WaterAid launches ‘Beneath the Surface: The State of the World’s Water 2019’ to mark World Water Day

19 March 2019
State Of World Water 2019 english
Image: WaterAid/Prashanth Vishwanathan

Find the full report here.

With one billion people living in water scarcity during at least one part of the year and around 600 million living in areas of high to extreme water stress, India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history.

Export of food and clothing items, while important sources of income, exacerbates this problem if production is not made sustainable, making it harder for many poor and marginalised communities to get access to clean water supply, a new report from WaterAid warns.

This World Water Day (March 22), WaterAid India is calling for the production of these goods to be made more sustainable and for consumers to be more thoughtful in their purchasing habits.

Some products consumed on a regular basis have a huge water footprint:

  • Your morning cup of coffee contains about 200 ml of actual water, yet the ground coffee takes 140 litres to produce.
  • Wheat accounts for 22% of groundwater depletion. It has a global average water footprint of 1,827 litres per kilogram, although this varies by region. For instance, a 300-gram baguette from French wheat has a much lower water footprint of 155 litres than the global average. In India, it has an average water footprint of 1,654 litres per kilogram (which can vary depending on geography and climate).
  • Rice accounts for 40% of all global irrigation, and 17% of global groundwater depletion, with an average water footprint of 2,500 litres of water per kilogram. In India, it has an average water footprint of 2,800 litres per kilogram (which can vary depending on geography and climate).

Industrial and agricultural use of water cannot be at the cost of people getting water to meet their basic needs.

In many areas, the amount of water pumped out of underground aquifers (groundwater) for irrigation exceeds the amount that is naturally replenished – meaning that wells and hand pumps run dry.

VK Madhavan, WaterAid India’s Chief Executive said:

Lack of access to clean water further pushes the marginalised and vulnerable communities towards into a vicious circle of poverty. The burden of accessing water to meet daily needs prevents them from reaching their full potential by inhibiting their education, health and livelihood opportunities.

There is a dire need to invest in making clean water within the household accessible to everyone, everywhere. India’s success in providing its citizens with access to clean water will significantly impact the success of global goals that the government has committed to.

Additionally, as citizens, we all have a role to play in reducing the impact that our consumption choices have on water-scarce communities in the country and across the world.

Just under two-thirds of the world’s population, or close to 4 billion people, live in water-scarce areas, where for at least one part of the year demand exceeds supply. This number is expected to go up to 5 billion by 2050. One in nine people around the world currently do not have clean water close to home. These numbers for India are even more staggering:

  • India accounts for almost one-fourth of the total groundwater extracted globally, more than that of China and US combined thus using the largest amount of groundwater – 24% of the global total 
  • India’s rate of groundwater depletion increased by 23% between 2000 and 2010 
  • India is the third largest exporter of groundwater – 12% of the global total
  • 75% of households do not have drinking water on the premises
  • India is currently ranked 120 among 122 countries in the water quality index

In 2015, Indian government committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6, which promises that by 2030 everyone will have access to clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene. The human right to water must take priority ahead of other competing demands.


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Notes for Editors


WaterAid is an international not-for-profit, determined to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. Only by tackling these three essentials, in ways that last, can people change their lives for good. Working in India since 1986, WaterAid has successfully implemented water, sanitation, and hygiene projects, extending benefits to some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities across 13 of India’s 29 States. For more information, visit https://www.wateraid.org/in, follow @WaterAidIndia on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WaterAidIndia.