Water filters and drinking water in India.  We still drink hazardous and contaminated water, the so called mineral water or bottled water is just a fake.(This is my personal view and experience, as I am an environmental auditor, found it and experienced it) The actual experience of other may vary.

Arsenic is one of the most health hazardous contaminant in drinking water. If the water (H2O) contains this dangerous chemical, it must consider having a filtration system before it is too late. Home filtration of tap water is necessary as it may contain harmful bacteria. The contaminants usually come from industrial processes, pollution and coal burning.

Dangerous chemicals enter the human body only through H2O into the bloodstream. If you drink it from the tap, you are putting your health in jeopardy. There are short term and long term health risks to consider which is explained further in this article.

The short term health risks of consuming arsenic H2O may cause poisoning, vomiting and extreme abdominal pain. Muscle spasms and cramps have also been noted as well as numbness in arms and legs with visible skin rashes. While these adverse effects are only temporary, read on for the long term dangers.

The long term health risks have been reported as a decrease in blood cells production and skin discoloring. Irregular heartbeats plus skin, lungs or liver cancer may also occur as arsenic can be carcinogenic and therefore a huge problem, hence the reason you should install a home filtration system.

All the chemicals and contaminants are removed through water purification from wells and municipal supply. The only difference in the wells filtering is the amount of resins used. It is best to use counter-top filters as they are flexible enough to purify the whole house tap H2O supply and will fit any faucet. These days you can find many elegant and stylish counter-top filters that suit your kitchen design very well. There are also stainless steel shells with a wide range of different colors to go with the color of kitchen cabinets.

Most filtration systems can be fitted onto the tap, for cleaner, fresher and chemical-free water. Contamination is the primary cause of many illnesses. Arsenic and other harmful chemicals can be fatal to the health of you and your family.

If you are unsure where to search for high quality, inexpensive filters, look no further than the World Wide Web. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips with regards to different systems that would work effectively for the whole house. Many different filtering manufacturers can provide all the necessary tools and technicians to install an effective system for your house so that you will not have to worry about installations yourself.

And, to help you avoid water related health issues, I invite you to take a look at pure water that will prove highly effective in protecting your entire family’s well being. You would get more information when you visit

As consumers and educated citizens, we’ve witnessed the huge trend of people turning towards natural health — the rise of the organic food movement, the backlash against pesticides, the booming of local farmers markets, and so forth — and now, we’re starting to wake up to the most important thing we can do for our health: drinking pure water.

The sad reality is, though, in an era of rising health consciousness, our drinking water purity is declining. Some comprehensive studies are now showing that there are over 2,100 toxins in our drinking water. These toxins include: chlorine, lead, chemicals that get into the water supply from large farming run offs, and corporate pollution. All of this stuff may be found in your tap water.

People think they are protecting themselves by drinking bottled water. But bottled water may be the biggest scam of all. Bottled water may be no more pure than tap water as in India. This is because there are simply no government standards that require bottled water be any better and many times all these standards are flouted to the best.

Soon the drinking water will be much expensive than the petrol and dieselSo, what’s the solution if you want to protect the health of you and your family, and that of the planet? The answer is the use of a home water filtration system.

1) The best selling systems out there right now are so-called “reverse osmosis” or “distillation.” These are actually not the optimal choice because although they can do a pretty good job of removing contaminants, they also remove the beneficial minerals that are vital for our health. Our bodies evolved to drink water with important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and more. Nowhere on earth does de-mineralized water appear naturally.

2) Many systems do not employ multi-filtration. This effectively means that some of the worst toxic offenders are not filtered out, and you may still be drinking some of that bad stuff you are trying to avoid.

3) Many of us don’t consider the purity of the water we cook food with or the water we shower or bathe in. Remember: when you shower, the warm water opens up the pores of your skin and all of that water penetrates into it. Pure water is very beneficial for the skin and hydrates it. If you suffer from dryness, or any skin condition or disorder, it’s even more important that you are bathing in purified water.

And, because we are all on a budget, they have products for all budget ranges.

1. They sell products just for filtering water.


Quality of drinking water in India: Highly neglected at policy level

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the UN in September of 2000 represent a partnership between the developed and the developing countries. MDGs direct to act together for achieving sustainable development in general and eliminating the world poverty in particular. The goal, which ensures environmental sustainability, primarily addresses the water and sanitation issues of the world. Two targets to achieve this goal are; to reduce the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by fifty percent by 2015 and to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers significantly by 2020.

