New national water policy in the pipeline

A new and approved National Water Policy is expected to be in place by 2013. The revised policy will take on board crucial issues such as water demand management, equitable distribution, water pricing, stringent regulatory mechanism and allocating priority to water for life-support and ecology over industry. The new approach to the water policy is likely to recognise water as finite and variable. This is supported by the mid-term appraisal report of the XIth Plan, in which the Planning Commission recognised the need to "take a holistic view of the hydrological cycle" to solve the water crisis as India's water situation is even more serious than originally assessed.

With this in view, the Centre wants water budgeting and water auditing to be made mandatory and State governments may be advised to set up Independent Water Regulatory Authority for addressing water allocation, water use efficiency and physical and financial sustainability of water resources. However, even though water harvesting is already given great importance in various state policies, actual groundwork remains woefully inadequate to support the increasing use of groundwater for irrigation and drinking purposes.

For every new tubewell being constructed for irrigation purposes, groundwater is being depleted several-fold. This calls for an overhaul of the current attitude towards water recharging, both among the government agencies as well as the public, especially the farming communities.