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All about water use in industry (Download pdf)

It isn’t agriculture
Water use is increasing and it is industry that is taking it up

Increasing water use is a fact of life in many countries and an inevitability for others. The world’s six billion inhabitants are already appropriating 54 per cent of all accessible freshwater reserves. It is predicted that by 2025 humankind’s share will be 70 per cent. This estimate reflects only the impact of population growth. A worse scenario looms large as the scramble for water intensifies.

Industrial water use is closely linked to the economy of a country. So far as India is concerned, as GDP increases, so will industrial water consumption

Who consumes water most? Households? According to UNDP’s World Water Development Report, 2003 (WWDR, 2003), they account for only eight per cent of global water consumption. The agricultural sector? It is the largest user of water globally and accounts for about 70 per cent of the total freshwater abstraction. However, it is predicted that both these users will be outdone by industry: Water consumption by industries is increasing. In fact, in high income countries, industrial water use already accounts for as much as 59 per cent of the total fresh water consumption; almost twice the amount used in agriculture. (See graph: Water use worldwide). It is likely, then, that this will become a global trend even as more and more nations begin to choose industry over agriculture, as a key to economic growth.

Growing need, growing concern
Presently, industry accounts for 22 per cent of the global freshwater consumption. It is expected that the figure will double over the next two decades. According to forecasts published in WWDR, 2003, the volume of water consumed per year by industry will rise from 752 km3/year in 1995 to an estimated 1,170 km3/year by 2025.

p64.jpg (24142 bytes)And where is this most likely to happen? Most of this increase in industrial water use in likely to happen in fast growing developing countries like India. There has been a significant migration of manufacturing industries from developed countries to developing ones and this trend is likely to continue. This will contribute to the increasing use of water by industries in developing countries.

Industrial use of water has a direct bearing on the country’s economy. This means that as India increase its GDP, there will be a corresponding increase in water use by Indian industries.

Industries not only consume water but also pollute it. According to the WWDR 2003, in developing countries, 70 per cent of industrial wastes are dumped without treatment, thereby polluting the usable water supply. Therefore, the issue of industrial water use revolves around two crucial interlinked issues — water use and water pollution.

As it is, water’s scarce
From a per capita annual average of 5,177 cubic metre in 1951, fresh water availability in India dropped to 1,820 cubic metre in 2001. In fact, it is predicted that by 2025, per capita annual average fresh water availability will be 1,340 cubic metre approximately. Already, the potential of most river basins is being exploited beyond 50 per cent and several basins are considered to be water scarce. Over 80 per cent of the domestic water supply in India is dependent on groundwater. However, groundwater is fast depleting. Water tables have fallen significantly in most areas and there is a significant pollution of groundwater from natural as well as manmade sources.

As it is, everyone is fighting
Agriculture receives the greater share of the annual water allocation in India. According to the Union ministry of water resources (MoWR), 80 per cent of India’s utilisable water is devoted to this sector, mostly in the form of irrigation. Demand from the domestic sector has remained low and accounts for only 5 per cent of the annual freshwater withdrawals in India. The industrial sector is the second highest user of water after agriculture. But we do not know how much water industries in India consume. (See table: Industrial water use...)

How much water does Indian industry consume?
The estimations of national and international agencies on industrial water use in the country vary significantly.

According to MoWR, industrial water use in India stands at about 40 billion cubic meters or nearly 6 per cent of total freshwater abstraction.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), in 2000, India’s annual fresh water withdrawals were about 500 billion cubic meter and the Indian industry consumed about 10 billion cubic meter of water as process water and 30 billion cubic meter as cooling water. Therefore, according to CPCB data, the water consumption in Indian industry accounts for about 8 per cent of the total fresh water use in the country.







460 (88.6%)

536 (77.3%)

688 (73%)

1008 (70.9%)

Industries + Energy

34 (6.6%)

41.4 (6%)

80 (8.5%)

121 (8.5%)143 (10.1%)

Total (including others)





Source: National commission for integrated water resources development plan, Ministry of
water resources, 1999

According to the World Bank, the water demand for industrial uses and energy production will grow at a rate of 4.2 per cent per year, rising from 67 billion cubic meter in 1999 to 228 billion cubic meter by 2025. Therefore, according to the World Bank the current industrial water use in India is about 13 per cent of the total fresh water withdrawal in the country.

Despite differences, the estimates on industrial water use by the three agencies have a point in common. All the three agencies concur that industrial water use is growing at the fastest pace in the country.


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