WATER RESOURCES: ISSUES AND PROBLEMS
M.Phil. Sem. II
ROLL NO. 3001
DEPARTMENT OF GEOGRAPHY
3. India is home to one of the world’s highest number of people who lack access to clean
water, imposing a huge financial burden for some of the country’s poorest population.
Over 60,000 children below the age of five lose their lives to diarrhoea caused due to
unsafe water and poor sanitation.
The quality of water available to the country is in a very poor state. It is affected by sewage
discharge, run-off from agricultural fields and urban run-off, and discharge from industries.
Floods and droughts, in combination with the lack of awareness and education among
users, affects the quality of water in a great way.
The World Bank estimates of 2015 show that in India 28.1
percent of the deaths took place due to communicable
diseases. Evidently, these were linked to unsafe water and
the lack of hygiene practices. These include parasitic and
infectious diseases, nutritional deficiencies such as
underweight and stunting, as well as respiratory infections.
The ministry of health and family welfare has identified 19
states severely affected by high fluoride content in
drinking water, and at least 10 states suffering from
arsenic contamination causing Arsenicosis – a disease that
affects the lungs, skin, kidneys, and liver due to arsenic
4. What is Water Quality?
Water quality is commonly defined by its physical, chemical, biological
and aesthetic characteristics.
Water quality is measured by several factors, such as the concentration of dissolved
oxygen, bacteria levels, the amount of salt (or salinity), or the amount of material
suspended in the water (turbidity). In some bodies of water, the concentration of
microscopic algae and quantities of pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, and other
contaminants may also be measured to determine water quality National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Water quality is closely linked to the surrounding
environment and land use. Other than in its vapour
form, water is never pure and is affected by community
uses such as agriculture, urban and industrial use, and
recreation. The modification of natural stream flows by
dams and weirs can also affect water quality. The
weather, too, can have a major impact on water quality.
• Other Life Forms
What affects the quality of our water?
5. Our water resources are of major environmental, social and economic value to NSW, and
if water quality becomes degraded this resource will lose its value. Water quality is
important not only to protect public health: water provides ecosystem habitats, is used
for farming, fishing and mining, and contributes to recreation and tourism.
If water quality is not maintained, it is not just the environment that will suffer. The
commercial and recreational value of our water resources will also diminish.
Why is water quality important?
Water quality in a body of water influences the way in which communities use the
water for activities such as drinking, swimming or commercial purposes. More
specifically, the water may be used by the community for:
supplying drinking water
recreation (swimming, boating)
irrigating crops and watering stock
navigation and shipping
production of edible fish, shellfish and crustaceans
protection of aquatic ecosystems
scientific study and education.
6. The presence of contaminants and the characteristics of water are used to indicate the
quality of water. These water quality indicators can be categorised as:
Biological: bacteria, algae
Physical: temperature, turbidity and clarity, colour, salinity, suspended solids, dissolved
Chemical: pH, dissolved oxygen, biological oxygen demand, nutrients (including nitrogen
and phosphorus), organic and inorganic compounds (including toxicants)
Aesthetic: odours, colour, floating matter
Radioactive: alpha, beta and gamma radiation emitters.
Measurements of these indicators can be used to determine, and monitor changes in,
water quality, and determine whether it is suitable for the health of the natural
environment and the uses for which the water is required.
The design of water quality monitoring programs is a complex and specialised field. The
range of indicators that can be measured is wide and other indicators may be adopted in
the future. The cost of a monitoring program to assess them all would be prohibitive, so
resources are usually directed towards assessing contaminants that are important for the
local environment or for a specific use of the water.
This water quality information can then be used to develop management programs and
action plans to ensure that water quality is protected.
How is water quality measured?
7. Water Quality
Surface Water Quality Groundwater Quality
Surface Water Quality status in India
Surface water quality (Inland water quality – ponds, river, etc.) decreasing day by day
because over exploitation uses this sources by industries, agriculture, and domestic
Drinking water quality standards describes the quality parameters set for drinking water.
At the simplest level, safe drinking water is that which does not make a person sick. Water
that is clear and does not smell or taste bad is not necessarily safe to drink. There are
several standards and approaches to ensure water is safe to drink.