India has high aspiration of setting goals and fulfilling them at the earliest regarding provision of safe drinking water supply to all. The goal set by the Government of India under the National Agenda for Governance specified that safe drinking water should be provided to all habitations on a sustainable basis by 2004.

Where does India stand in providing safe and sustainable water supply to all its villages and towns? There are statistics on access to water supply which claim India has progressed very well in providing drinking water supply to all. However, the Planning Commission in the Mid-term Appraisal of the 9th Plan has mentioned that despite the Government’s claim of more than 95 percent coverage, independent reports indicate scarcity of drinking water in about half the villages of India. (Planning Commission, 2002)Then why is it not captured in statistical figures? Almost all the statistics assessing the coverage of drinking water do not define what exactly is the safe and sustainable drinking water supply. All the surveys carried out for assessing drinking water supply consider tap/stand pipe water, hand pump and tube wells water as safe drinking water. Further, they do not distinguish the sources of drinking water of tap/ pipeline. Quality of water is always neglected. Even, the improved definition suggested by the WHO and the UNICEF clarifies in its methodology that access to water and sanitation does not imply that the level of service or quality of water is “adequate” or “safe”. The assessment questionnaire used in the WHO survey did not include any methodology for discounting coverage figures to allow for intermittence or poor quality of the water supply. This is despite the fact that the WHO has framed drinking water guidelines for levels of microbial contaminants and 128 chemicals that can be hazardous to human health. The statistics provided by them also do not reflect the reality, as quality of water is not accounted into their data. It is not that we lack standards for quality criteria of drinking water, but what is required is considering those standards into the definition of safe and sustainable drinking water supply. It needs a fresh survey to be carried out in order to estimate the actual number of people having access to safe and sustainable drinking water supply by incorporating the quality criteria into its definition.

This paper critically presents the drinking water scenario in India. It argues that if India strictly enforced the quality criteria and accepted the definition of improved water sources presented by the WHO and the UNICEF, it would have to conduct a fresh survey and that would result into a dramatic fall in the percentage of population having access to safe and sustainable water supply. However, such an effort will present the real situation.

Indian water resources at a glance

India has 1869 cubic km of total natural runoff. Out of which only 690 cubic km. of surface water resources and 432 cubic km. of ground water resources are in the form of utilizable resources. Around 16% of the world population residing in India possesses only 4 % of world water resources. Therefore the pressure on water resources in India is very high.

Population growth along with improved level of living standards has increased the demand of fresh water availability. It is projected that the demand would be huge by 2025. According to Standing Sub-committee, Ministry of Water Resources, a total annual demand for water will increase to 1093 BCM in 2025 from 634 BCM in 2000. Demand of Drinking water, which has been given the first priority in National water policy, will also go high from 42 BCM to 52 BCM.

On the other side resources of water supply are limited. Ground water, being an important source of drinking water and food security for India, supplies around 80 per cent of water for domestic use in rural areas. India has developed almost all the ground water resources. It has also been realized now that ground water quantity and quality are declining and deteriorating rapidly. This has implications on per capita availability of fresh water. The available water per capita per year is 2384 cubic metre in the year of 2000 as against 6008 cubic metre in 1947. This shows a drastic decline in per capita availability of water. It has been projected that per capita per year water availability would be only 1389 cubic metre by the year of 2025.

According to Water stress Index given by Falkenmark and Widstrand in 1992, a region whose renewable fresh water availability is below 1700 cubic meters/capita/annum is a ‘water stress’ region, and the one where availability falls below 1000 cubic meters/capita/annum experiences chronic ‘water scarcity’. Several parts of India are classified as water stressed, for example, regions in the Indus, Krishna, Mahi, and Ganga sub-basins. A few parts of India are water scarce, namely, the regions under east flowing rivers between Pennara and Kanyakumari, between Mahanadi and Pennar, Cauvery, etc. As per this index, India as a whole may face severe water stress by 2025 with a per capita availability of only 1389 cubic meters. (IUCN, 2004)

In short, it is seen that water demand has increased but supply has remained limited, which has resulted into shortages and scarcity of water resources in India.

