The Water Crisis in India: Harnessing Technology To Tackle It

Parati
12 min readJun 5, 2023

Water, the elixir of life is the basic need for human survival. However, India is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. While the country has a population of over 1.4 billion people which is just under 20% of the global population, it only has 4% of the world’s water resources. This means that the water per capita in India is less than in any other major country in the world.

The average water consumption in Indian households is about 135 liters per capita per day (lpcd). This varies by region, with urban households consuming more water than rural households. For example, the average water consumption in Delhi is 150 lpcd, while the average water consumption in rural Rajasthan is only 70 lpcd. This includes all the personal necessities like drinking water, brushing water, taking bath, usage in restrooms to common activities that involve water in the household routines like washing dishes, washing clothes, mopping the floors etc etc. The average Indian household uses about 20 liters of water to wash dishes and 40 liters of water to wash clothes which makes up for about 40% of the per capita consumption.

The water crisis in India is being caused by a number of factors; the prominent ones bring -

  • Population growth: The need for water is rising as India’s population keeps expanding. The nation’s already scarce water resources are under stress as a result of this.
  • Climate change: Climate change is also making the water crisis worse, as it is causing more frequent and intense droughts.
  • Pollution: Population growth is putting a strain on water resources, as more and more people are competing for the same limited supply of water. Pollution is also a major problem, as it is making water unsafe to drink and use for irrigation.

Key Drivers For Growing Water Demand

Increasing population:

India is one of the most populous countries in the world, with a population of over 1.3 billion people. The increasing population is putting a strain on water resources, as more and more people are competing for the same limited supply of water.

According to the World Bank, India is one of the 17 countries that are most vulnerable to water scarcity. The country is already facing water shortages in many parts of the country, and the situation is only going to get worse as the population continues to grow.

Urbanization and Industrialization:

Rapid urbanization and industrial growth in India have significantly increased the demand for water. As more people migrate to cities and industries expand, the pressure on water resources intensifies. The need for sustainable water solutions in urban areas, including efficient water supply systems, wastewater treatment plants, and water conservation measures, drives the growth of the water market.

Climate change:

Climate change is also making the water crisis worse, as it is causing more frequent and intense droughts. India is one of the countries that is most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The country has already experienced a number of extreme weather events in recent years, including droughts, floods, and cyclones. These extreme weather events are having a devastating impact on the country’s water resources.

Pollution:

Pollution is also a major problem, as it is making water unsafe to drink and use for irrigation. India is one of the most polluted countries in the world. The country’s rivers, lakes, and groundwater are all polluted with industrial waste, agricultural runoff, and sewage. This pollution is making water unsafe to drink and use for irrigation.

Economic growth:

Economic growth is also driving the growth of the water market. As the Indian economy grows, more people are able to afford to buy bottled water and other water-related products and services. India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The country’s economy is expected to grow at a rate of 7.5% in 2023. This economic growth is leading to an increase in disposable income, which is giving more people the ability to buy bottled water and other water-related products and services.

Increasing Awareness and Concern for Water Quality:

The growing awareness among individuals and households about the importance of safe and clean drinking water has led to an increased demand for water purifiers and filtration systems. The rise in waterborne diseases and contamination issues has amplified the need for reliable and efficient water purification solutions.

According to a report by TechSci Research, the Indian water purifier market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 13.2% during 2021–2026.

Depleting Water Resources:

The escalating water scarcity and depleting groundwater reserves in many parts of India necessitate urgent action and investment in sustainable water solutions. The increasing gap between water demand and supply drives the need for water management systems, rainwater harvesting, and water reuse initiatives.

According to the NITI Aayog, by 2030, India’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, indicating the severity of the situation.

Latest Technologies That Are Used To Make Water Safe For Use In A Sustainable Way

Smart Water Purification Systems:

The integration of smart technologies and Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities is revolutionizing the water purification industry. Smart water purifiers for households are equipped with sensors that monitor water quality, filter life, and system performance. Users can access real-time data, receive alerts, and control the purification system remotely through mobile apps or connected devices.

Modular and Compact Systems:
Advancements in water purification technology have led to the development of modular and compact systems suitable for both household and industrial use. These systems are designed to be space-efficient, easy to install, and customizable based on specific water treatment requirements. Modular systems offer flexibility, scalability, and ease of maintenance.

Membrane Technologies:

Membrane-based technologies, such as reverse osmosis (RO), nanofiltration (NF), and ultrafiltration (UF), continue to evolve, offering improved performance and efficiency. Innovative membranes with enhanced fouling resistance, higher flux rates, and longer lifespan are being developed. These advancements result in better water quality, reduced energy consumption, and increased system longevity.

