Managing water resources

Of the total human population, India is home to one sixth and 70 per cent of these Indians are dependent on agriculture and hence on water for their livelihood – a figure that cannot just be rushed aside. The scenario of water availability for agricultural, industrial and domestic purposes has been constantly changing over the past few decades and sadly there isn’t any positive indication in the area yet.

Though India is a country bestowed with many rivers and good rainfall increase in population and rapid urbanization has put tremendous stress on its water resources will soon make water scarcity one of the biggest challenges faced by modern India.

Except for big cities and a few towns, most people in India depend on groundwater for domestic needs without much discretion. 85 percent of the water for agriculture comes from ground water. Yet the heavy use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers in agricultures has been polluting both the surface as well as groundwater rendering it unfit for drinking.

Most Indians believe that if the water tastes and smells good, it is fit for drinking, which is far from the truth as some of the most harmful chemicals such as arsenic render no change to a taste. Hence even though the domestic demand for water has only been 10 per cent, there is a huge gap in access to clean drinking water.

Now that the water scarcity is looming on the horizon, people have started realizing the need for managing their water resources. We have very specific problems at hand which can be tackled through multiple means – reducing pollution of rivers and groundwater, increasing agricultural efficiency recharging groundwater, combining traditional knowledge and modern technology to revive water harvesting mechanism, planning cities in ways not to choke the lakes in and around them – all of which have opened up new avenues – both in education as well as from a career point of view.

People with a civil, chemical or environmental engineering background are sought after by private and government institutions for projects related to drinking water supply and waste water treatment. A new trend has been the government, real estate developers and builders seek engineers and geologists to plan and manage the water requirements for their projects as many industries and apartment complexes now recycle reused water. Professionals with degree in GIS, urban planning, sanitary engineering, and environmental engineering are in demand.

Many opportunities for consultations have opened up in the private sectors. Several private companies are now hiring professionals to plan their water needs. There is a huge demand for consultation in related to hydrogeology operation and maintenance of water treatment systems.

The NREGA s also playing a huge role in water related projects in rural areas which have led to a huge demand for civil engineers. Being a complex subject, water management typically needs people with multiple skills sets. A Master of Social Work (MSW) is a very popular degree for the position of field coordinator and project manager.

Organizations doing research in the area of groundwater and agriculture are in need of people with Masters Degree or PhD in geology, agricultural science, chemistry and biology. The new flavor in vogue is Public Policy degrees. Since water is deeply entangled with political aspects often trans-boundary international conflicts there has been special emphasis on Public Policy related to water.

Since it is a newly emerging field, one may not find many courses directly related to water management. It is also true that most of the people currently involved with the issue do not have any formal education in water management.

But with the problem becoming complex day by day, a holistic education in water management is becoming crucial and being recognized by educational institutions.

The best part with water management is that there are diverse careers one can pursue depending upon one’s interest. People with diplomas in chemical testing can work in water testing laboratories. You can be life sciences students working on chemical and biological aspects of water. Alternatively you can be a geologist and work on geo-informatics or be an academician or even an activist.

Depending upon the career path one chooses, one would have the flexibility to work in various areas. A field coordinator usually works on on-water related projects too while a geologist many not have such a flexibility.