Ministry moots water efficiency bureau for conservation

New Delhi, Jan 27 (IANS) To increase efficiency in water use by 20 percent by 2017, the Ministry of Water Resources has proposed an autonomous body to develop standards for water conservation and evolve mechanisms for water footprints and water auditing.

The proposed "National Bureau of Water Use Efficiency (NBWUE)" will have an overall responsibility of improving water use efficiency across sectors such as irrigation, drinking water, industry and power generation, ministry officials said.

They said the ministry's proposal for setting up the NBWUE had been sent to the expenditure finance committee (EFC) of the finance ministry and an approval was expected soon.

"We are waiting for approval from the EFC and then we will move the cabinet. We hope the two processes are completed in the current fiscal (ending March)," a senior official, who did not want to be named, told IANS.

The ministry is keen to establish the bureau at the earliest as the National Water Mission has set a goal of increasing water use efficiency by 20 percent. The National Water Mission, which was approved by the cabinet in 2011, is one of the eight missions under the National Plan on Climate Change.

An official said that the proposal for setting up the bureau had been sent to the EFC last month. "It will take about six to seven months to get the bureau running once the approvals are in place," he said.

He added that the new body, to be set up under the Environment (Protection) Act, will be administered by the Water Resources Ministry.

"It will be a lean, highly professionalised body which will develop and regulate water use efficiency. It needs to have statutory powers," the official said.

He said NBWUE will evolve mechanisms for water footprints and water auditing which have been mentioned in the National Water Policy 2012 as steps towards managing demand of water.

"Water footprints is a new area. A lot of research and brainstorming is required. We need a proper water footprint assessment manual. Water auditing will need reference points. The bureau will engage with various stakeholders in developing standards, preparing case studies, showcasing national and international best practices to evolve and implement innovative mechanisms," he said.

The official said norms have to be established for various agricultural processes to determine if water is being used properly. "We need to know, for example, how much water will be normatively required to grow one kg of paddy," the official said.

Agriculture accounts for more than 80 percent of water used in the country and there is growing concern over inefficiency of irrigation infrastructure.

The official said that efficiency of surface water projects has been assessed to be about 30-40 percent, which can be increased up to 60 percent by efficient management practices, proper maintenance, modernising infrastructure and command area development.

"Similarly, the efficiency of ground water facilities can be increased from the present level of about 65 percent to about 75 percent," he said.

The NBWUE, he said, will also look at pricing of water.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at prashant.s@ians.in)

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