Advanced Filtration Media:

New filtration media are being developed to improve the effectiveness of water purification. For example, activated carbon filters are incorporating advanced materials with enhanced adsorption properties to target specific contaminants. Media infused with silver or other antimicrobial agents are being utilized to inhibit bacterial growth within the filtration system.

Energy-Efficient Systems:

Energy efficiency is a key focus in the water purification industry. Advanced technologies, such as energy recovery devices, are employed to minimize energy consumption during the purification process. Energy-efficient pumps, motors, and control systems are integrated into water purification systems, reducing the carbon footprint and operating costs.

Hybrid Systems:

Hybrid water purification systems combine multiple technologies to maximize efficiency and address specific water quality challenges. For instance, integrating membrane filtration with advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) or UV disinfection enhances pathogen removal and reduces chemical usage. Hybrid systems offer comprehensive water treatment solutions for various applications, including industrial processes and wastewater treatment.

Sustainable Treatment and Reuse:

The industry is increasingly focusing on sustainable treatment and water reuse practices. Advanced technologies, such as advanced oxidation, electrocoagulation, and biological treatment systems, are being utilized to treat and recycle wastewater. These systems remove contaminants and ensure the safe reuse of water, reducing the strain on freshwater sources and promoting a circular economy approach.

Data Analytics and Automation:

The use of data analytics, machine learning, and automation is transforming water purification processes. Advanced algorithms analyze real-time data from sensors, optimizing system performance, predicting maintenance requirements, and detecting anomalies. Automation streamlines operations reduces human error, and enables proactive decision-making for efficient water treatment.

Government Policies To Tackle The Water Crisis

The Indian government is also investing in the water sector, which is helping to drive the growth of the water market. The government is investing in water infrastructure, water treatment plants, and water conservation programs. The Indian government has launched a number of initiatives to address the water crisis in the country. These initiatives include the National Water Policy, the National Water Mission, and the Atal Bhujal Yojana. These initiatives are helping to improve water supply, water quality, and water conservation in India.

National Water Policy

The National Water Policy (NWP) was adopted by the Government of India in 2012. It is a comprehensive policy that aims to ensure sustainable development and management of water resources in India. The NWP has six goals:

  • To ensure water security for all
  • To improve water quality
  • To conserve water resources
  • To manage water resources efficiently
  • To promote water-related research and development
  • To create awareness about water conservation and management

The NWP is implemented by the Ministry of Jal Shakti. The cost of water per liter varies depending on the source of water, the location, and the type of water supply system. The installation cost of water supply systems also varies depending on the size and type of system. The NWP is available in all parts of India.

National Water Mission

The National Water Mission (NWM) was launched by the Government of India in 2015. It is a flagship program of the Ministry of Jal Shakti that aims to achieve universal coverage of water supply and sanitation in India by 2024. The NWM has four goals:

  • To provide universal coverage of water supply
  • To improve water quality
  • To promote water conservation
  • To create awareness about water conservation and management

The NWM is implemented by the Ministry of Jal Shakti in partnership with state governments and local bodies. The cost of water per liter under the NWM is subsidized by the government. The installation cost of water supply systems under the NWM is also subsidized by the government. The NWM is available in all parts of India.

Atal Bhujal Yojana

The Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY) was launched by the Government of India in 2018. It is a centrally sponsored scheme that aims to address the problem of groundwater depletion in India. The ABHY has three goals:

  • To improve groundwater recharge
  • To reduce groundwater extraction
  • To improve water use efficiency

The ABHY is implemented by the Ministry of Jal Shakti in partnership with state governments and local bodies. The cost of water per liter under the ABHY is subsidized by the government. The installation cost of water conservation and groundwater recharge structures under the ABHY is also subsidized by the government. The ABHY is available in all parts of India where groundwater depletion is a problem.

Emerging Water Tech Start-Ups in India

India is facing a severe water crisis, with over 600 million people facing water scarcity. The country is also one of the most water-stressed in the world, with only 1,500 cubic meters of water per person per year available, compared to the global average of 7,000 cubic meters.

To address this crisis, a number of impact startups have emerged in India. These startups are using technology and innovation to provide clean, affordable water to people in need.

Here are some of the ways impact startups are working to fix the water crisis in India:

Providing clean water: Many impact startups are providing clean water to people in need through a variety of methods. Some startups are building water purification plants, while others are distributing water filters or water ATMs.

Improving water efficiency: Other impact startups are working to improve water efficiency in homes and businesses. They are doing this by developing water-saving technologies, such as low-flow faucets and showerheads, and by providing education and training on water conservation.

Reducing water pollution: Still, other impact startups are working to reduce water pollution. They are doing this by developing technologies to clean up polluted water, planting trees to filter water, and by educating people about the importance of protecting water resources.

