The industrial and the energy sector’s demand for water is likely to increase to 12% by 2050, but the total available water in the country, which entered the water stressed category after per capita water availability fell to less than 1700 cubic metre per year in 2011, will not be able to meet this demand, experts have pointed out, adding that the corporate sector should undertake water use audit as a priority area in their action plan. Experts said that conservation of water in all sectors has to be of high priority at a time India’s per capita water availability is continuously declining, shrinking from about 5,177 cubic metre in 1951 to 1,545 cubic metre in 2011. If water availability shrinks to 1,000 cubic metre, the country—marred by drought in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, among other states at present—will become water scarce. They said industries can play a vital role in preventing water scarcity through efficient water management mechanism with a focus on recycle and reuse of water. “The aim should be of achieving zero water discharge from the industry. The industry should undertake water use audit in their respective areas, and then recycle/reuse of the waste water for further use. The corporate sector should also examine the links, backward and forward, in their areas of operation, and encourage the industries, in the backward and forward linked sector, to undertake water use audit as well as recycle/reuse of waste water for their further use,” Dr S.K. Sarkar, Director of Water Resources and Forestry in The Energy and Resources Institute, told The Sunday Guardian. Though the industries account for only 2% of the total ground water use, there are some water intensive industries which draw more water from underground than they replenish it. This overdraft of ground water use will make water use more vulnerable to other sectors. The underground aquifers have to be seen holistically. According to water policy analysts, any overdraft by one user will affect the per capita water availability in the long run. Water is a major input of industries. “Waste water discharged from the industries can be treated and reused for non-potable purposes, depending on the quality of treated water. This will reduce the stress on fresh water,” Shresth Tayal, Area Convener, Centre for Himalayan Ecology, told this newspaper.
In the case of industries, which consume about 7-8% of total water in the country, their extraction affects the local water balance and hence overall water availability. Unfortunately, most of the laws in the country, which pertain to the industries’ role in water conservation, are not binding. It is only through mandatory CSR (corporate social responsibility) that some of the corporates are investing in ensuring regional water security and taking up water conservation measures. In fact, the mandatory laws for some group of industries to adopt Zero Liquid Discharge are yet to be fully implemented;they are currently at various stages of being adopted by the industries. Dr Sarkar adds: “There are Water Acts administered by the Ministry of Environment and Forest. These are implemented by the State Pollution Control Boards. In practice, the industry pays the water cess which gives revenue to the Boards. There are practically no conservation of water aspects being looked into by these Boards. Further the effluents of the industries are monitored by the SPCBs to bring them to the accepted level fixed by the MOEF. However, in the absence of real time monitoring, these norms are often violated.” Such flouting of the law needs to be immediately checked as various recent studies have showed that by 2030, the world’s demand of fresh water uses will be over 40% of existing reliable supplies.