Deccan Chronicle

Source Sustainability a priority for drinking water supply in rural India

Deccan Chronicle. | DC Correspondent

Published on: June 15, 2023 | Updated on: June 15, 2023
The nation-wide campaign Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain .(File image: DC)

The nation-wide campaign Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain .(File image: DC)

India is on a phenomenal trajectory to ensure access to safe drinking water for all its citizens. Today is a historic moment for the country as more than 12 Crore (62%) rural households are now connected with tap water. Since the launch of Jal Jeevan Mission on 15 th August 2019, 8,84,06,310 2 households have been provided with tap water connections. Many folds jump in pipe water supply in rural areas shows the commitment of the Government of India and State
governments/ UTs. The efforts made by the government even during various disruptions needs to be lauded for taking up such an ambitious goal of reaching every rural home with tap water connection within 5 years.

Source sustainability coupled with quality issues arising due to anthropogenic activities, geogenic contaminants and uncertainties posed by climate change is the main challenge being faced by Jal Jeevan Mission. Hence, there is need to take cognisance of the local diversity, go beyond the minimalist visualisation of pipelines and tap connections and encourage local innovations, community involvement and source sustainability.

Source sustainability is an important component under Jal Jeevan Mission which is also aligned with the recently concluded UN Water Conference 2023. It solidifies a growing global understanding on water security, especially safe access to WASH, underpinning every other development goal. Further it is a "linchpin for global resilience," particularly for climate adaptation, food security, economic growth, global health, and gender equality. No one can thrive
without access to safely managed WASH.

Challenges to the sustainability of water resource

Groundwater continues to be the major source of drinking water. Groundwater is primarily replenished through rainfall, though, other source of replenishment include seepage from canals, tanks, ponds, other water structures and irrigation. Owing to climate change, spatial-temporal variation and varied pattern of rainfall it is becoming increasingly unpredictable, thereby posing a greater threat to groundwater availability. Over consumption and increased usage of groundwater by industries and agriculture has resulted in overexploitation of groundwater, well beyond its replenishment potential. This is further aggravated due to the hard rocky terrain which reduces productivity and replenishment potential of the aquifers. Adding to this, the quality of groundwater is compromised by geogenic contaminants like fluoride, arsenic, iron, nitrate, and increased salinity ingress.

Ensuring sustainability of groundwater sources

Regulatory measures and policy priorities on groundwater recharge- Prioritising source sustainability for drinking water is one of the essential priority. Convergence of JJM with ground water recharge activities will ensure improved water quality, quantity and longevity. The National Water Mission, Ministry of Jal Shakti seeks to achieve a water-secure future through active community engagement. The nation-wide campaign "Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain" (JSA:CTR) focusing on saving and conserving rainwater with the theme "Source sustainability for drinking water" from 04 March 2023 to 30 November 2023 in the pre-monsoon and monsoon periods of 2023, covering both urban and rural areas of all the districts in the country. In this year key focus of JSA:CTR - 2023 is on ensuring source sustainability in 150 water stressed district of country, identified by Jal Jeevan Mission. As on May 2023, 463,304 3 water conservation and rain water harvesting are completed. These structures are made all over the country to harvest rainwater. The Honourable President of India launched this year’s campaign "Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain"-2023 on 4 th March on the theme "Source Sustainability for Drinking Water". In terms of regulatory measures, the. Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti has the mandate of regulating ground water development and management in the country through measures such as issue of advisories, public notices, grant of No Objection Certificates (NOC) for ground water withdrawal. The groundwater abstraction guidelines have been prepared to regulate groundwater extraction and conserve the scarce groundwater resources in the country. These guidelines will have pan India applicability and it is based on the latest Gazette Notification dated 24th September, 2020 4 .The guideline emphasises on the necessity of ground water abstraction/ restoration charges according to area of abstraction, protection of Wetland Areas , delegation of powers against illegal groundwater withdrawal, ground water level monitoring etc.The guideline also highlights the priority for promoting rainwater harvesting structures, conducting water audits, recycling of sewage water and setting up groundwater monitoring systems. The other policy priorities also help in preserving and conserving water. Initiatives like Atal Bhujal Yojana was launched to improve planning and implementation of groundwater in water stressed areas of selected states. Similarly, the Amrit Sarovar Mission is aimed at developing and rejuvenating 75 water bodies in each district of the country.

Harnessing technology as an agent to accelerate change

As ground water development is highly dynamic and widely vary in different agro-climatic zones in the country, to achieve sustainability in drinking water sources through artificial water recharge, surface impoundment/ percolation, rain-water harvesting, delineation of the catchment area it is essential to use Geographical Information Systems, Hydro Geo-Morphological (HGM) Maps in order to decode correct locations for identification of sustainable high yielding ground water sources. Similarly, smart water systems based on a combination of Internet of Things (IoT), big data and AI technologies can help minimise water scarcity challenges and undo the damage caused by imprudent usage of water.. Real-time measurement and monitoring are critical for rural drinking water supply schemes, with enormous gains in terms of operational efficiencies, cost reduction, grievance redressal. The IoT-based remote monitoring system using sensors are making this possible at several locations under Jal Jeevan Mission.

Engagement and empowerment of communities

The Hon’ble President of India conferred the Swachh Sujal Shakti Samman 2023 on 4th March, 2023 to celebrate the extraordinary contribution of women achievers/ leaders in the water sector. The felicitation of these women change-makers in the category of O&M of piped water supply and under Jal Shakti Abhiyan – Catch the Rain, clearly reflected a well-studied and established factum that community participation, and in particular participation of women, is imperative in sustaining any public service or protection of natural resource. By building the capacity of the community and helping them understand the limited availability of water, there is urgent need to sensitize the community towards its judicious use and adoption of localised measures to conserve
water. It would help in decentralisation, operation and maintenance of water supply system.


Sustainability of drinking water of source is a necessity to ensure that citizens have sustainable access to safe drinking water. Lack of access to safe and sustainable water source would impact regular availability of rural drinking water services. As a thematic lead to the Ministry of Jal Shakti, the Aga Khan Foundation envisions a huge potential in an approach where a mix of implementation of regulatory mechanisms, empowering the community to understand their local water resource, and harnessing the terrain specific technologies would go a long way in ensuring source sustainability. The world is committed to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) as part of the 2030 Agenda – which promises that everyone would have access to safely managed water and sanitation by 2030. Thanks to the vision of our Honourable Prime Minister, and the commitment of all the stakeholders, the Jal Jeevan Mission, in on the track to achieve universal access of tap water supply to every rural household by 2024.

Asad Umar, Director – WASH, N&H at Aga Khan Foundation

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