UN–Water in the year 2013, proposed a common definition of water security as “the capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability” (UNWater, 2013).
The definition provides a common framework for collaboration across the UN system. It encapsulates complex and interconnected challenges and highlights water’s centrality for achieving a sense of security, sustainability, development and human well-being, from the local to the international level.
The above concept operates at all levels, from individual, household and community, to local, sub-national, national, regional and international settings, and ensures the variability of water availability over time.
Some of the defining water security characteristics include:
• Water conservation: for example, reducing water consumption before developing new sources of supply;
• Integration of groundwater and surface water management and protection of water supplies from contamination;
• Ensuring water quality;
• Prioritization of source water protection (and planning) over land use needs (such as development);
• Recognition and protection of ecological services associated with water;
• Protection of all values of water.
Specifically, water security from a local perspective can be defined as sustainable access to water of sufficient quantity and quality for basic human needs and ecosystem health. (Norman E. et al. 2010, WaterAid, 2012).
For determining water security roadmap there is a requirement of an interface between water security challenges at the regional and local levels considering the variability of water availability both over time and space.
Water neutrality concept, which talks about offsetting of impacts (reduction in water footprint) is to be addressed within the same hydrological unit where the impacts take place, i.e. water depletion or pollution in one river basin cannot be neutralised by water saving or pollution control in another basin, water security roadmap requires appropriate measures/strategies to be taken within the same hydrological unit (or watershed) Refer Box 1 on healthy watershed.
The above point is emphasised in the National Water Policy 2012, which states, planning, development and management of water resources need to be governed by common integrated perspective considering local, regional, State and National context, having an environmentally sound basis, keeping in view the human, social and economic needs. The Policy emphasizes on the need to consider basin/watershed as the unit of planning.
‘All the elements of the water cycle, i.e., evapo-transpiration, precipitation, runoff, river, lakes, soil moisture, and ground water, sea, etc., are interdependent and the basic hydrological unit is the river basin, which should be considered as the basic hydrological unit for planning’. (National Water Policy, 2012)
The very recent Draft National Water Framework Bill 2016, further states, that ‘each river basin, including associated aquifers, need to be considered as the basic hydrological unit for planning, development and management of water’.
Box 1: Healthy business thrives in a healthy watershed
Watershed is defined as the area of land from which all surface runoff flows through a sequence of streams, wetlands, rivers and lakes into the sea at a single river mouth, estuary or delta. The watershed also includes groundwater aquifers and is made up of a unique mixture of landscapes that influence each other, including forests, grasslands, rivers and lakes, farms and even cities or towns. Large watersheds are sometimes referred to as river basins. Watersheds are also referred to as catchments.
CII-Water Institute, a CII’s Centre of Excellence on water and wastewater management, develops a roadmap for facilitating water security strategy for Plants. As a part of the study, in depth study of the plants are done and a group level strategy is formulated targeting waste water management & water security from the perspective of the plant and the plant’s watershed.