Corona and Water Challenges

The 21 day lockdown has now been extended up to May 3, 2020 to slow down the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government has directed the people to follow social distancing through home quarantine maintaining safe distance from each other to flatten as well as delay the curve.

During the pandemic water has drawn attention all over the world because experts as well as world Health Organizations(WHO) have advised to frequently wash hands with soap and water to combat the deadly coronavirus. A 20-seconds hand wash with open tap amounts to four to five glasses of water, which is about one and a half liters. If it is assumed that a person washes hands 15 to 20 times daily during corona pandemic whereas during normal times the same person washes hands 5 to10 times, implying that he is washing hands 10 times more during this period. Therefore, 15- 20 liters of extra water is being used per person per day. Hence, for a family of five people, 75-100 liters of additional water is required daily. It will increase water demand.

NCT of Delhi and NCR Region including Gurgaon, Faridabad, Sonipat, Bahadurgarh, Ghaziabad, and Noida will require 450 MLD additional water for the 30 Million population to fight Coronavirus. NCR region gets water from river Yamuna, Ganga canal, Bhakra, ranney wells and tube wells.

Similarly, Gurugram, the Millennium city, will need 45 MLD of extra water for the 3 million population. About 600 MLD of Canal water is being supplied to Gurgaon by Irrigation department to meet present water demand.

Therefore, frequent washing hands during Corona is causing additional burden on water resources. Efforts are being made to meet the water demand through canals but it is not enough. There is a shortage of water in the river Yamuna and it will get worse in the summer. Groundwater is being extracted to meet the water requirement. Groundwater is not only contaminated but also going down every year. According to report of NITI Aayog 2018 on the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI), 21 major cities including Delhi are racing to reach zero groundwater levels by 2020, affecting access for 100 million people due to excessive ground water pumping, an inefficient and wasteful water management system and insufficient rains. Also, the extra water required during corona will generate about 80% of waste water which will further pollute water bodies, river Yamuna and ultimately the ground water. It is a matter of grave concern and may lead to various water borne diseases. Thus, the water crisis in the regions may become a health challenge during the present pandemic.

Pic - Shutterstock
Pic - Shutterstock

The water crisis is going to become a big challenge in future and people have to find solution. Summers are round the corner and water demand is going to increase further leading to water shortage. If conditions do not recover quickly, water scarcity may come in way of dealing with Corona pandemic. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted that Monsoon will be late in many states. Delhi will have four-day delay. It may further exaggerate the water shortage problem in the NCR region. But prediction of a Normal monsoon offers silver lining during these hard times.

In this period of self isolation it's high time we should learn to bring small changes in our habits and lifestyles to save water. Every drop of water should be used judiciously. I would suggest using RO water for car wash, garden or laundry. Keep the water tap closed and only when needed. Keep the tap closed while brushing teeth. Do not use the shower for bathing, rather take a bucket bath. If we learn to keep the tap closed while washing hands, perhaps only 5 liters water will be used instead of 15 liters. Educate our children about importance of water conservation, preservation and harvesting during the 21days lockdown, otherwise, the water crisis will become a fierce challenge like COVID-19. This is time for introspection. Massive public awareness program be initiated by Government, corporations, NGOs to save water.

Coronavirus outbreak may be nature's response to climate change. Covid-19 pandemic is an opportunity for reassessment of our priorities and lifestyles for an ecological conversion. The society has to respond to the catastrophe stemming from the climate crisis.

Hence, plantation drive be started to tackle impact of climate change and to retain water and to have more rains.

Let's join hands and make combined efforts to fight the chaos created by COVID-19. On this World Earth Day on April 22, 2020 let's pledge that all of us will learn to preserve and conserve water from today till we are alive! Let Humanity not only survive but also prosperous and flourish!

There is hope - and future!


Dr. Shiv Singh Rawat (PhD on Water Resource from IIT Delhi)

Superintending Engineer Irrigation and Water Resources Department, Haryana, Gurgaon

Mobile 9911144383

Email  ssrawat110@gmail.com

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