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Using ICT to Conserve Water


Water is a critical natural resource today. Projections made by the 2030 Water Resources Group show that world demand for water will exceed accessible supplies significantly, threatening to impede global economic growth and result in large-scale food insecurity.

India is expected to face a water deficit of 50% of overall projected demand in 2030; 80% of this demand is expected to come from agriculture, 13% from industry and 7% from municipal and domestic units.

India has always been naturally well-endowed with water, with several rivers flowing through the country. At the time of independence, in 1947, India was a water-surplus nation. Despite this natural advantage, the country has seen persistent water deficits in various regions owing to a highly variable water resource base. During the monsoon season, 50% of annual precipitation falls in less than one month, and 90% of river flows occur in only four months of the year.

As the Indian economy grows, water scarcity threatens to present a major bottleneck to the country’s ambitions for growth and prosperity. Water scarcity may impede growth, create food shortages and increase reliance on external supplies, exacerbate regional conflicts and lead to other fundamental problems for society.

Here, we present our viewpoint on how the complex issue of water scarcity in India may be addressed in the most cost-effective manner through Information and Communications Technology (ICT)-enabled interventions. The technologies proposed are intended to support the best combination of field efforts to resolve the problem, rather than build out a solution centered on the technologies.

ICT-enabled Water Management Interventions

It is evident that in order to effectively address the severe projected water deficit in India, the efficiency of agricultural water-use in the country should be significantly enhanced coupled with an increase in the perceived value of water among consumers and other stakeholders. Upgrading the country’s archaic irrigation infrastructure and adopting modern micro-irrigation technologies such as drip-irrigation and water-sprinkler systems is recommended. Farmers must be encouraged to adopt scientific cropping techniques to maximize agricultural yields and enhance water-use efficiency of their produce.

The provision of free (or cost-effective) and ubiquitous availability of micro-irrigation equipment by the government would minimize the incentive for pilferage of such equipment. Usage patterns could be simultaneously affected/reinforced through disincentives for excessive water use.

Additionally, a number of innovative applications of technology, which offer water-efficiency gains, could be employed. Use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) would enhance water savings in the following manner:

  • Presence of soil-sensors that detect moisture content to automatically switch on/off groundwater extraction pumps (or canal sources) and send alerts via mobile technology
  • Applications that use a combination of soil sensors and local weather data to execute a pest-control algorithm that highlights the likelihood and type of pest attack, and also provide recommendations on preventative and after-care
  • Accurate, real-time measurement of water run-off and transit losses at each stage of the water capture and conveyance process, enabling scientific decision-making about infrastructure and other water-related issues

ICT-enabled solutions provide scalability, one-to-one localized connections with stakeholders, automation of several key operations and strategic insight into status reports. Therefore, a combination of digital and field measures to effectively increase water-use efficiency across the country could be used.

This paper below highlights the urgency of the problem, and considers innovative ways in which information technology may be leveraged to address the problem. It accounts for the federal structure of water administration in the country, as well as several other issues that are unique to the Indian stakeholder environment.

Read the white paper on Bridging the Water Deficit in India