Neglected quality criteria in Indian norms for drinking water supply

The phrase, ‘safe drinking water’ (without any definition of safe!) became popular with the National Agenda for Governance of the Government of India, which stipulates that safe drinking water should be provided to all habitations on a sustainable basis by 2004. A separate Department of Drinking Water Supply was created in the Ministry of Rural Development in 1999 to fulfill this goal.

The central Government has adopted norms of 40 lpcd for human needs for providing potable drinking water supply assuming that it would fulfill requirements for Drinking (3 lpcd), Cooking (5 lpcd), Bathing (15 lpcd), Washing utensils and house (7 lpcd) and for Ablution (10 lpcd). In addition to this, the provision of 30 lpcd for animals is also allotted in extreme weather ecosystems or desert areas. However, in the tenth five-year plan these norms are liberalized upto 55 or upto 70 lpcd based on sector reforms principles where at least 10% capital cost of the additional investment and 100% O&M is to be borne by the community. Thus norms for water supply do not mention anything about the quality of water.

The guideline for drinking water norms mainly suggests for the allocation of one hand pump or stand post for every 250 persons by estimating the normal output of 12 litres per minute for one hand pump. This indicates that in spite of having ground water deterioration, it has been the priority of the central as well as state governments to explore ground water for drinking water supply as it is considered as safe drinking water. Once again the norms do not mention anything about water quality data. Similarly quality is also neglected while seeing the coverage of villages under NC (Not Covered), PC (Partially Covered) and FC (Fully Covered) categories. In order to identify problem habitations, the central Government has distributed all the habitations in NC, PC and FC by adopting particular criteria. One can clearly get an idea that the definition of above categories overlooks the quality criteria. In spite of knowing the fact that the quality of drinking water is degrading, the minimum standards for quality are not incorporated into the definition and norms for safe drinking water supply.

A habitation which does not have drinking water source/point within 1.6 km of the habitations in plains or 100 metre elevation in hilly areas is categorized as Not Covered village. Habitation where the quantum of availability of safe water from any source is not enough to meet drinking and cooking needs is also considered as no source habitation. (What is Safe is not defined!) Habitations which have a safe drinking water source/point (either private or public) within 1.6 km. in plains and 100 meter in hill areas but the capacity of the system ranges between 10 lpcd to 40 lpcd, the habitation could be categorised as “Partially Covered (PC)”. All the remaining habitations may be categorized as “Fully Covered (FC)”.

It was good news when the category called as NSS (No Safe Source) was derived by Working Group on Rural Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation under the Chairmanship of Secretary, Department of Drinking Water Supply while formulating tenth five year plan. The committee suggested that the habitations falling under “No Safe Source (NSS)” category needed to be given high priority in the tenth five-year plan. Habitation having a water source but is affected with quality problems such as excess salinity, iron, fluoride, arsenic or other toxic elements or biologically contaminated is considered as No Safe Source habitation. Hence, in case of quality affected habitations, even if they are fully covered as per the earlier norms they would be considered as NSS habitations if they do not have safe water supply at least for the purpose of drinking and cooking. However, so far there are no data publicly available regarding the number and coverage of NSS habitations.

Data up to an end of November 2001 shows that 87.89% habitations in the country had access to adequate water supply (fully covered) with 40 litres per capita per day (lpcd). About 10.85% habitations were partially covered and remaining 1.45% habitations (which comes to 20631 habitations) were not covered at all.

Table 1: Status of NC, PC and FC Villages in India Rural Habitations
Nov-01 20631 168625 1233408 1422664
% 1.45 11.85 86.70 100
Apr-03 11641 98909 1308600 1419150
% 0.82 6.97 92.21 100
Mar-04 6833 75632 1339828 1422664
% 0.48 5.32 94.18 100
April-05 248827 407740 948269 1604836
% 15.50 25.41 59.09 100

Data upto March 2004 indicates that 95% rural Habitations are fully covered under water supply coverage, 5 % are partially covered and only 0.4 % habitations are not covered at all. (Table 1)   When overall numbers are seen, it is clear that 6833 habitations are not covered at all and 75632 habitations are only partially covered till March 2004. The important point is that there are no statistics available regarding how many habitations are falling under No Safe Source category. It shows that quality criterion, which is important in terms of human health, is completely neglected.   The recent survey carried out by drinking water department showed very high increase in number of NC habitations. However, this is declared as unvalidated data. This indicates that goal set under National Agenda for Governance of the Government of India could not be achieved.

