National Water Mission Inception Workshop on State Water Budgeting

The water resources of the country are under severe strain with continuously declining per capita water availability. India alone uses a quarter of the world’s groundwater. If current trends continue, in 20 years an estimated 60% of all India’s aquifers will be in a critical condition. Because surface and groundwater are connected, groundwater over-exploitation is also resulting in the drying of rivers. Hitherto, policy measures have focused only on so-called “supply-side” interventions such as building new dams or watershed development measures. Despite considerable investments in such measures, the number of over-exploited blocks has increased. This is not surprising because these measures don’t really create new water. In river basins were no water is flows to the sea, they merely move water around the watershed.

One of the major reasons for the continuing decline in surface and groundwater in India, is the lack of effective control on water consumption, so called demand-side management. In fact, free electricity allows continued increase in groundwater use. It is this governance deficit that is majorly responsible for the country’s looming water crisis. The problem is under the Indian constitution, water is a state subject and action must be led by states. To facilitate this, National Water Mission has taken an initiative to bridge this critical water governance gap is through the institutional mechanism of State Water Budgeting, on lines similar to that of Financial budgeting.

Faculty from ATREE’s Water, Land and Society programme, have been involved in assisting National Water Mission in developing the template in this pioneering effort. Under the proposed State Water Budgeting programme, all sources and uses of water will be computed on an annual basis taking 1st June (start of water year) as a reference. The State Water Budgeting exercise attempts to correct a major problem in prior exercises in that it explicitly addressing the “double counting of water” that occurs when surface and groundwater are treated separately and it also explicitly accounts for return flows from domestic sewage, thermal power plants and irrigation.

So far 11 states have committed to create water budgets. ATREE faculty Veena Srinivasan, attended the inception workshop in Kolkata as a national resource person on behalf of National Water Mission to explain the concept and rationale of state water, possible data challenges and solutions to overcome them. The workshop was presided by the state Water Resources Secretary, Subrata Gupta. The brainstorming workshop was attended by heads of almost twenty from different state agencies, in addition to outside experts, academics and World Bank representatives.  Over two days, the participants discussed the sources of data, data collection and processing formats.