In India, “Day Zero” for Water is Here

June 7, 2019

More on India’s rolling crisis in climate and water. Essentially invisible in the west.

This is a country with more than a billion people, a proud 5 thousand year old culture, a long history of religious violence, and nuclear weapons.
Do we think they’re just going to die quietly in a climate catastrophe?

Jeff Masters in Weather Underground:

In early 2018, a three-year drought pushed Cape Town, South Africa, within weeks of experiencing “Day Zero”—the day when the city would run out of water and the taps be shut off. Fortunately, extreme water conservation efforts and the arrival of timely rains pushed “Day Zero” back indefinitely. But in India, “Day Zero” has already arrived for over 100 million people, thanks to excessive groundwater pumping, an inefficient and wasteful water supply system and years of deficient rains. “Day Zero” is expected to arrive for millions more in India by 2020, when groundwater supplies are predicted to run out for 100 million people in the northern half of India.

“Large parts of India have already been living with ‘Day Zero’ for a while now,” said Mridula Ramesh in a 2018 interview with Reuters. Mridula is author of the 2018 book, The Climate Solution: India’s Climate Change Crisis and What We Can Do About It. “Much of it is because of bad management. Most cities lose between a third and a fifth of their water from pilferage or leakage through antiquated pipes, and we don’t treat and reuse wastewater enough,” she said.

Over 12% of India’s population–163 million people of 1.3 billion–live under “Day Zero” conditions, with no access to clean water near their home, according to a 2018 WaterAid report. That is the most of any country in the world. With the taps dry, people are forced to dig ever-deeper wells or buy water.

The number of people in India experiencing “Day Zero” is set to grow significantly by 2020, according to a startling report released in 2018 by Niti Ayog, India’s federal think tank. “Supply gaps are causing city dwellers to depend on privately extracted ground water, bringing down local water tables,” the report says. “In fact, by 2020, 21 major cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru (formerly called Bangalore), and Hyderabad, are expected to reach zero groundwater levels, affecting access for 100 million people.” Loss of groundwater supplies will force people in the affected cities to rely on rainwater harvesting and water piped from rivers–sources that are inadequate to meet the demand. Groundwater supplies 40% of India’s water needs, including more than 60% of irrigated agriculture and 85% of domestic water use. India accounts for 12% of global groundwater use.

The annual average change in land-based water (as groundwater stored in aquifers, surface water in lakes and rivers, and ice in glaciers) as measured by the GRACE satellites between 2002 and 2017. Northern India has seen some of the world’s greatest losses of groundwater (over 2 cm/yr, or over a foot in 16 years) due to intensive pumping. In the Upper Ganges and Lower Indus aquifers that lie under India and Pakistan, the amount of water taken out is more than 50 times the amount that goes back in through natural rainfall and melting snow in the Upper Ganges, and 18 times in the Lower Indus. Image credit: Dr. Jay Famiglietti, director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan.

One of the most seriously affected cities is expected to be Bengaluru (population 12 million), India’s third largest city. A 2018 assessment by the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, a public interest research and advocacy organisation, rated the city as one of the ten global cities most likely to hit Day Zero in the near future. According to an April 2019 interview in The Economic Times with Sharad Lele, distinguished fellow at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), one should not go to the extreme of saying Bangaluru is approaching “Day Zero”, when all taps will run dry, though. What is more likely to happen is that the poor will suffer the most. “It will be Day Zero for them,” he said.

The Niti Ayog report adds, “By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual ~6% loss in the country’s GDP.” Also in the report: “When water is available, it is likely to be contaminated (up to 70% of our water supply), resulting in nearly 200,000 deaths each year. India is placed at 120th amongst 122 countries in the water quality index.”

As explained in our previous post, Another Subpar Monsoon Season Likely for India in 2019, the monsoon is a week late this year and this year’s monsoon is predicted to bring only 94 – 96% of the usual summer rainfall to India. The summer monsoon is responsible for about 80% of India’s total yearly rainfall. To deal with the deepening water crisis, India’s newly elected Modi administration announced on May 31 the formation of a new water resources ministry with a full cabinet-level chief.

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5 Responses to “In India, “Day Zero” for Water is Here”

  1. jimbills Says:

    The red part in northern India is right where New Delhi is. Here’s another source – a confirming study to the Niti Ayog one:
    https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/delhi-at-epicentre-of-global-groundwater-crisis-report/articleshow/68131980.cms

    The future isn’t likely to be one super event al la ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ but a continuous series of smaller events adding increasing stress to food and water supplies, economic growth, social cohesion, and international relations. This definitely looks like one of them.

  2. Lionel Smith Says:

    Don’t forget the sucking dry of Indian aquifers for fizzy beverages.

    https://www.thoughtco.com/coca-cola-groundwater-depletion-in-india-1204204

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Disgusting behavior by Coca-Cola. Of course, the bottom line conquers all, so F**K the natives and let the money roll in—-it’s not like the colonizers haven’t been screwing the Indians for 200 years.

      Nestle is also know for abusing small communities by capturing their water , bottle it, and sell it for a profit. Google “Nestle water grab” for lots of hit.

  3. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Most of the worlds groundwater supplies are effectively non renewable. Many huge aquifers are Plutonic as in ancient cut off reserves. Most of the rest are recharging slower, usually much slower, than the draw down. This is bad for the aquifer itself and future supply. Severe ecological train wrecks, to add to the rest, coming soon.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Don’t forget that most aquifers, once depleted, can never be recharged to the same level. Once the water is taken out, the layers compact due to the weight of the overlaying strata, and they can never be “pumped” back up with recharge water.
      Also, much of the potential “recharge” water is being used before it ever gets a chance to percolate downward. So much for allowing “nature’s way” to proceed.

      Yet another example of how we have outsmarted ourselves. Homo sapiens indeed—-we are mutating into Homo stupidus.


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