Water is the New Gold

Vijaylakshmi Suman

How believable is the claim that World War III will be fought over water?  NASA’s satellite data revealed that out of 37 of the earth’s largest aquifers, 21 are recognised as “overstressed”, with almost no scope of natural replenishment. However, these facts may not be hard to believe considering the present drought situation in cities like Cape Town, South Africa.  This metropolitan city has been warned of “Day Zero” – a day when tap water supply will be cut off, and almost 4 million residents of the city will not have access to running water. At present, around 200 water collection points have been set up around the city to ensure the strict rationing of water, and a meagre 25 litres of water a day has been assigned for each citizen of the city. The graveness of the water crisis in Cape Town is echoed in the words of the Mayor who has stated that the crisis in Cape Town has reached “a point of no return.”

Sustainable water management in urban spaces is crucial. A foolproof system is required to deal with the issues of climate change, population growth and other environmental concerns (Marlow. Et al, 2013). Conservation of stormwater is one mechanism by which water can be harvested in urban areas. However, conventional mechanisms of conservation are not effective either as it does not address the change in flow regimes. Burns et.al (2011) suggests the implementation of restoration or the protection of natural hydrologic systems at a small scale. These processes will help in the natural flow, recharge of groundwater and reduction of total storm-water run-off. We have been cautioned several times about the scarcity of water faced by people, especially in urban spaces.

In the Indian context, the right to access clean drinking water is a provision under the broad umbrella of the ‘Right to Life’ guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. However, how will these rights be of any use if there is no source of water available for people? Theories in academic literature are not new. Several methods have been suggested and deployed for the sustainable use of water. The present scenario in Cape Town offers a good example of why we must take water crisis as a real and serious problem. Sustainable urban water management is one of the ways through which water can be used, reused and returned to nature. The concept of sustainability, while offering hope for the future, also provides people with the scope to think about the notion of development and where it is leading us (Hellstrom et.al 2000). 

The motive of this article is not to preach about the judicious use of water, but to awaken the realization that water scarcity has become, undeniably, a crisis. In India, the issue of water scarcity is not alien. According to a recent BBC report, 11 world cities are on the verge of running out of drinking water. In this list, Bangalore stands at number 2. Although the city of Bangalore is historically known to have multiple sources of water supply, including numerous lakes and abundant groundwater, a majority of these sources have dried up as a result of rampant infrastructure development (Johnson, 2018). Frankly, there is really no solution to the problem of water scarcity. What can, however, be done is for citizens to be careful with their water consumption, while governments become proactive in facilitating methods such as rainwater harvesting.


  • Marlow, D. R., Moglia, M., Cook, S., & Beale, D. J. (2013). Towards sustainable urban water management: A critical reassessment. Water Research47(20), 7150-7161.
  • Burns, M. J., Fletcher, T. D., Walsh, C. J., Ladson, A. R., & Hatt, B. E. (2012). Hydrologic shortcomings of conventional urban stormwater management and opportunities for reform. Landscape and urban planning105(3), 230-240.
  • Hellström, D., Jeppsson, U., & Kärrman, E. (2000). A framework for systems analysis of sustainable urban water management. Environmental impact assessment review20(3), 311-321.
  • A. Johnson. (2018,26,02). Is Bengaluru about to run dry?. The Indian Express. Retrieved from http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/bengaluru-drinking-water-problem-cauvery-dispute-supreme-court-5078111/

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