It is also important to note that the coverage of habitations shows only one time administrative coverage. There is possibility that the fully covered village can fall under the category of not covered due to several reasons like increase in population, increase in number of habitations, systems having outlived their life span or becoming defunct due to poor maintenance, sources going dry due to depletion of ground water level and sources affected by natural calamities like drought, flood, earthquake, cyclone. So one cannot be sure that fully covered habitations have safe and adequate water supply on a sustainable basis.

Access to Safe Drinking Water: Statistics from various sources neglect the quality criteria

It is also important to have an idea about the Coverage of households who have access to adequate and safe drinking water supply in order to assess the benefits of water supply programmes. The statistics on access to Drinking water coverage also support the above results of habitations coverage.

􀂙 The major sources, which have carried out surveys regarding household coverage of drinking water supply, are Census of India, National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO), World Health Organization (WHO), Demography and Health Survey (DHS), National Institute of Family Health Survey (NFHS) and Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC).

􀂙 The various sources show fluctuation in coverage. However, the long-term trend indicates that the rural coverage has increased from 27% to 80% during 1980 to 2000 while urban coverage has increased from 77% to 94% for the same time period.

Census data show that there has been a consistent increase in coverage of safe drinking water supply. The urban coverage has increased from 75% in 1981 to 81% in 1991 to 90% in 2001. At the same time rural coverage has increased from 31% in 1981 to 56% in 1991 to 73% in 2001.

Drinking water coverage data from NSSO, DHS and NFHS do not differ much because the definition of safe drinking water is similar to that of the definition of Census of India. It is important to note here that all these sources have mentioned in their methodologies that if a household has access to drinking water from a tap, tube well or hand pump situated within or outside the premises, it is considered as having access to safe drinking water. This overlooks the quality of groundwater found in source of water supply (for instance, tube well or hand pump). Therefore the statistics on access to safe drinking water shown by them provides very high percentages.

The study carried out by World Resource Institute (WRI) showed that around 84.9% of the urban population of India had access to clean drinking water in 1993 as compared to 69% in 1985, but for rural population the figures fell from 82% in 1985 to 78.4 % in 1993. WRI has noted in their report that the most significant environmental problem and threat to public health in both rural and urban India is inadequate access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities (WRI, 1995). In spite of knowing this fact quality of drinking water is not taken into consideration while measuring access to safe drinking water supply coverage.

Table 2: Drinking water: rural and urban coverage: (Various Sources) Years Urban Rural Source
1980 77 31 WHO
1981 75 27 Census
1983 80 47 WHO
1985 69 82 WRI
1988 79 73 WHO
1989 89 55 NSS
1990 86 69 WHO
1991 81 56 Census
1991 87 61 JMP
1993 90 67 NSS
1993 84.9 78.4 WRI
1993 89 64 DHS
1994 85 79 JMP
1996 93 75 NSS
1997 NA 72 IIMC
1999 91 69 NSS
1999 94 75 NFHS
1999 90 NA JMP
2000 94 80 MICS
2001 90 73 Census
2002 96 82 JMP

The study carried out by World Health Organization also supports the results of World Resource Institute. It is clearly seen from the data that there has been decline in household coverage in early nineties.   The Multiple Indicator Sample Survey (MICS-2000) carried out by UNICEF also showed good coverage but at the same time it emphasized that the sustainability was under threat of over exploitation of ground water and presence of chemicals like arsenic, fluoride, iron and salts.   In addition to the above-mentioned surveys, the WHO and the UNICEF also conducted Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) in order to see the coverage of drinking water in various countries. Under JMP, drinking water has been defined as the water used for normal domestic purpose including consumption and hygiene. It has further classified the water supply sources into improved and unimproved sources. The access to safe drinking water is estimated by the percentage of the population using improved drinking water sources like household connection, public standpipe, borehole, protected dug well, protected spring, and rainwater collection. While unimproved sources are unprotected well, unprotected spring, rivers or ponds, vender provided water, bottled water and tanker truck water. The improved definition suggested by the WHO and the UNICEF clarifies in its methodology that access to water and sanitation does not imply that the level of service or quality of water is “adequate” or “safe”. The assessment questionnaire used in the WHO survey did not include any methodology for discounting coverage figures to allow for intermittence or poor quality of the water supplies. This is despite the fact that the WHO

