerals.
- Wash your vehicles with a bucket and sponge instead of a hose which uses about 400 litres of water. By using a bucket, upto 300 litres can be saved.
Source : CPR Environmental Education Centre, Chennai
Kid's corner - Water Conservation
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