Water Scarcity in New Delhi

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Water Shortage in New Delhi: A Growing Crisis

Water is indispensible in life since humans cannot survive without it. In addition to its crucial role in survival, it can improve economic activities in a given area or derail them (Rai and Nagpal 2017). The planet although containing more than 332million cubic miles, only a mere 2% of this volume is freshwater (Kuberan et al., 2015). There are millions of people spread around the globe who lack access to adequate water supply, with double the figure lacking access to clean water meaning that they have access to unsafe drinking water (Rai and Nagpal 2017). In the recent years, a new challenge has emerged as countries and cities around the globe have found themselves experiencing drastic water shortage and their underground aquifers that they have relied on for survival, drying up (Kuberan et al., 2015). One city that is currently experiencing water scarcity is New Delhi, with policymakers and scientists attributing the scarcity to a rapidly growing population, depletion of groundwater table and deficit rainfall. This report seeks to explore water shortage in New Delhi and propose possible solutions to it.

Water Shortage Situation

A report developed by World Bank experts elucidates that the wars that will be fought in the future by neighboring countries around the globe, will be attributable to the scarcity and need to control diminishing water resources (Connor 2015). Historically, the city of New Delhi has relied mainly on its underground water table to meet the needs of its residents, an approach that has become untenable within the last decade as the population has risen rapidly from 18,691,300 in 2005 to 25,865,875 in 2015 and 28,513,682 in 2018 (Phukan and Phukan, 2018). The drastic growth in population coupled with insufficient rainfall in the metropolitan and surrounding regions such as the Haryana has seen the water resource continue to get depleted with each new dawn (Phukan and Phukan, 2018). The authorities have undertaken to ration the available water to make sure that a significant percentage of the residents receive a share of the basic need, an endeavor that is still proving challenging taking into consideration that the city is receiving 851million gallons per day (MGD) against the normal peak supply of 916 MGD (Phukan and Phukan, 2018). The pond levels at Wazirabad which is the main source of water to the metropolitan area has been dropping each day to a low of 671ft against a normal level of 697ft (Singh 2018).

Figure 1: New Delhi Projected Population Growth

Proposed Solution

The declining water supply makes it crucial to formulate approaches that can be adopted by the local leaders to make sure that the city and residents do not sink into a crisis and make sure water supply is restored to the normal level and the locals get their fair share of the scarce commodity (Cheong, Choi and Lee, 2016). The first proposal is to make sure that technology is integrated into water treatment and storage. The second proposal is to adapt public sensitization on the importance of water savings and the last proposal is desalination of sea water. New Delhi relies heavily on surface water from its neighboring states such as Haryana (Singh 2018). The growth in population within the city means that its residents will consume more water in the next few years, an aspect which is likely to put a strain on its deteriorating relationship with these states since they have their fair share of population to serve with their water supply.

The city’s shortage of water supply can be met without putting a strain on its three neighbors if it focuses on water treatment and storage which will focus on treating the wastewater that the management of the metropolitan lets go to waste (Singh 2018). For instance, the city’s administration can consider rehabilitating River Yamuna which is one of the longest rivers in the country and which has become open sewer because of decades of misuse and exploitation (Biswas, Saklani and Tortajada, 2017). The rehabilitation, treatment and storage of the water into underground tanks for use by the residents can go a long way in making sure that it stops the overreliance on underground water. The overdependence on underground water has led to widespread contamination since the nitrate concentration in groundwater has risen to high of 1500mg/l which is a health hazard (Biswas et al., 2017).

The second proposal is widespread public sensitization on water saving and management through community outreach programs that will make sure all stakeholders within the society such as the locals, the public and private sector take an active role in water resource management (Cheong et al., 2016). The approach will make sure people start harvesting water and public-private partnerships to harvest water are developed to realize citywide water harvesting of rainwater (Cheong et al., 2016). The approach will also help the people embrace latest technologies in water management, making sure no water within the city goes to waste. The third approach is desalination which will see the national government collaborate with the state government to address the shortage of water not only in New Delhi but other regions of the country that are arid (Rousseau 2014). The approach is however, challenging to actualize taking into consideration the need for extensive investment in desalination plants and technology beyond the ones in Tamil Nadu and Jamnagar (Rousseau 2014). Desalination offers a viable solution to shortage of freshwater in the country and it can be used as a lasting solution to the nation’s perennial water shortage.

Recommended Approach

The approach that the city of New Delhi needs to adapt is the community approach which is based on the capitalization of the local resources (Cheong et al., 2016). The approach is sustainable since it does not encompass significant resource investment by the state, local and national government and it focuses on bringing every stakeholder within the New Delhi state onboard the water management issue. The strategy will make sure that the locals start taking into consideration the impact their actions such as open dumping into the flowing rivers has, as well as make sure that water harvesting becomes ingrained into them (Cheong et al., 2016). The public-private partnership resulting from the community approach will help ensure that the existing infrastructure such as water production, treatment and even water networks are expanded and more people are capable of accessing it. According to Cheong et al., (2016) the expansion and widespread contribution of each stakeholder will lead to efficient management of the resource which is crucial if New Delhi is to realize sufficient water supply ever again.


Biswas, A., Saklani, U. and Tortajada, C. 2017. Solution to Delhi�s never-ending water problems. [online] Indiawaterreview.in. Available at: http://www.indiawaterreview.in/Story/GuestColumns/solution-to-delhis-neverending-water-problems/2049/5#.W-G6XtIzbIU [Accessed 6 Nov. 2018].

Cheong, S.M., Choi, G.W. and Lee, H.S., 2016. Barriers and solutions to smart water grid development. Environmental management, 57(3), pp.509-515.

Connor, R., 2015. The United Nations world water development report 2015: water for a sustainable world (Vol. 1). UNESCO Publishing.

Kuberan, A., Singh, A.K., Kasav, J.B., Prasad, S., Surapaneni, K.M., Upadhyay, V. and Joshi, A., 2015. Water and sanitation hygiene knowledge, attitude, and practices among household members living in rural setting of India. Journal of natural science, biology, and medicine, 6(Suppl 1), p.S69.

Phukan, R. and Phukan, R. 2018. Water Shortage Problem in Delhi - Causes and Solutions. [online] My India. Available at: https://www.mapsofindia.com/my-india/society/water-problem-in-delhi-causes-and-solutions [Accessed 6 Nov. 2018].

Rai, S.C. and Nagpal, J., 2017. An Assessment of Domestic Water Use Practices in Delhi. In Sustainable Smart Cities in India (pp. 445-458). Springer, Cham.

 Rousseau, P. 2014. 5 ways to solve India’s water crisis. [online] World Economic Forum. Available at: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/11/five-ways-solve-indias-water-crisis/ [Accessed 6 Nov. 2018].

Singh, P. 2018. Why Delhi is staring at a water crisis - Times of India. [online] The Times of India. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/why-delhi-is-staring-at-a-water-crisis/articleshow/64228440.cms [Accessed 6 Nov. 2018].

August 21, 2023



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