Monday, August 10, 2015

Management of fresh water resource

The first and foremost requirement of water management policy is to evaluate actual consumption of fresh water by different stake holders and production of polluted water in the backdrop of spatial and temporal availability of  both surface and subsurface water. Wastage of fresh water in irrigation sector and urban areas should also be taken into account. Compilation of district wise water footprints of foods, industrial products and services consumed by the individual and   business on the basis of UNESCO-IHE document of 2002 will be of much help to allocate water in different sectors and resolve water conflict among states. The crisis of fresh water in our country is due to want of any sound management policy. Water management comes under states subject. Moreover there is no biding guideline for rational management of scarce water resource. Now right to access clean water comes under Human right as ratified by UN General Assembly.

There are two aspects of water resource management. Both the demand-side management to control, protect and conserve of water resources with supply-side management to augment the resource should be implemented in a well coordinated effort of the stake holders to mitigate the crisis.

Agricultural sector is the main consumer of fresh water. So demand-side management of fresh water needs reform in agriculture sector through change in farming practice and crop pattern as well as optimization of irrigation.
The present practice of monocroping industrial agriculture requires maximum quantity of fresh water and pollutes (agro-chemical pollutants) water over a vast area. Deep ploughing reduces soil organic content and creates demand for more fertilizer i.e, high capital intensive. Shifting focus on polycroping agro ecological farming will keep the soil covered by mulching and increase its organic carbon content there by increasing water holding capacity. Soil scientist report for every 1 percent of organic matter content, the soil can held 16,500 gallons of plant-available water. It will reduce requirement of irrigation water along with the source of chemical pollution generated by extensive use of fertilizer, insecticide, herbicide etc in industrial farming. Moreover water logging and salination of soil as well as depletion of ground water table due to over irrigation as observed in many areas of Indo-Gangetic plain could also be checked.
Hydrocentric management in changing crop pattern suitable to different agroclimate zone negotiating pressure of big farmer’s lobby should be started immediately. Cultivation of water guzzling crops like sugarcane and rice in water scarce areas and spending public money to bring fresh water from far away source to meet its irrigation requirement is the most irrational example of water management. Recent example of spirit of cooperation of small farmers of Dhavadshri village of Satara in Maharashtra is worth following. They shifted to cultivation of spices from traditional water guzzling sugarcane after interlinking their wells and implementing rainwater harvesting to raise groundwater level without any outside help. This type of spirit of cooperation saved them from ruin and also led the educated village youth back to farming.

Research on water management technology by ICAR and other organizations produced different technology for optimum irrigation requirement of crops depending on its type and agro climate zones. The farmers should be encouraged by suitable incentive to apply different micro and other irrigation technology to save water.

Supply-side management needs countrywide adaptation of different surface and subsurface techniques of water harvesting and groundwater recharging projects. The technology varies depending on the agro climate, hydrology and physiography of the area. Different pilot projects initiated by CGWB and other government organizations were very encouraging. Community level participation with spirit of cooperation is required to manage sustainable groundwater as a community resource. Well known among many examples is the restoration of water flow in river Arvari in Rajasthan through local co-operation effort. It should be implemented by raising green brigade in every village and towns to carry out rain water harvesting and groundwater recharging. That will raise the groundwater level leading to increase in surface water flow. Dr David Korenfeld Federman, Chairman of UNESCO International Hydrological Programme was associated in water management programmes of different poor countries of Africa and other continents. He emphasizes that all of the cultural, social and economic issues associated combating water scarcity must be taken into account, with a multidisciplinary, academic approach rather than a political one.
Recycling of waste water in industries and urban housing complex could substantially reduce fresh water consumption. Appropriate public policies can create an enabling environment for such sustainable modes of production.

Policies of combating water crisis could be summarized as follows:
(1)   Managing cropping pattern accounting for geography, agro climate and water constraint.
(2)   Govt role is to provide required economic signal to promote conservation  and right mix of crops.
(3)   Providing soil moisture sensors to improve agricultural water efficiency and reducing waste in irrigation.
(4)   Flood control system to be reoriented for storing of waters.
(5)   Recycling of waste water.

(6)   Organising community level participation in management of surface and groundwater through enactment of legal rights of community ownership of subsurface water.

By Swapan Kumar Mukhopadhaya