has framed drinking water guidelines for levels of microbial contaminants and 128 chemicals that can be hazardous to human health. The statistics provided by them also do not reflect the reality, as quality of water is not accounted. It needs a fresh survey to be carried out in order to estimate the actual number of people having access to safe and sustainable drinking water supply considering the quality criteria into its definition. Further, JMP does not conduct any survey on its own but it has predicted numbers by taking available statistics on access to safe drinking water from various surveys conducted by Census, NSSO, WHO, DHS, IIMC, NFHS, MICS etc.  The clarification made by JMP for considering bottled water as unimproved source; not because of its quality but due to its limited potential quantity has raised some doubts. Several studies have shown that there has been a drastic increase in sells of bottled water (branded as well as un branded bottle and pouch water) in recent years. For instance, In Gujarat people in 1999-2000 spent almost 9 crores on bottled water, pouch water and can of water (which is available in 10 to 20 littres) (Hirway, 2003). At all India level, 5.8% urban population and 1.8% rural population purchase water, which includes bottled water also. This indicates that the potential of bottled water cannot be under estimated; rather it may increase in the near future. At the same time quality of bottle water is also doubtful, as the study conducted by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has shown that the quality criteria are not met in bottled water. There is a need for a careful study on the potentiality of private water markets including bottled water.

In short, all the sources mentioned above have not considered any quality criteria while measuring  access to safe and adequate drinking water in India. However, most of these studies have cautioned about the alarming rate of degradation of water quality in India.

Quality of water supply: Issues in India

Quality being an important criterion plays a major role in safe drinking water. Some of the issues on quality of drinking water in India include absence of standards and norms, irregular testing and monitoring of quality of drinking water, lack of adequate statistics on quality of drinking water, failure of measures to improve the quality of water and lack of public awareness and participation.

Starting with norms and standards, India does not have unique norms or standard which could be applicable to the entire country. Drinking water is a state subject. Each state has its own standards and norms.

The WHO guidelines for drinking water criteria present useful framework for developing standards and regulations regarding drinking water. India has accepted it as baseline. The quality criteria of drinking water prescribed by the Indian Standards Institute (IS: 10500-1989) and the Indian Council of Medical Research are exacting and exhaustive. However, the department of rural water supply, ministry of urban development, Indian council of medical research under ministry of health and central pollution control board (CPCB) all have prepared norms and standards on their own. These norms and standards are different from each other.

For instance, general quality of water bodies is monitored by central pollution control board with the help of state pollution control boards. CPCB monitors 24 parameters in water samples, which are collected from 25 sates/Uts including rivers, wells, lakes, canal, ponds, tanks, creeks and drains. As per CPCB primary water quality criteria for drinking purpose are

􀂃 Total Coliforms Organised MPN/100ml shall be 50 or less

􀂃 pH between 6.5 and 8.5

􀂃 Dissolved Oxygen 6mg/l or more

􀂃 Biochemical Oxygen Demand 5 days 20Oc 2mg/l or less

It is interesting to note that CPCB does not monitor the content of Fluoride, Iron and Arsenic, which are important ions present in ground water of India. Now the important issue is to see how well these criteria being met in Indian water supply system.

Quality of drinking water in India is deteriorating at very fast rate. The various reasons for the deterioration of drinking water quality in India are cited in the literature. The most important factor is over withdrawal of ground water, which has degraded water quality. It has also resulted in the presence of excessive ions like Fluoride, Arsenic, Salinity, Nitrate, Iron and other heavy metals in drinking water. Other important factors, which deteriorate the drinking water, include use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers in agriculture that leach into ground water, inadequate sewage system and treatment, industrial effluents getting mixed into water supply sources. Poor maintenance of water distribution pipelines further accelerates the deterioration of drinking water quality.

