Worrying water footprint

by Harsha Yadav

Source: Thehindubusinessline.com

Water footprint varies from country to country, depending on each region’s consumption. It also depends on the climatic conditions and water usage in areas where consumer goods are produced. The water footprint is an indicator of both the direct and indirect use of water by a consumer or producer.

The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of freshwater used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community.

Let us analyse the water footprint in India and the challenges around it.

The country’s water footprint was 987 billion cu metres a year during 1997-2001, which means 980 cu metres a year per capita (Source: Hoekstra and Chapagain, 2008).


Water supply and sanitation remain inadequate, despite longstanding corrective efforts at various levels of government and community. Investment in water and sanitation is very low in India, compared to international standards. However, compared to the past, access to water has increased significantly. For instance, in 1980, rural sanitation coverage was estimated at one per cent, which touched 21 per cent in 2008. Also, the share of people with access to improved sources of water has increased significantly from 72 per cent in 1990 to 88 per cent in 2008. However, no major city is known to have continuous water supply, and an estimated 72 per cent of people still lack access to improved sanitation facilities. It is noted that Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have better sanitation records than India.

A 2007 study by Asian Development Bank showed that in 20 cities, the average supply lasted 4.3 hours a day.


When it comes to sanitation and treatment of wastewater, the situation is alarming. Most Indians depend on on-site sanitation facilities. Sewerage facility, where available, is often in bad shape. In Delhi, the sewerage network has lacked maintenance over the years, and raw sewage in open drains often overflows either due to blockage, settlements or inadequate pumping capacity. Of the 2.5 billion people in the world who defecate openly, some 665 million are in India. This is of greater concern as 88 per cent of deaths from diarrhoea occur due to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.

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