Generally the water quality of rivers is best in the headwaters, where rainfall is often
abundant. Water quality frequently declines as rivers flow through regions where land and
water use are intense and pollution from intensive agriculture, large towns, industry and
recreation areas increases.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule and water quality may improve downstream,
behind dams and weirs, at points where tributaries or better quality groundwater enter
the main stream, and in wetlands.
9. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has established a network of
monitoring stations on aquatic resources across the country. The present
network comprises of 2500 stations in 28 States and 6 Union Territories spread
over the country. The monitoring network covers 445 Rivers, 154 Lakes, 12
Tanks, 78 Ponds, 41 Creeks/Seawater, 25 Canals, 45 Drains, 10 Water Treatment
Plant (Raw Water) and 807 Wells. Among the 2500 stations, 1275 are on rivers,
190 on lakes, 45 on drains, 41 on canals, 12 on tanks, 41 on creeks/seawater, 79
on ponds, 10 Water Treatment Plant (Raw Water) and 807 are groundwater
The water quality at these stations is monitored through three major schemes
i) Global Environmental Monitoring System (GEMS) - 50 monitoring stations are
ii) Monitoring of Indian National Aquatic Resources (MINARS) - 480 monitoring
stations are operated.
iii) Yamuna Action Plan (YAP) - 15 monitoring stations are operated.
All these monitoring stations are distributed on various natural aquatic resources.
Water Quality monitoring stations in India
10. The quality of groundwater depends on a large number of individual hydrological,
physical, chemical and biological factors. Generally higher proportions of dissolved
constituents are found in groundwater than in surface water because of greater
interaction of ground water with various materials in geologic strata.
Groundwater is a major source of water. Groundwater is an integral part of our water
supply. At times of low river flow, groundwater enters the rivers, maintaining river
flow. Although data on groundwater quality is limited, it is clear that, like other
bodies of water, groundwater close to urban or industrial development is vulnerable
12. Water quality parameters for drinking water,
its source and health impacts
Parameter & Source
Source of contamination is natural
• rock type
• geochemical conditions
that favour release of
fluoride from aquifer rock
Max Permissible Limit: 1.5 mg/l
Excessive intake of fluoride causes Fluorosis, a
disease affecting multiple tissues, organs and
systems in the body
• Dental Fluorosis- discolouration of teeth,
from white-yellow to brown-black
• Skeletal Fluorosis- a crippling deformity whose
ill effects are prominently detected in the neck,
spine, knee, pelvic and shoulder joints. In severe
cases, there is complete rigidity of the joints,
resulting in a stiff spine and immobile knee,
pelvic and shoulder joints.
13. 2. Arsenic
Occurs naturally in the environment.
Can be released into the water
• Natural activities like dissolution of
rocks, or hydrothermal action
• Anthropogenic activities like mining,
Max Permissible Limit: 0.05 mg/l
Long term exposure to arsenic in
drinking water can lead to–
• Increased risk of cancer in the skin,
lungs, bladder and kidney
• Immediate symptoms of acute
including vomiting, oesophageal and
and bloody ‘rice water’ diarrhoea
• Arsenicosis- Skin changes such as
pigmentation changes and thickening
14. 3. Nitrate
• Use of chemical fertilisers
• Uncontrolled animal
• Waste contamination
through storm and urban
Elevated nitrate concentration in surface and
groundwater leads to-
• Methemoglobinemia (Blue Baby disease)
where the skin of infants becomes blue due to
decreased efficiency of haemoglobin to
combine with o xygen. It can lead to brain
damage and death
• Abdominal pains, diarrhoea, vomiting,
hypertension, diabetes, respiratory tract
Max Permissible Limit:
15. 4. Iron
Naturally exists in soils and
minerals. It occurs naturally in
water in soluble form as ferrous
iron or ferric iron (in a dissolved
The ferrous iron in water gets
oxidised to ferric state and
precipitates in the form of
Water containing iron becomes turbid
and is highly unacceptable from an
aesthetic viewpoint. No major health
impacts are reported Excess of iron in
drinking water can lead to -
• Taste problems
• Objectionable stains on plumbing
• Gastrointestinal distress
• Bacterial growth leading to rotten
Max Permissible Limit:
16. India follows its own drinking water
quality standards as set out and
revised by the Bureau of Indian
Standards (BIS) , Europe follows
European Drinking Water Directives,
United States follows the United
States Environmental Protection
Agency (USEPA) standards and China
follows its own drinking water
standard GB3838-2002 (Type II).
