Urban Water


The right and access to clean water is every living being’s fundamental right. But over 2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, with source water contaminated with faeces. If the world is to grow sustainably, clean water is critical – for conserving ecosystems, health and nutrition, for agriculture and industrial growth, and for gender and social equity. As the global population grows, combined along with effects of climate change, the demand for clean water will only increase. Scarcity of water can cause tensions between communities and countries. Sustainable use of water will also be crucial in preventing conflicts and sustaining peace.

Nearly 800 million people worldwide lack access to improved sanitation facilities. 70% of water withdrawn worldover is for agricultural use, 20% is accounted by industrial and energy production and domestic usage takes up 10%. By 2050, over 5 billion people are expected to be urban dwellers, out of whom 60% will be in Asia by 2025. Hence, management of water resources is inextricably linked to sustainable development of cities.

The situation is India is particularly grim. India is among one of the most water-stressed countries. Water available for every citizen has fallen by a third in the last 70 years while the country has become the largest extractor of groundwater. This has severely depleted the groundwater tables. To add to this, India also has three of the world’s most polluted rivers.

Bengaluru, considered as the Garden city, can also be called the city of lakes. Past rulers of the city built and developed a robust network of lakes that harvested water for domestic use by the people. There were estimated 1,960 open wells in the city at the turn of the last century. Now, this number is down to 49. Today, Bengaluru’s water supply is drawn from the river Cauvery’s water stored in a few reservoirs.

Currently, the Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) supplies 1,450 million litres of water per day (MLD)to the city. By 2031 Bengaluru’s population is projected to reach 20 million residents. The BWSSB plans to increase the water supply to 3,550 MLD to cater to this projected rise in population. The BWSSB also plans to recycle sewage water and add another 1.600 MLD of water for the city’s needs.

Water experts suggest treating waste water to fill the city’s lakes and those in the neighbouring districts as one the steps to ensure future water security. This water could be utilised for cultivation. The other measures could be cleaning up the city’s widespread network of city’s lakes. Harvesting rainwater by buildings in the city will also go a long way in fulfilling the demand for potable water. Identifying and recharging groundwater aquifers will also ensure water banks in the future. Protection of forest in the nearby catchments of Hasan and Kodagu will go a long way in the future for Bengaluru being water secure.

The United Nations General Assembly has declared the decade 2018 to 2028 as the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Sustainable Development’. The resolution stresses on ‘water for all’ is vital for the world to be sustainable and in order to achieve social, economic and environmental goals.

Bengaluru Sustainability Forum is a place for discussions and reflections on how to make that happen. To this effect, the Forum held a retreat that brought a host of people from diverse backgrounds, engaged with urban water, together under a roof. Kindly find the documentation of the retreat here. Resources in the form of reports, projects and weblinks can be found by scrolling below.