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New National Water Policy

National Water Policy


Last year, the Ministry of Jal Shakti unveiled an ambitious plan to ensure that every household in India gets access to water connections by 2024. In this context, a new or updated National Water Policy can play a crucial role in making this goal a reality.


In November 2019, the Ministry of Jal Shakti formed a team of independent experts to create a fresh National Water Policy (NWP). It was a notable move as it was the first time the government sought the insights of independent thinkers for this task. Over the next year, the committee collected 124 inputs from various sources, including state and central governments, scholars, and professionals. The upcoming NWP will be shaped by the shared agreement that emerged from these extensive discussions.


The National Water Policy aims to understand the current situation and suggest a plan to establish laws, institutions, and actions with a unified national approach regarding water management.

NITI Aayog’s Composite Water Management Index

  • In 2019, a study by the think tank NITI Aayog revealed that 21 major cities, such as Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Hyderabad, were dangerously close to running out of groundwater. This crisis was impacting around 100 million people.
  • The report also highlighted a concerning prediction: by 2030, the demand for water is expected to be double the amount of water available. This situation poses a significant challenge for ensuring an adequate water supply in the future.

Over Dependence on Ground Water

  • In the rural areas, 80%-90% of the drinking water and 75% of the water used for agriculture is drawn from groundwater sources.
  • In urban areas, 50%-60% of the water supply is drawn from groundwater sources, whereas the remaining is sourced from surface water resources such as rivers, often located afar, in addition to lakes, tanks and reservoirs.

Important Points from Draft New National Water Policy

Understanding Water Sources: The plan emphasizes the need to really grasp where India gets its water from to meet various needs.

Teamwork among Ministries: The Ministry of Water Resources is encouraged to work closely with other departments like Urban Development, Local Self-Government, and Environment.

Smart Rules for Land and Water Use: The policy suggests updating regulations to protect urban water bodies, groundwater, wetlands, and green spaces. It also promotes better wastewater recycling and rainwater harvesting.

Encouraging Crop Variety: The idea is to diversify the types of crops the country supports in order to save water. Farmers would benefit from growing a mix of nutri-cereals, pulses, and oilseeds.

Reduce-Recycle-Reuse in Cities: The focus for urban water supply and wastewater management should be on reducing, recycling, and reusing water.

Nature-Based Solutions: Embracing nature-based solutions like restoring catchment areas and implementing blue-green infrastructure (rain gardens, bio-swales, etc.) in urban areas is suggested.

Groundwater Restoration: Immediate steps are needed to manage and replenish groundwater, with communities actively involved in the process.

Tech Advancements in Water Management: Integrating technological advancements in hydrology, hydrogeology, and agriculture sciences can improve water sustainability.

Surface Water Conservation: While groundwater is vital, the policy reminds us not to forget about surface water conservation, addressing issues like pollution and encroachment in rivers and lakes.

Local Involvement in Planning: Local governing bodies and water user associations should play a key role in planning new projects.

Focus on Water Quality: The policy sees water quality as a big concern and recommends setting up water quality departments in all water ministries.

Eco-Friendly Sewage Treatment: Using environmentally friendly technologies for sewage treatment is encouraged, discouraging the use of reverse osmosis in areas where it’s not needed.

Task Force for Water Contaminants: A special task force is proposed to better understand and deal with emerging water contaminants.

Revamping Water Governance: The policy suggests a major overhaul of water governance, addressing issues between irrigation and drinking water, surface and groundwater, and water and wastewater.

National Water Commission: Finally, the plan suggests creating a National Water Commission that brings together experts from different fields to set an example for states to follow.

Water Crisis in Our Country through Case Studies


  • In 2019, Chennai City faced a drought-like situation because of poor water management. The problem started when floodplains were taken over and lakes were paved over, which would have naturally helped recharge groundwater.
  • The city’s struggle was worsened because there wasn’t enough space for rainwater to soak into the ground and replenish the aquifers. This lack of underground water recharge made the situation more challenging.
  • The issue was compounded by the loss of green areas. These green spaces, which could have helped retain water, were sacrificed for infrastructure projects. This loss further contributed to the city’s water problems.
  • The consequences of these actions were twofold. First, during regular rainfall, the city experienced flooding because the water had nowhere to go. Second, during drier periods, there was a drought-like situation due to the inability to store water underground.

 Case 2:

  • A recent report by the Central Ground Water Board warns that if Punjab continues to use its underground water like it has been, the state could turn into a desert in just 25 years.
  • A whopping 82% of Punjab’s land is facing a serious drop in groundwater levels. Out of 138 administrative blocks, 109 are now considered ‘over exploited.’
  • Back in the 1960s and 1970s, only 35% of groundwater was being used. However, after the Green Revolution, it shot up to 70%. During this time, the government subsidized power for irrigation, leading to tube wells running for long hours.
  • The cultivation of water-intensive crops like paddy has worsened the water problem. In fact, it has not only depleted water but has also made it saline.


Since everyone has valuable insights about water, the government should work closely with the main people involved in water-related activities. These individuals should be essential members of the National Water Commission (NWC) and similar bodies at the state level. Our community has a rich history of managing water, and their traditional knowledge is a priceless asset that we should make the most of.

Read Also: National Climate Law: India’s Plan to Reduce Carbon Emissions

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