India has 75.8 million people living
without access to clean water. The
drinking water quality standards in India
are defined by the Bureau of Indian
Standards (BIS). The BIS Code 10500:
Revised 2012 sets the standards for
different water quality parameters for
It has to be noted that for drinking water
quality, we do not have a globally
recognised standards but World Health
Organization (WHO) guidelines on water
quality are often referred by many
countries, who does not have their own
standards, as reference point.
Water Quality Standards
18. High risk of poor water quality in India’s river basins by 2050: UNESCO report
A new report released by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
(UNESCO) ahead of World Water Day on March 22 shows that the water crisis will be
intensifying across India by 2050. Central India is staring at deepening water scarcity that
means withdrawal of 40% of the renewable surface water resources.
The already stressed ground water resources
will face even greater pressure in north
India. SK Sarkar, who heads the water
resources division at policy think-tank
TERI, said that groundwater depletion was
extremely severe in Punjab, Haryana and
South and central India will experience high
levels of risk from poor water quality in its
river basins by 2050.
The report relies on a study done by the
International Institute for Applied Systems
Analysis for its estimations in future
The UNESCO report said that over 2
billion people worldwide do not
have access to safe drinking water
but almost twice that number of
people do not have access to safe
sanitation. The demand for water is
expected to increase by almost
one-third by 2050 compared to
China, India, United States, Russia
and Pakistan are the largest
consumers of water at present and
they will continue to be top water
guzzlers in 2050.
19. The water quality is under threat both by anthropogenic and natural reasons in India.
The poor sewage treatment capacity, poor state of functioning of sewage networks and
sewage treatment plants and non-availability of faecal sludge treatment plants in most of
the urban India, is the single most important cause of poor water quality both in surface
and ground water sources.
According to another study reported in the Lancet in 2014, quoted in the previous
section, the consequences of drinking contaminated water were evident in the survey
conducted in rural and urban areas in India. Mothers in the surveyed households were
asked about recent cases of their children falling ill. It was found that 24 per cent of
children in urban homes and 55 per cent in rural homes had suffered from diarrhoea in
the past 15 days. Fever was reported in 34 per cent urban children and in 49 per cent
Poor water quality is more prone to effect small children because their immunities have
not yet developed. The survey also found that 11 per cent of urban homes and 23 per
cent of rural homes had experienced the death of an infant.
20. According to a report from a small scale study
published in the Lancet Journal in 2014, there are
concerns about the projected progress on access to
improved drinking water sources in rural and urban
areas. A team of researchers from Pratham Education
Foundation, Delhi, Montreal University and the
Harvard Centre for Population and Development
Studies conducted this small-scale study of water
samples from urban and rural households. They
declared that getting drinking water from ‘improved’
sources has also shown that about 42 per cent of
urban and 60 per cent of rural households were
actually getting contaminated water. About half of the
surveyed anganwadis where small children and
pregnant mothers were taken care of also had
In spite of India achieving
impressive progress and
meeting the Millennium
Development Goal targets
in 2015, the issues and
concerns regarding drinking
water quality remain a
21. NATIONAL WATER QUALITY MONITORING PROGRAMME
• Water quality monitoring in India started in 1978 under GEMS
• National programme of Monitoring of Indian National Aquatic Resources
started in 1984 with a total of 120 stations in 10 River Basins.
• Present network comprising of 870 stations extended to 26 states & 5
• Monitoring done or Quarterly/Monthly/Half Yearly basis.
• Monitoring network covers 189 Rivers, 53 Lakes, 4 Tanks, 2 Ponds, 3
Creeks, 3 Canals, 9 Drains and 218 wells.
• Water samples are analysed for 9 Core Parameters (pH, Temperature,
Conductivity, DO, BOD, Nitrite, Nitrate, Total Coliform and Faecal
Coliform) for all monitoring. 19 General Parameters, 9 Toxic Metals and
15 Pesticides are also analysed once in a year.
• Frequency of analysis for General Parameters reduced to once in a year
in view of resources and to add more stations in non-represented water-
bodies. Frequency and Parameters does not match the guidelines of
GEMS. Base-line, Trend and Impact stations are maintained as per the
guidelines of GEMS.