Table 3: Progressive Coverage of Water Quality Problem Villages (PVs) Year
No. Of Problem Villages
Identified Covered
1972 1,52,000
1980 Upto Start of VI Plan 94,000
1980 2,31,000*
1980-85 During VI Plan 1,92,000
1985 1,62,000*
1987 Coverage during VII Plan +2 Annual Plans 1,59,000
1992-97 3000
April’99 2,17,000

So far, no systematic survey has been conducted to assess the quality of drinking water at all India level. For drinking water quality, states are carrying out surveys by monitoring samples of drinking water supply sources for all the habitations. Compilation of such state data can give some idea about the deterioration of drinking water quality. Department of Drinking water supply under the Ministry of Rural Development is producing data on quality-affected villages by compiling state level information. The following table indicates the number of villages identified as water quality problem villages. However, this data on quality-affected habitations is calculated on the updated figures submitted by the

State Governments based on 1% stratified sample survey conducted in the past. This may not exactly match with actual ground reality.  It is really surprising to observe from the above table that even after covering quality problem villages under various five years plans; the number of problem villages is increasing every year. In spite of covering quality-affected villages, around 2.17 lakhs habitations were identified as problem village in April 1999. Further, this accounts for 15.25% of total habitations. If one considers quality affected habitations under No Safe Source, than 15% of Indian Habitations fall under this category which can also be considered as NC category. This shows that the safe drinking water supply coverage data reduces by 15%.

Table 5: Percentage distribution of households with specific principal source of drinking water by quality of drinking water from that source during 1998 Percentage of households with drinking water
Principal source of drinking water Known to be polluted Having bad taste due to unknown causes Cloudy due to unknown causes Clean but contain excess of iron or other mineral Having other defects Of satisfactory quality NR All
Tap 0.7 0.6 0.9 2.6 0.8 90.3 4.1 100
Tube well, hand pump 0.8 1.3 1.4 7.6 1.9 85.3 1.8 100
Well 1.2 1.7 2 2.9 2 83.2 7.1 100
Tank/pond reserve. For drink. 5.8 6.2 4.7 2.1 3.1 68.6 9.6 100
Other tank/pond 8.3 3.3 14.5 2.7 10.4 55.4 5.4 100
River/canal/lake 8.4 4.2 9 3.5 6.8 67.3 0.7 100
Spring 0.9 0.2 0.9 1 6.2 90.6 0.3 100
Tanker 0.1 1.3 0.6 8.6 0 89.3 0 100
Other 5.9 2 2 0.8 12.5 76.9 0 100
All 1.1 1.3 1.7 5.2 1.9 85.1 3.7 100
Tap 2 0.7 2 1.8 0.7 92.6 0.1 100
Tube well, hand pump 0.9 2.7 1 7.6 1.3 86.1 0.3 100
Well 2.6 1.6 1.3 2 1.3 89.5 1.6 100
Tank/pond reserve. For drink. 20.8 0.9 0.2 0.7 0.3 76.8 0.3 100
Other tank/pond 0 5.2 29.6 0 0 65.2 0 100
River/canal/lake 12.7 0 27.3 0.1 7.1 52.7 0 100
Spring 0 0.3 0.3 0 2.4 97 0 100
Tanker 0.2 1.4 0.5 2.6 5.3 89.8 0.2 100
Other 0.5 0 0.2 6.7 0 91.5 1.1 100
All 1.9 1.2 1.8 3 1 90.8 0.3 100

Considering quality as an important criterion for drinking water, NSSO collected data regarding the quality of drinking water in 54th round of NSSO survey during the year of 1998. This data connotes only the perception of people regarding the quality of drinking water. The data on perception regarding quality of water reflects the satisfactorily aspects of drinking water as per the opinion of respondents. Over all, 15% rural and 10% urban respondents have shown dissatisfaction regarding drinking water of their respective principal source. It is interesting to note here that even tap water was also considered as non-satisfactory by 6% of rural respondents and 7% of urban respondents. The excessive iron and other minerals were felt in the water of tube well and hand pump by 7.6% respondents residing both in rural as well as in urban areas. Open surface water bodies like pond, tank, lake, river and canal were noted with cloudy water by a number of respondents

both in rural and in urban areas. However, the causes for such cloudy water were not known to any respondent. It is obvious that the open surface water bodies are used for multi purpose and they get affected by multiple users. However, successful models of NGOs have shown that water body kept reserved only for drinking purpose can provide adequate and safe drinking water to all the villagers through out the year in drought prone regions*.  A similar baseline survey on water and sanitation conducted by IIMC on behalf of Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking water Mission considers the safe drinking water as perceived by sampled households. However this is again a perception study not showing the actual reality. The report states;

