World Water Day 2023: Water supply metrics shows improvement over last year but only 3% Indian households surveyed say they get drinkable quality water from local body
- ● 44% of respondents rated the piped water they receive at home as good but needs purification before drinking
- ● Percentage of citizens who rated piped water quality received as good rose from 35% to 44% in last 12 months
March 22, 2023, New Delhi: In several developed countries, people are able to drink water straight from the tap. As we mark World Water Day 2023 the question before us is whether Indians too are indeed able to do the same in cities, towns or villages.
Much has changed for the better since 2019 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government restructured the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) to approach the water sector in an integrated manner with the creation of the Ministry of Jal Shakti. The ministry was bifurcated into two key departments – the Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, and the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Under the latter department, in August 2019, the Prime Minister announced the government’s commitment to provide piped water supply to every household in the country by 2024 under a new national flagship program – the Rs 3.5 lakh-crore Jal Jeevan Mission. From only 3.23 crore rural households having tap water connection in 2019, today over 11 crore rural households are getting potable water through taps due to the efforts of the mission in partnership with the States and UTs, taking the coverage from 17% to over 50%. But is tap water indeed a dependable source of potable water?
To combat the issue of poor water quality, the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation under the Jal Shakti Ministry has introduced Water Quality Management Information System (WQMIS), a dedicated one-stop information portal which allows people to register, book and get their household water tested at the nearest government-affiliated laboratory by paying a nominal fee. The system has been trying its best to make water quality management not just for public health engineers but also to empower communities and women to monitor water quality at the community level using Field Test Kits (FTKs) in rural areas.
In urban areas, according to an ORF report published in 2019, the quality of water produced at filtration plants may be top-class, but its quality worsens as the water travels through the trunk mains to service reservoirs. The gradual deterioration in the quality of water is because most of the last-mile pipeline networks are poorly maintained. In many cases, especially in the slums, they are laid through open storm-water drains or in close proximity to municipal sewers. With intermittent water supply, pipes are fully pressurized for only a couple of hours daily. During the long no-supply periods, contaminated surrounding groundwater seeps in as the pressure in the pipes drops to zero. This contaminated water eventually flows out of the taps whenever the municipal water supply service is resumed.
To understand more about the quality of piped water reaching homes, whether the piped water received is of drinkable quality and what are the different methods being used for water purification, LocalCircles conducted a national survey which received over 26,000 responses from citizens located in 305 districts of India. 63% respondents were men while 37% respondents were women. 44% respondents were from tier 1, 35% from tier 2 and 21% respondents were from tier 3 & 4 districts.
Citizens who rated the quality of piped water they receive at home as “good” has increased from 35% to 44% in the last 12 months
The first question in the survey focused on the quality of piped water received at home. It asked respondents “How do you rate the quality of piped water that comes to your homes from the local municipal/water department or panchayat?” This query received 12,801 responses with 44% of the respondents rating piped water received from local authorities as “good”. The data shows that while 15% of respondents rated the piped water they receive in their homes as “very good” 29% rate it as “good” and 32% as “average”. On the other hand, 10% of the respondents rated piped water supplied to their homes as “poor”, 4% as “very poor”, while 8% of those surveyed stated that they don’t get piped water in their homes and 2% did not give a clear response. All in all, 44% rated the quality of water they receive at home as good or higher.
What is heartening is that the percentage of citizens who rated the quality of piped water they receive at home as “good” has increased from 35% to 44% in the last 12 months when comparing the responses with the survey done in 2022.
Percentage of citizens who rated piped water quality as good increased from 35% to 44% in the last 12 months
Only 3% of respondents indicated that they don’t need to purify tap water as it is pure; RO systems; water purifiers, boiling and other traditional methods being used to purify water
To understand whether the water received at homes was being purified, the next question in the survey asked respondents, “How do you purify water at home for drinking, cooking, etc.?” Out of 13,519 who responded to this query only 3% indicated that they don’t need to purify tap water as it is pure. As for the rest 44% or majority use a RO system; 28% use a water purifier; 2% use chlorination, alum and other minerals; 11% boil water before use; 5% use clay vessels for purification; 5% however don’t purify water but instead buy bottled water; 2% don’t purify water currently and consume tap water as it comes. It appears while the government – central and state governments- claiming credit for supplying potable drinking water through pipelines at home, the reality is that only 3% respondents say that the water they receive at home can directly be consumed. It must also be noted that 5% families are purchasing bottled water instead for drinking.
In the case of households who get drinkable water from their local bodies, the percentage of respondents who trust the quality of the water supplied has risen from 2% to just 3%. The reason may be that at the district and panchayat level there is more community involvement and there is more regular quality testing being conducted under the Jal Jeevan Mission.
Percentage of Indian households who said they get drinkable quality water from their local body increased from 2% to 3% in the last 12 months
In summary, while it is laudable that more households in the country whether urban or rural are getting access to tap water it is equally important that the quality of water be improved as most of the water borne diseases are spread through consumption of bad quality water. With only 3% respondents in the survey confirming that the piped water being received at their home can be used for drinking without purification. Majority of the others are using some kind of purification method ranging from RO systems to boiling water and some are consuming as it is though it is not pure. While the water received by a large majority of homes is not fit for drinking, the survey finds that 44% citizens rated the water quality received as good as compared to 35% who rated it good in 2022.
The need of the hour now in addition to providing piped water to all homes is making water supply standards for local bodies as mandatory and ensuring compliance to those standards. Only if that happens, improvement is likely on both the water quality metrics (44%) and drinkable water metrics (3%) in the coming years.
The survey received over 26,000 responses from citizens located in 305 districts of India. 63% respondents were men while 37% respondents were women. 44% respondents were from tier 1, 35% from tier 2 and 21% respondents were from tier 3 & 4 districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.