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The water crisis
The water crisis

Demystifying Delhi’s Water Crisis

No comprehensive plan for rainwater harvesting

Delhi receives an annual rainfall of ~714 mm, 80% of which falls in the monsoon months (Jul – Sep).

Ideally, ~16% of this water should seep into the earth to recharge ground water reserves.

Due to extensive urbanization however, barely half this amount seeps through the ground in Delhi. Yet, so far, the capital city has no comprehensive plan to store/harvest rainwater.

It turns out that the criticality of rainwater harvesting, a self-evident truth known to humans as far back as the Indus valley civilization (3000-1500 BC), has been lost on Delhi governments in the post-independence era. Why else would Delhi, the poster child for water scarcity in metropolitan India, find itself without a serious plan for rainwater harvesting in 2014?

What were erstwhile Delhi governments thinking? Well actually, they weren’t.

Water shortage of over 200 MGD (20%)

So, what does this all mean for Delhi residents? What is the magnitude of the water shortage they have to contend with? Allow us to give you a little background before answering that.

The DJB has nine Water Treatment Plants (WTPs) of which six are operational and produce a combined output of 690 MGD of potable water.

Additionally, the DJB has four Process Waste Water Recycling Plants (PWWRPs) that treat and return as raw water, the waste water produced by the WTPs, thus augmenting raw water supply. These plants have a total capacity of 45 MGD.

2012 water shortage was ~207 MGD (per MoUD norms)

The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) prescribes a water requirement norm of 274 Litres Per Capita per Day (LPCD) that translates to 60 Gallons Per Capital per Day (GPCD). The break-up is provided below.

Source: Delhi Jal Board * Based on 45,000 litres per hectare per day  ** Based on 1% of the total demand

Source: Delhi Jal Board * Based on 45,000 litres per hectare per day ** Based on 1% of the
total demand

Note that we are referring to the imperial (UK) gallon  (= 4.546 litres) in this series, and not the US gallon (=3.79 litres).

Based on this norm and assuming a population of 17.1 million for 2012, the total 2012 water requirement for Delhi was 1,025 MGD.

DJB produced ~818 MGD of potable water that year, leaving a shortfall of ~207 MGD or 20%.

Its only bound to get worse with the projected 2020 water shortage of 375 MGD!

Assuming that potable water production (818 MGD) doesn’t change and that Delhi’s population grows at 1.92% per annum (avg. growth rate for the last decade) to 19.9 million in 2020, the potable water shortage in 2020 will touch 375 MGD!

Meaningful augmentation of raw water supply may take 6-7 years..

The reality is, that the raw water currently available to Delhi is simply not sufficient to provide potable water to the entire population under prescribed norms.

Water being collected from a mobile water tanker in New Delhi

Water being collected from a mobile water tanker in New Delhi

The audit report for Delhi from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) predicts that any meaningful effort to augment Delhi’s raw water supply including the construction of dams up river (Renuka and Kishau dams) would take another 6-7 years.

This report of course predates the recent messaging by the newly elected Modi government about completing these projects on a priority basis.

Ache din aayenge? Let’s hope so.

Is there any hope?

YES. But you have to be a “glass-half-full” kind of person to appreciate it.

Read more about it in the next part of our series :

Part II: Delhi Jal Board – the villain of the piece

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