Unsustainable water management goes hand-in-hand with rapid and unregulated growth of towns and cities. Its key attributes include subsidised water tariffs (leading to low revenue generation), polluted waterbodies and contaminated drinking water, systemic and institutional incompetency, inadequate monitoring and evaluation, and an absence of efficient governance and accountability.
The focus of current urban water management involves conventional approaches such as long distance water supply and underground channelling of sewerage and drainage, which together impede the natural hydrological cycle. An ever-growing demand for water comes at a time when the potential for augmenting supply is limited, water tables are falling, and water quality issues have increasingly come to the forefront.
In such a scenario, a template on urban water sustainability becomes a necessity. The template presented here aims to be a user-friendly tool highlighting the strengths and gaps of water management across Indian cities. Its creation is guided by Sustainable Development Goals 6 and 11, a review of existing water sustainability templates and indices (prevailing worldwide) and the water scenario in urban India. CSE’s research documents on sustainable water management have also been referred to prepare the template. The template will help the Union ministry and urban local bodies (ULBs) in the current situation of urban settlement and identify areas of intervention – short, medium and long term.
To reflect a holistic water resource situation in different cities, the template has been divided into five components – Resilience, Infrastructure, Efficiency, Quality, and Governance. Each of these comprises indicators which have been divided into short, medium, and long term for continuous monitoring and evaluation. The 42 indicators are categorised along a timeline to map current status of urban water management, to address loopholes in data availability, and to anticipate shift towards achieving a water sustainable status.
This template has been developed to help cities know where they stand in terms of sustainable practices, and how they need to proceed with their water resources. It can be used by municipalities to ensure accountability through their self-assessment, and to increase citizens’ participation in improving urban water resource performance. Key state and non-state practitioners, ULBs, architects, researchers, international donor agencies, and resident welfare associations can benefit from it.
The template has incorporated administrative, ecological, social, and cultural aspects of water management in urban India, with hopes to provide a roadmap for turning our cities from “water wasteful” to “water sustainable”.