Projected increase in production in six sectors will put a severe stress on India’s freshwater resource.
In 2008 the six sectors together withdrew about 41.5 million cubic meters of freshwater
All industries will consume 5600 million cubic meters freshwater. This is more than water required for drinking and cooking of over one billion people on a daily basis.
Industries discharged 36 million cubic meters of waste water which in turn polluted more freshwater. Essentially, therefore, the six sectors together are already consuming water equivalent to the domestic water need of the country.
While freshwater withdrawal will increase at a relatively low rate, freshwater use will increase dramatically: those downstream will get less water to use. This will severely contest with domestic and farm water demand and will spark major conflicts, which has already started to happen in many parts of the country.
Fresh water withdrawal in six sectors will increase by 40 per cent by 2030 to 57,000 million cubic meters. The reason for a lower rate of increase in freshwater withdrawal is change in technology and the cooling system in thermal power plants. Today a large majority of thermal power plants have once-through cooling systems, large quantities of water is pumped to cool the plants and immediately discharged and only 20% have cooling towers in which the same water is re-circulated to cool the plant. A thermal power plant with a cooling tower withdraws 20-30 times less freshwater than one with once-through cooling system. But there is a flipside: cooling towers consume more water lost through evaporation than the once-through cooling system. Little wonder that once-through cooling systems have not been allowed for thermal power plants.
In 2030 the power sector will account for 87% of total freshwater withdrawal, down from 95% in 2008. The iron and steel sector will be the second largest user. The impact of low carbon scenario over business as usual so far as freshwater withdrawal is concerned is minimal. Freshwater withdrawal in low carbon is about 3% lower.