“On being asked about their perception about attributes of safe drinking water, 69 per cent people mentioned that what looks clean is clean and safe. ‘Tastes good’ was considered as an attribute of safe water by 30 per cent. This perception is more common in Punjab, Rajasthan, Orissa, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka than other states. 20 per cent people consider that water as safe, which is free from germs. This perception is very poor in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. In North Eastern States, Goa and Kerala respondents mentioned more often that water should be free from germs as an important attribute of safe water. This may be because they are more conscious on this score and/ or greater prevalence of germs in water they use effecting their perception about safe water” (IIMC, 2002).

The above paragraph makes it clear that it is very obvious that most of the respondents considered visibly clean water as safe water. Usually, water that is clear and colourless gives expression that it is safe for human consumption. However, this may not be true as many of the bacteria and objectionable matter may be present in invisible form. Further, excessive iron, fluoride, salinity and arsenic elements existing in drinking water do not reflect in watercolour and visibility. Water containing such elements looks very clean. Their effects are only seen after using such water for a considerable period of time. Actual water quality attributes are classified as per their physical, chemical and biological nature. Thus water quality data are not categorized as per the scientific quality criteria.

The survey estimates that water which people use for drinking purpose is considered clean by 89 per cent and safe by 81 per cent. In short, till today, no scientific method has been adopted for defining safe drinking water.

It is obvious that the demand for good quality of water is given low priority in developing countries like India. It is also important to assess the demand for good quality of drinking water. In this regard, hygienic practices like treatments of water including filtering, boiling or chemically treating water and; mode of taking water out from the storage vessels are important indicators. NSSO data on these aspects reveal the fact that around 76.4% of rural respondents and 50% urban respondents are not using any treatment methods like filtering, boiling or chemically treating the water (Table 6). This is despite the fact that a majority of households – 93.1% in rural and 95.5% in urban areas reported that they usually store drinking water. Further, around 56% of rural households and 49.4 % of urban households use water from the storage by dipping a vessel without a handle.

In short, the parentage of households adopting hygienic practices, which is the important indicator for the demand of qualitative potable water, is very low in rural as well as in urban areas. Thus, the quality of drinking water is not given high priority by civilians. The demand for good quality of water is not visible in most of the rural and urban areas of India. Therefore it is highly neglected at policy level. A study carried out on quality demand for drinking water in urban India demonstrates that it is not only poverty but awareness makes dominant factor in taking decision for the adoption of hygienic practices. Education can play important role here. (SANDEE, 2003).

Nonetheless NGOs networks and various forums are working extensively on this issue and it seems that there is growing awareness in urban areas regarding the quality of water. Several studies carried out in India have shown that drinking water is not potable in rural as well as urban areas. Some of such studies are listed here;

􀂾 Planning Evaluation Organization Survey: PEO under Planning commission has clearly mentioned in its mid term evaluation report for ninth five year plan that the quality of water is degrading in all over India. Around 12% of households said that the quality of water was not potable and around 98% of households reported that there was no regular quality testing of drinking water sources

􀂾 The survey conducted by NCAER (National Council for Applied Economic Research) reported in 1994 that about one-half of the villages in India do not have any source of protected drinking water.

􀂾 The Accountant Generals of the States reviewed in 1998 documents of Rural Water Supply Departments in 304 Divisions spread over 24 States to estimate to what extent the primary objective of providing safe drinking water in a cost effective manner has been achieved. One of the major issue coming out of this audit is Water Quality Testing Laboratories were ill-equipped with inadequate facilities (no creation /non filling of posts) and trained manpower. It also reported that Water Treatment Plants installed to control fluorosis, remove excess iron and salinity were non-functional resulting in continued supply of unsafe drinking water to the rural population.