Uravu Labs

Uravu Labs is a water technology startup that was founded in 2019 by Swapnil Shrivastav and Venkatesh RY. The company is based in Bengaluru, India, and it has developed a patented technology that can produce drinking water from inexhaustible atmospheric moisture.

In order to create water from the air, Uravu’s system runs continuously throughout the day and night in many cycles of adsorption and desorption. Desorption is the removal of an adsorbed substance from a surface. Adsorption is the process by which a solid holds molecules of a gas, liquid, or solute as a thin coating.

Uravu Labs’ technology has been praised by experts for its potential to address the global water crisis. The company has won several awards, including the Water Innovation Prize from the World Economic Forum. This technology is sustainable and environmentally friendly as it is powered end-to-end by solar energy,

What makes the technology used by Uravu Labs stay ahead of the time and competitors is that -

  1. Water is produced from an inexhaustible source: The water present in the air is 6 more than than all the rivers in the world combine together. In addition, air never runs of moiture. It replenishes itself every 8–10 days .
  2. 100% powered by renewable energy: The Uravu Labs unit is powered by renewable resources like solar energy and energy from sources of waste heat and biomass.
  3. No water is rejected during the process: The commonly used technologies like RO (Reverse Osmosis) to purify water reject three litres of water for every one litre of water purified. On the other hand, Urava labs does not waste a single drop of water.

With so much to offer, Urava Labs is truly a start-up with a promising future!

Boon

Boon (Swajal) was founded in 2011 by Dr. Vibha Tripathi, an eminent scientist and social entrepreneur from India. Boon (Swajal) offers a range of products and services designed to ensure the availability of safe drinking water.

WaterATM: Their flagship product is the state-of-the-art water ATM system that incorporates advanced purification technologies. These water ATMs are installed in strategic locations, including villages, schools, and public spaces, providing 24/7 access to clean water. These water ATM are powered by solar energy and dispense water at a nominal rate of 0.20 paise per litre.

Zero-Mile Water: Zero Mile Water™ revolutionizes the purification and packaging of drinking water in glass bottles, offering a secure and cost-effective circular system. By eliminating plastic bottles from the pollution chain, Zero Mile Water™ aims to create a sustainable solution for access to safe and affordable drinking water.

Clairvoyant: Boon’s cutting-edge drinking water monitoring technology, ClairvoyantTM, enables customers to keep track of the quanlity and quantity of water being used, use artificial intelligence to predict maintenance issues, and monitor auto alert and notification for services.

With top-notch products in place, Boon is certainly leveraging technology to solve the water crisis even in the remotest and most rural parts of India. The solar powered water purification system installed by Boon at Barmer, Rajasthan purifies waters at just 75 paise per litre.

Ekam Eco Solutions:

Ekam Eco Solutions, founded in 2013, is a research spinoff of IIT Delhi’s works on Sanitation. This water-tech startup focuses on building humane and hygienic sanitation systems that does not burden the environment. Some of their award-winning product include -

Zerodor Waterless Urinals: The liquid sealants and membranes employed by previous waterless systems are replaced in Zerodor urinals by a straightforward ball valve. The density of the hollow LDPE ball is lower than that of the human pee. It’s kept in a cartridge that’s located below the urinal pan. At rest, a ball valve closes the exit. In usage, the buoyancy principle causes the ball valve to rise. The valve seals the exit when at rest, keeping the bathroom’s odour from entering the drainage system.

Natural Cleaners: Ekam Eco Solutions offer a wide range of natural products like Hand Wash, Multi-Purpose Cleaner, Floor Cleaner, Home Car Washroom Freshener, and Toilet Cleaner that are made from 100% non-toxic and eco-friendly ingredients. These products are gently and extremely safe on the environment.

Portable Urinals: These Kiosks include novel Zerodor technologies that make them odor and water free, eliminating the need for any water flushing hookups. The urine from these portable waterless Urinal kiosks can be collected and directed to water neighbouring plants. This procedure handles urine disposal and is ideal for locations where drainage lines are difficult to install.

Conclusion

Experts warn that the water crisis in India is real and is only expected to worsen in the coming years. However, the water problem that India is currently facing is not insurmountable. It is high time people are given enough awareness about water conversation and water harvesting. Along with it, the innovations in technology, the impact startups that work at ground level to address the water crisis in a sustainable and cost-efficient way, and realistic government policies that are implemented to precision can help definitely help India tackle the water problem.

Are you bursting with a game-changing start-up concept that can actually make an impact? Don’t keep it to yourself! Reach out to us here, and we’re all ears, eagerly waiting to discover your groundbreaking idea! If you are already an early-stage impact startup looking for practical ways to scale up your idea and business, do get in touch with us and we will be happy to collaborate!

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Parati

Leading Business & Technology Consulting Firm In India