How technologies can help India fight the issue of water scarcity

As a rapidly developing and second most populous country in the world, India is facing a severe water crisis. Home to about 17% of the world population, and around 20% of the world’s livestock population, India has access to only about 4% of the world’s freshwater reserves.

Increasing population and rapid urbanization are putting the existing water reserves in the country under tremendous pressure, resulting in drastic environmental changes and upsetting the ecological balance. India is also endowed with varied geographic conditions, facing floods along with landslides on one hand and droughts on the other, both of which require concentrated and strategic efforts to combat.

Understanding the critical need to improve water resource management, water distribution and sanitation, the Union Government has taken concrete steps to tackle these challenges, all the while emphasizing on the use of technology for the purpose. One remarkable step was to combine functions related to water that were spread across nine ministries into one integrated – Ministry of Jal Shakti. Hon’ble Prime Minister has also set a revolutionary goal of bringing piped drinking water to all households, for which the Centre and the states will together spend INR 3.5 lakh crore. This initiative will play a big role in making India a 5 trillion-dollar economy.

Role of Geospatial Technology for the Water Sector

Geospatial technology has a significant role to play in ensuring water for all. It can be used in many ways that includes watershed conservation including its delineation and efficient planning and management of water distribution system. With the help of aerial photography and satellite imagery water resources like lakes, rivers, ponds, and potential groundwater zones can be identified. GIS can help create terrain modeling, flow modeling and debris flow probability to understand the condition of watersheds. It also helps create a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of watersheds to represent delineation and drainage pattern which is used to study parameters like its flow direction, drainage network and slopes.

For India to achieve sustainable water resource management, it requires better knowledge of linkages between various watershed components like rivers, groundwater, wetlands, and uplands along with knowledge of useful indicators of water resource conditions and quantitative method to assess land use and watershed management practices that can yield in better understanding of risk and uncertainty for better decision making. The country receives approximately 4000 billion cubic meters of rainfall water of which 1137 billion cubic meters of water is used. It heavily depends on groundwater and surfaces water resources to fulfill the rising demand for water, be it for commercial or household use. However, groundwater resources are depleting at a fast pace.  Remote sensing technology can help in preparing an extensive 3D map of potential groundwater zones and then further dividing it into different categories depending upon the water level like extremely low, low, moderate, high and very high. The technology can also help define the surface water bodies, estimate meteorological variables such as temperature and precipitation, assess hydrological state variables like soil moisture and land surface characteristics. It can also help to estimate fluxes like evapotranspiration, which in simple terms is the sum of water evaporation and transpiration from a surface area.

Geospatial technology in conjugation with various cutting-edge technology helps maintain up-to-date data for effective decision making and streamline essential processes providing improved insight that results in better operations, planning and water distribution. In water distribution management the technology helps in identifying leakages and manage adequate water pressure. A combination of GIS in preparing hydrologic models can serve as an effective tool for decision makers in the distribution and movement of water.

Spatial analysis helps in reducing the water wastage and energy consumption required for water pumping and treatment. With the help of dynamic asset management tools GIS technology helps in reducing the gap between the capital investment and available finance in water distributing channel. Additionally, GIS also helps in monitoring water quality below and above the ground by measuring oxygen, pH, bacterial content, etc. and measures flow rate of water and turbidity.

Remote sensing technology is also applied to predict rainfall, forecasting flood and it controlling methods mapping and monitoring snow mechanism through mapping snow-cover extent and snow mass, studying water reservoir sediments, etc.

Recognizing outstanding efforts

Considering the importance of geospatial data and technologies for ensuring water for all , Association of Geospatial Industries (AGI India) is hosting its India Geospatial Leadership Summit – 2021 around the theme ‘Geospatial Technology for Water Security” from 16-18 February 2021 as a virtual meet. Apart from Keynote Talks and engaging panel discussions on topics ranging from Water Resource Management, River Development, Innovation and Practices in Water Sector, Water Availability and Access, Water-Related Disasters and Non-Revenue Water, the Summit will also be an occasion where AGI India will confer excellence awards to Government or private user organizations of Geospatial Technologies doing exemplary work in the field of water conservation, river rejuvenation, water distribution, watershed development, and others. Projects that are ongoing or completed in the past two-year period that has shown tangible social and economic outcomes are invited for nomination.

So if you know of a water-related project that has made a difference, let us know about it. The last date for submission of nomination is 29th January 2021. Submit your nomination here: