As National Water Quality Month continues, India’s drinking water crisis is examined in the following post by Saranya Balu, an AWWA summer intern. She is studying environmental engineering as a graduate student at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
As a developing country, India is on the brink of a water crisis. Poor management of water resources and water pollution are the main reasons for this crisis.
Many rivers flow through different parts of the country, so they are the main sources of water for drinking and household chores, but they are polluted on a regular basis. As an example, the Ganges River, which most of the villages and cities in the northeastern parts of India rely on for water supply, is very polluted. For instance, due to the river’s spiritual significance, the ashes and bodies of the deceased are dumped there. The situation is worsened when it is also used for washing and bathing purposes.
Additionally, you cannot drink tap water in India because it is not treated to drinking water standards. Most of the middle income and upper income families use their own reverse-osmosis filters to treat tap water when it’s available, but in most cities, it is supplied for just few hours a day. Corporations supply drinking water in trucks to lower income families who boil it to make it fit to drink.
Because water pollution is such a problem, further treatment is necessary and many communities deal with the serious issue of waterborne diseases. In most cases, the people are unaware that the water they drink has been treated from a river/lake nearby, and therefore they continue to contribute to the water pollution problem.
Different source waters require different levels of treatment. Since groundwater does not have the same pollution problems it is subjected to less treatment. Surface water is more polluted than groundwater due to the presence of microorganisms. For instance, the untreated sewage and industrial waste released into a few rivers like Thamirabarani and Yamuna increases the coliform levels and can spread diseases. Hence, it is necessary to further treat surface water, which makes the process expensive. This leads to an increase in water rates in the areas that must rely on surface water. Due to the expense, there is even a need to buy water in trucks, particularly in villages in India. Although the water that needs treatment has been drawn from less polluted regions, the availability of water can be increased if people don’t excessively pollute surface water sources.
It is so critical for the public to be aware of their sources of drinking water and the importance of not polluting them. When most people in India start realizing the value of their drinking water, a lot of water resources and lives can be saved.
To learn more about AWWA’s efforts in India, visit AWWAIndia’s website. To learn more about your local water quality, visit our Your Local Water webpage.
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