Authorities speak out against regulatory authority that insists on water tariff system

The State will not encourage a water resources regulatory authority that insists on establishment of a water tariff system, particularly for agricultural use.

Addressing a seminar organised here on Thursday on the status of the functioning of water regulatory authorities in India, M. Saikumar, secretary, Public Works Department, pointed out the State’s reservations against the conditions laid by the Central government to provide funds in states that have introduced water tariff systems.

If the purpose of setting up a regulatory authority is also to fix tariffs, Mr. Saikumar said, the State would rather have a water regulatory agency, which would have advisory powers and would not make the fixing of water tariff mandatory. The decision on fixing water tariff must be left to the State government, he said.

Pointing out that water regulatory authorities are not in place in many states, he said there was no study to prove a tariff system would encourage prudent use of water. A regulatory body is however vital for water budgeting, conservation and ensuring judicious management of water, he said.

Experts at the seminar noted that, at present, Maharashtra is the only state that has implemented a water resources regulatory authority. Several issues regarding a water tariff system and a water regulatory authority under the draft National Water Policy, 2012 — is currently awaiting approval — were discussed at the seminar.

The State Water Resources Management Agency (SWARMA) in Tamil Nadu, functioning since 2011, is in the process of collecting data from government departments on water resources and the sharing of them on a common platform among departments for better planning of projects.

SWARMA’s director S.S. Rajagopal said the agency would soon host a web-enabled database for various water users. The data could be used for accurate assessment of water demand, regulations and implementation of modern techniques. Unlike other water resources regulatory authorities that have a legal framework, SWARMA will remain an agency and function as an advisory board, he said.

R.K. Gupta, chief engineer of the Central Water Commission, highlighted the growing water demand and the need for a holistic study on requirement and irrigation-efficiency study for projects. In his presentation, he said the national guidelines for water sharing among states are being updated. The states must come forward to set up river basin organisations, he said.

Pointing out the widening gap between demand and water potential in the state, R. Subramanian, chairman of the Cauvery Technical Cell, said large-scale sprinkler and drip irrigation systems must be adopted wherever possible to conserve resources. The efficiency of water user committees and groundwater regulations must be monitored, he said.

S.V. Sodal, member secretary of Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority, highlighted its functions, including fixing of tariff for bulk users.

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