How many of us know that of the total amount of water on Earth, 97.5% is salt water and only 2.5% is fresh water. Only 0.3% of the fresh water is in liquid form on the surface. Nearly 3x the volume on the surface lies beneath it and is called “groundwater”.

by dr. Parag Agarwal

Every day the governments of the world face the challenge of making safe drinking water available to their people. When people think of fresh water, they think of rivers, wetlands, lakes or reservoirs. How many of us know that of the total amount of water on Earth, 97.5% is salt water and only 2.5% is fresh water. Only 0.3% of the fresh water is in liquid form on the surface. Nearly 3x the volume on the surface lies beneath it and is called “groundwater”.

India stores only 6% of its annual rainfall and therefore relies excessively on groundwater resources to meet the needs of its 1.3 billion people. Despite sufficient average rainfall in India, there is a large area under the less water conditions/drought sensitive. There are many places where groundwater quality is poor and not suitable for human consumption. Another problem lies in the interstate distribution of rivers. The water supply of 90% of India’s territory is served by interstate rivers. It has led to a growing number of conflicts in the United States and across the country in general over water-sharing issues. Therefore, it is essential to conserve groundwater and focus on replenishing it, as it is an essential resource to support our biodiversity, the ever-increasing food consumption by humans, livestock and livestock and to meet other needs.

The theme of World Water Day 2022 is ‘Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible’. However, the seriousness of the situation needs to be reinforced beyond the title. For a country witnessing constant population growth, groundwater management is inevitable to meet the demand for fresh water. India’s problem will be water, not her people. I would like to illustrate this by highlighting some situations that are already occurring and that need to be put into perspective to understand the seriousness of the problem.

It was recently reported that Taiwan and India have been working on a mega deal to set up a semiconductor chip factory valued at $7.5 billion in India. This would deliver everything from 5G devices to electric cars. The surge in sales of electronic devices during the pandemic has fueled a huge demand for semiconductors. But COVID-19 is not the only factor behind the shortage. But how many of us know that water is fundamental to semiconductor manufacturing? Through a series of steps, semiconductors are built into layers on silicon wafers into integrated circuits known as microchips. To make one integrated circuit on a 30 cm wafer, approx. 2200 liters of water. That is no less than 8300 liters of the purest form of water for a wafer of 30 cm. To further provide a perspective: this amount of drinking water can serve an Indian household for a whole year.

For the past two years, China has been in conflict with India on its northeastern border. Geographically, China is in a favorable position and can build infrastructure to deliberately prevent water from flowing downstream into India. The Yarlung Tsangpo River flows through Tibet and eventually becomes the Brahmaputra River when it enters India. China already approved a superdam in Tibet last year and has a total of 28 proposed dams in the river basin. India’s water security is clearly under threat.

Looking inward, the rapid pace of urbanization poses a major threat to our groundwater supplies. It affects not only the amount of water available, but also its quality and chokes groundwater levels due to the concrete poured into the foundations of buildings. The deteriorated quantity and quality of water is extremely harmful to the health of the people who are forced to consume it due to lack of access to safe water. As a result, people are dealing with waterborne diseases that contribute to almost 70% of the diseases, especially in women and children. It is well known that waterborne diseases negatively affect the economic situation of families through loss of income and hefty medical costs.

Depletion of groundwater levels cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. Every citizen is a stakeholder and must pay due attention to water conservation. It is important to understand that India will not run out of water; India’s water is running out without realizing all its potential benefits.

Since 2019, the Government of India has built a laser focus on implementing the world’s largest public welfare scheme under the Jal Jeevan mission. Nal se Jal and Har Ghar Jal have now become synonymous with all the states and territories of the Union to which thousands of crores of rupees have been allocated for the implementation of their respective annual targets. While building new water infrastructure is essential, it is also important to focus on using the existing water treatment infrastructure already installed to serve communities in semi-urban, rural and even urban areas. The only way to optimize water infrastructure is by using technology to optimize the operation and operation of utilities such as Jal Nigams and Jal Boards. Applying decentralized water treatment and water distribution methodologies will have a multiplier effect on the results and help the different administrations achieve their goals in a short time.

Water cannot be produced in a laboratory. The only way to increase its availability is through conservation, efficient water treatment and optimal use. Increasing accessibility in an affordable way will increase people’s awareness of consumption. In order to appreciate water, water must be valued.

So it can easily be concluded that “water is life”. Of the 17 SDG goals set by the United Nations, SDG 6 stands for Clean Water, while water directly or indirectly affects another 9 SDGs. No technical failure can ever replace the need for humans to consume safe water to survive. Tech can only increase quality, availability and accessibility.

The only way, I think, is to focus on recharging groundwater levels and exploiting existing water resources, along with supporting water treatment and distribution infrastructure through a multi-faceted, multi-faceted and multilateral approach.

(The author is founder and CEO, JanaJal. Opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)

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