􀂾 In order to understand the prevalent water quality in our country, Delhi based research institute known as Development Alternatives conducted a study under the CLEAN-India programme for assessing the quality of drinking water in 28 cities in Feb 2003. The results are very alarming. The samples were collected from either municipal supply water or ground water. The sources were mainly individual sources i.e. either from public taps, hand pumps, markets, houses etc. Major findings of the study are;

1) Very high nitrate was found in the drinking water sources in Aurangabad, Jaipur, Udaipur and Muzaffarnagar

2) Very high content of Ammonia was found in the drinking water sources in Aurangabad, Udaipur, Jaipur, Muzaffarnagar, Lucknow, Varanasi, Jhansi, Lucknow, Dehradun, Ranikhet, Vijayawada, Kurnool, Pondicherry and Kodaikanal

3) High content of Fluoride was observed in the drinking water sources of in Udaipur and Kurnool

4) Coliform Bacteria was observed in the drinking water sources in Aurangabad, Udaipur, Jaipur, Jhansi and Vijayawad

5) Too high degree of hardness was present in the water sources of Aurangabad, Udaipur, Jaipur, Muzaffarnagar, Lucknow, Varanasi, Jhansi, Lalitpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Lalitpur, Dehradun, Indore, Bhopal, Vijayawada, Kurnool and Nagercoil

6) High chloride was obserevd in the sources of drinking water in Muzaffarnagar, Lalitpur, Bhopal, Indore, Nagercoil, Pondicherry and Kurnool

7) High Iron, Phosphates and pH were observed in Udaipur, Varanasi and Kodaikanal

The study also derived that around 70 % of surface water is polluted in India.

􀂾 The study by the Society for Clean Environment (SoCleen) for Mumbai city showed that 70% samples of drinking water were unpotable

􀂾 Studies conducted by Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM) during 1994-97 in Kerala indicated chemical and biological contamination in ground and surface sources of water supply

􀂾 In Chennai, citizen’s complaints on drinking water contamination has converted into a civic movement headed by NGO Exnora International.

The above studies indicate that the water quality in rural as well as in urban areas is highly degrading and there is need to consider the quality criteria very seriously into policy level.


Quality being important criteria has been neglected at every stage; whether it is definition or norms or coverage of drinking water supply. There are various sources, which have tried to estimate the percentage of people having adequate, safe and sustainable drinking water supply. They all have overlooked quality criteria. An inadequate definition adopted for estimating the number having access to safe drinking water has exaggerated the figures. There is strong need to redefine safe and sustainable drinking water supply which can reveal the real picture of Indian drinking water scenario. Safe and sustainable water supply should fulfill the country specific quality criteria and should also take the factor of sustainability of sources into consideration. Until the standard quality criteria are considered into the definition of safe and sustainable drinking water, the statistics will show high figures but actual reality will be different. Thus safe, adequate and sustainable supply should also include specific quality parameters, which are found to be critically present in Indian water supply system. In order to provide safe drinking water there is need to consider quality criterion at various stages. The following are the suggestions for including quality criteria.

– The first and foremost step required is to prepare a list of minimum standards or norms for drinking water quality for all India level. Such standards should be followed by various government departments (like CPCB, drinking water department and urban water supply department) and other research institutes. Thus there is need to provide guidelines and to standardize drinking water quality norms which can be made applicable to all over the country. These should also have compatibility with the drinking water framework provided by international organizations like the WHO.

– Testing and monitoring of quality of drinking water should be regular in all over country by using single methodology.

– In absence of any standard data on drinking water quality, various sources have shown different statistics. Such sources have used different methodology and showing different results which are sometimes contradictory to each other. Further it needs lot of time and money for collecting data on quality of drinking water. It is, therefore, recommended that the data are collected carefully and only once so as to save the time and money spent by multiple institutions. In short, it is useful to have only one set of statistics on quality of drinking water. However, such a statistics should be scientifically approved and reliable. A survey considering such quality criteria will reveal the actual drinking water scenario of the country.

– The attempts to improve the quality of water are not systematically adopted. Most of the attempts are on pilot basis. Such attempts have not succeeded due to lack of proper understanding of drinking water quality and also due to the lack of public participation.

– There is also need to improve public awareness through proper education, training and various mass-media programmes. The need to incorporate public participation into the process of measuring quality of drinking water is of an immediate requirement.

– Finally, there is a strong need to integrate quality criteria into the measurement goals of Millennium Development so as to provide safe drinking water to all.


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