National Bureau of Water Use Efficiency will focus on irrigation, drinking water supply

The Centre will establish a National Bureau of Water Use Efficiency as an “authority” for “promotion, regulation and control of efficient use of water in irrigation, municipal and industrial uses.”

This was decided in the first meeting of the Advisory Board of the National Water Mission that was established as part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change.

It was also decided that for improving “water use efficiency” by 20 per cent, the Mission will review the National and State Water Policies and prepare Sate-specific Action Plans for water sector “through consultation process”. Fifteen “prospective consultants” have already been short-listed for preparing State-specific plans for the sector.

During the first meeting here on Thursday the members were informed that, “The National Bureau of Water Use Efficiency, will have the responsibility of improving water use efficiency across various sectors namely irrigation, drinking water supply, power generation and industry.” Harish Rawat, Water Resources Minister, chaired the meeting.

The Bureau will take up five benchmarking irrigation projects in parts of the country to demonstrate water use efficiency through water supply on volumetric basis, empowering Water Users Associations to price water and collect water charges and demonstrating state-of-the-art technologies.

States will have to establish Water Regulatory Authorities for overseeing water pricing and mandatory water audits. Several States have in the past expressed reservations on such a move.

The Mission will issue guidelines to States for basin-wise uses of water for irrigation, drinking and industrial use. At the centre of the plan is the strategy to open up the water sector and incentivise States that reform based on the principle that “incentivising is more effective in bringing out reforms.”

Simultaneously, studies will be undertaken on impact of climate change, if any, on water resources.

“We want to raise the water use efficiency by 20 per cent in two years,” Mr. Rawat told journalists.

The inter-departmental meeting was attended among others by State Irrigation and Water Resources Ministers from Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh who are members on the Board.

During 2013-14, water use efficiency is targeted to be raised by five per cent.

With funding and technical assistance from the Asian Development Bank, the Ministry will initiate a National Water Use Efficiency Improvement Support Programme to identify “priority actions”.

The Central Water Commission has identified 138 major and 73 medium irrigation projects for baseline study of water use efficiency in two years.

Towards this purpose, Secretary, Water Resources S.K. Sarkar, in the ministry’s annual meeting with Principle and Irrigation Secretaries on Saturday asked States to adopt an integrated water resources planning approach at the basin level for water conservation, recharge and management of aquifers and improvement of water use efficiency.

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