Drinking Water Go Back

Community water supply is the most important among the requirements of water and it is about 5% of the total water use. The volume of water being utilized for domestic needs is far less than that used for irrigated agriculture. Estimates show that about 7 km3 surface water and 18 km3 ground water is being used for water supply in urban and rural areas. Organized water supply and sanitation programs have not yet covered the entire country. Under the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade Program launched in 1981, the aim was to provide adequate drinking water facilities to 90% of the urban population and 85% of rural population, and sanitation facilities to 50% of urban population, and 5% of rural population.


While about 82% of the population has access to safe drinking water supply in rural areas, the accessibility in urban areas is around 85%. However, in most of the cities and towns, the supply is grossly inadequate, particularly in slums inhabited by the poorer sections of the society. Use of booster pumps to draw water from municipal networks is common. Besides, the quality of water supplied through these networks is very poor and people are increasingly installing small devices in their homes to clean water before consuming.


Different organizations and individuals have given different norms for water supply in cities and rural areas. The figure adopted by the NCIWRD (1999) were 220 liter per capita per day (lpcd) for classes I cities. For the cities other than class I, the norms are 165 lpcd for year 2025 and 220 lpcd for the year 2050. For rural areas, 70 lpcd and 150 lpcd have been recommended for the year 2025 and 2050. Based on these norms and projection of population, it is estimated that by the year 2050, the water requirements per year for domestic use will be 90 km3 for low demand scenario and 111 km3 for high demand scenario.  It is expected that surface and ground water sources will meet about 70% of urban water requirement and 30% of rural water requirement.


The core needs of domestic use of water are for drinking, cooking, washing and bathing. Non core needs are for toilet flushing, sewer flushing, washing clothes, water for lawns, etc. The union ministry of works and housing has fixed minimum norms for various basic human needs as follows.



Rural Areas (Litres/ capita /day or lpcd)

Urban Areas (lpcd)

Drinking water












Washing of utensils, clothes & household



Flushing of toilets/sewer



Total basic water requirement (BWR)



Source: WG (1999).

The National Commission on Urbanization, Govt. of India, has suggested minimum norms for use of water. According to the commission, even in the worst drought conditions and even in the poorest colonies, at least 70 liters of water must be delivered per day to sustain the human life at a minimum standard of hygiene.


Recommended Norms for Water Supply

S. N.


Recommended water supply norm (lpcd)


Less than 20,000


a. Population served by stand posts


b. Population provided with pipe connections



20,000 to Less than 100,000



100,000 to Less than 1,000,000

100 (with no sewerage system)

135 (with sewerage system)


1,000,000 and above



Rural and hills (per elevation difference of 100 m)

40 or one hand-pump for 250 persons within a walking distance of 1.6 km


Rural – additional water for cattle in Desert Development Programme (DDP) areas.


Source: WG (1999) and Planning Commission (2006).


The requirements of drinking and municipal water supply to metropolitan and other important towns in the country have already become critical. Among the metropolitan cities, total water requirement of Delhi is 800 million gallon per day (MGD). Delhi, which is situated on the banks of the Yamuna, gets scarcely 25% of its needs from the river. The balance needs are met by releases from Bhakra Dam to the west, and Ramganga Dam to the east. This is in addition to a number of tubewells, which contribute less than 10% of Delhi's water supply. By the end of the year 2004, only 640 MGD was being treated at the water treatment plants of Delhi Jal Board. A new plant has been constructed at Sonia Vihar with a capacity of 140 MGD and raw water for this plant is to come from the Tehri dam in Uttaranchal via the Upper Ganga Canal (till Muradnagar in UP and then through a 30-km 3,250 mm diameter conduit).  Noteworthy feature of this scheme is that the contract for building and operating this plant for 10 years has been given to a private company.


The entire water supply of Mumbai is dependent on a series of dams such as the Vaitarana, Tansa and Bhatsa. In fact, there is now a proposal to construct another dam on the Vaitarana to meet the increasing needs of Bombay's water supply. The water demand of Pune town in Maharashtra is met by the Panshet and Khadakwasla dams. Hyderabad is mainly dependent for its water supply on the Manjira and Singur Dams. The acute scarcity of water supply in Madras is well known. Apart from the storage available in Poondi Reservoir, there was no other possibility of further augment­ing the water supply. Therefore, the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka agreed to part with their allocated share of Krishna water to provide 430 million m3 of water supply to Madras city, which will be made available through the stored waters at Srisailam Reservoir in Andhra Pradesh and carried through 430 km long canal to reach Madras city. A major dam at Bisalpur is now being constructed mainly to provide water supply to Ajmer city in Rajasthan. Waran­gal town in Andhra Pradesh depends for its water supply on Sriramsagar Dam.