Water Journal : Water Journal April 2011
my point of view In spite of the dire water limitations more needs to be done. India is on a steep development curve as it emerges as a world power and there are many infrastructure programs being implemented. Unfortunately, water is not receiving the priority necessary to meet industrial development and increasing expectations of the rapidly growing middle class, let alone the hundreds of millions without access to water supply. With unaccounted water commonly 50 per cent or higher, and with so many people unable to pay the few cents per kilolitre for a reticulated water supply, it is a real challenge to provide, let alone maintain, water services. The situation is even more difficult with sewerage, which is not seen as a necessity. India is still trying, with little success, to get basic water infrastructure in place, while Australia's focus is on managing our water assets to maximise returns. US Lags Behind in Water Management The US is a different kettle of fish. Regardless of the current economic problems it is still the world leader in many aspects. However, I don't believe that water management is one. With only 4,000 of about 54,000 water providers servicing more than 10,000 inhabitants, there is a plethora of very small towns and other private and public providers offering a very limited level of service. The institutional arrangements are analogous to the Victorian water services structure prior to the amalgamations of the 1990s. Even more surprising is the 15 per cent, or close on 45 million people, that have to provide their own water. Having spent many holidays with family and friends in the New York and Boston environs I am staggered by the number of large communities without any form of common water supply and/ or sewerage systems. Having suffered through malfunctioning private wells and rudimentary in-house water treatment systems at my two sons' and in-laws' houses I really appreciate what we offer in Australia. Holding Our Heads High Australia and the US invest about $100 per person per year for water and wastewater infrastructure; India invests less than $10 per person. India needs a much more significant investment, and the investment needs to be used effectively. Australia and the US have stable institutional arrangements, although in my view Australia's is much more effective and offers a better level of service. India needs to develop sound institutional arrangements; it has the wherewithal to make this happen, but it needs a strong commitment to invest in the future because development will be stifled without reliable, quality water and wastewater systems. India can gain a lot from Australia's experiences and knowledge. There is an India/Australia inter-governmental committee addressing needs, but there is a long way to go. Comparisons of two developed countries and an emerging country highlight the sound condition of the Australian water industry, despite climate change, a decade-long drought and recent severe floods across a significant proportion of the country. We can hold our heads high on the international stage. However, we must not rest on our laurels.
Water Journal March 2011
Water Journal May 2011